Senators Call On MDE to Disregard Federal Bathrooms Policy

Twenty-seven state Senators sent a letter to the Mississippi Board of Education and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright demanding the Mississippi Department of Education disregard the joint guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Title IX funding and accommodations for students with gender dysphoria. The text of the letter follows below:

May 17, 2016

MS Board of Education Board Members
Dr. Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education
MS Dept of Education
PO Box 771
Jackson, MS 39205-0771

Dear MS Board of Education and Dr. Wright:

Members of the Mississippi Senate, along with our constituents and fellow Mississippians, stand with Governor Bryant and demand the Mississippi Department of Education disregard the joint guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Title IX funding and accommodations for students with gender dysphoria .  The federal government is, in effect, trying to blackmail our state by implying that funding for public schools will be withheld should we continue to recognize biological sex when setting safety and privacy policies for our schools.  Dr. Wright made the decision to usurp the board’s authority and unilaterally issue the policy decision to acquiesce to the illegal demands of the federal government. For this, the superintendent must be held accountable.

Section 203 of our state constitution establishes the Board of Education. The Board holds the sole responsibility to “formulate policies according to law for implementation by the State Department of Education.” Dr. Wright’s decision to forego the will of the Board and impose her political will on the entire state is fundamentally unconstitutional. It is the Board’s job to formulate policy, not the superintendent’s. Dr. Wright’s policy statement issued on May 13, 2016  is non-binding and should be immediately withdrawn.

Additionally, if Dr. Wright, in her capacity as State Superintendent of Education, does not recognize the danger that such an irresponsible policy decision will impose on the children of our state, then it is obvious that her ideals and values do not represent those of the state of Mississippi and the board should act accordingly. We look forward to your swift and decisive action on this urgent matter and each of us stand ready to meet or speak with you if necessary.

Thank you in advance for your immediate attention on this issue.

Senator David L. Parker
Senator Michael Watson
Senator Kevin Blackwell
Senator Jennifer Branning
Senator Nicky Browning
Senator Chris Caughman
Senator Videt Carmichael
Senator Lydia Chassaniol
Senator Buck Clarke
Senator Dennis DeBar
Senator Sally Doty
Senator Joey Fillingane
Senator Tommy Gollott
Senator Josh Harkins
Senator Angela Hill
Senator Billy Hudson
Senator Gary Jackson
Senator Dean Kirby
Senator Chris Massey
Senator Chris McDaniel
Senator Chad McMahon
Senator Phillip Moran
Senator Rita Parks
Senator John Polk
Senator Mike Seymour
Senator Sean Tindell
Senator Chuck Younger

SenateMDE17

 

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Legislature Approves Parker’s ‘Foster Care Alternative”

Act provides family/community alternative to help children, family

Last week, a bi-partisan House and Senate approved the “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” authored by Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) which would provide a family or community based alternative to Mississippi’s foster care system.  The measure is headed to Governor Phil Bryant for his consideration.

[### UPDATE ### Governor Phil Bryant signed the legislation into law on Friday, May 13, 2016.]

“Our first priority is the safety and welfare of children. But the Mississippi foster care system is overcrowded and has failed many children and families. This provides a mechanism to keep children safe, reduce government interference in family lives, and reduce the number of cases flooding the foster care system so it can better address the needs of children in the most severe circumstances,” Parker said.

“Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” (SB2493) would allow a parent or guardian to designate someone else as “attorney-in-fact” with power regarding the care and custody of a child for a short period. The designee could care for the child without many of the current foster care hurdles.  A parent would have the ability to revoke the power of attorney at any time. There would be no foster care compensation to the designee and the child would not be considered to be in foster care.  Sponsor organizations to aid the designee would include churches and other charitable organizations.

“We are all aware of problems that have been reported regarding foster care and DHS in Mississippi. This measure will not solve all of these issues but it is a step in the right direction. The bill allows a parent to transfer power of attorney to another person for a period of one year to allow the parent to get their life on track without fear of prosecution or state intervention claiming abandonment or neglect. My hope is we will see more Church and community organizations getting help to parents in need,” Parker said.

He continued, “Some parents face health or dependency issues which prevent them from meeting the needs of their children. But they have family or friends who love those children, can provide a stable and healthy environment for them and would welcome the opportunity to care for them while the parent or parents treat their challenges. Many studies show people would be willing to help out a friend in their time of need but are unwilling to go through the government process of being ‘foster parents.’ Likewise, there are tragic examples of foster parents participating for the wrong reasons. This reform is about people helping people and providing a parent with a solution that does not jeopardize their right to maintain custody of their child. Government doesn’t need to intrude, can’t afford to intrude, and would do greater damage by intruding in the lives of some children who have a network to care for them. This measure would enhance the family unit with no cost to the state and actually could relieve the state of unnecessary expenses and casework within DHS so the state can spend more time and resources on those who need the foster care system.”

Parker says this legislation will increase the success rate of children in challenging situations, and also provide an important option to single parents in the military, “Many times a parent in crisis will hold on too long before getting help for their problems such as addiction.  During this time, the state may act to take their child from the home and once away, the child has a much lower chance of success both short term and long term. This provides another option that protects the child and works to keep the family intact. Also, this bill will help our military single mothers or fathers who might be deployed to have an option for care during their service.”

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Parker DUI Reform Bills Approved by Legislature

Reforms close loopholes; strengthen prosecution: headed to governor

JACKSON (April 22, 2016) – In the closing days of the 2016 legislative session, the House and Senate voted to approve two DUI reform bills authored by Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) which would close current loopholes and strengthen prosecution. The measures are headed to Governor Phil Bryant for his consideration.

“Mississippi’s DUI loopholes created a dangerous driving environment for everyone. I’m proud the legislature – both House and Senate – worked in a bi-partisan way to reform the way we report and punish DUI violations to close the loopholes and strengthen prosecution,” Parker said.

Parker continued, “The old law encouraged prosecutors and judges to adjudicate DUI violations as first offense DUIs to prevent the courts from being bogged down by DUI jury trials. As a result, 92 percent of DUI offenses are adjudicated as first offenses, even with violators who have multiple violations. These measures correct that by adjusting offense categories and requiring accurate and transparent reporting of DUI convictions.”

“Repeat DUI offenders threaten the health and lives of their passengers, others on the road and themselves. We do them and society a disservice by letting them off lightly on a first offense when in reality they have multiple offenses. Those individuals need help and that needs to be addressed before they hurt others,” said Parker.

The measures were Senate Bill 2778, The DUI Transparency Act; and Senate Bill 2777, The DUI Modernization and Technology Act.

SB2778 – DUI Transparency Act

  • Adjusts offense categories
  • Lower 2nd offense penalty below jury trial threshold to remove motivation of judges and prosecutors to reduce charges to 1st offense
  • 3rd offense penalty automatically a felony
  • Creates new 4th offense category (Fine $3000 to $10,000 / 2 to 10 years prison)
  • Mississippi Alcohol Safety Program mandatory after 1st offense
  • DUI operation of a commercial vehicle by a person with a commercial drivers license is an automatic felony; a person with a CDL driving their private vehicle reverts to regular penalties
  • Creates drug testing as interlock substitute for DUI & narcotic violators
  • Creates $100 civil penalty for court clerks who fail to report DUI convictions
  • Requires Department of Public Safety to maintain a central database for verification of prior offenses and convictions

SB2777 – DUI Modernization and Technology Act

  • Creates uncompensated study committee to monitor reporting of 1st offense DUIs
  • Committee to report findings by end of the year to measure impact of SB2777 & SB2778
  • Make a comprehensive study of the flow of information between all agencies
  • Make recommendations for electronic submission of all records with possible costs
  • Make recommendations for implementing court supervised drug testing for repeat offenders
  • Review DUI records to determine whether repeat offenders are actually being prosecuted as repeat offenders
  • Asses probability of DPS producing a self-authenticating record of DUI convictions  that is admissible under Rules of Evidence
  • Creates Mandatory Statewide Offense Reporting System Task Force
  • Study uniform crime reporting and standardized offense reporting system
  • Provide true picture of crime in state and to predict and prevent criminal activity
  • Major focus is to recommend an automated reporting system
  • Members serve without compensation
  • Report to legislature by December 2016

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Veterans’ Issues Pushed by Parker Signed Into Law

JACKSON (April 14, 2016) – Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch), Chairman of the Senate Veterans & Military Affairs Committee said by working closely with his House counterparts they have passed all the veterans’ priorities addressed this session.

“By working closely with House Military Affairs Chairman Ray Rogers, we’ve been able to ensure all the priorities of veterans and military families brought to us this session have been addressed. We passed some of them as Senate bills, some as House bills, and others within larger bills. They’re important issues, bipartisan issues, and I’m proud we could work with both sides of the legislature and Governor Phil Bryant to make these smart policy changes in Mississippi,” Parker said.

Parker continued, “I’ve met extensively with representatives from the Mississippi National Guard and veterans affairs to determine their priorities for Mississippians currently or previously in uniform. These proposals honor and protect their service to our state and country.”

Parker was the primary author of two of the bills signed into law by Governor Bryant:

  • SB2468 – Automatically makes assaulting a member of the Mississippi National Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces an “aggravated assault” when acting within the scope of duty, office or employment. Other first responders, teachers, law enforcement and elected officials are already covered by this statute;
  • SB2669 – Revision to the Mississippi Code of Military Justice as requested by military officers.

Parker noted several other priorities the legislature passed which were approved through the House version of the bill or inside larger bills:

  • Clarifies rules regarding veteran nonresident students regarding out of state tuition.
  • Revisions to the Mississippi Code of Military Justice as requested by military officers.
  • Would allow honorably discharged veterans of World War II to obtain a distinctive motor vehicle license tag exempt from fees, and allow surviving spouses to renew after the veteran’s death. (This bill has not passed but may be included in an omnibus tag bill.)
  • Would allow up to five copies of death certificates to be issued without charge for deceased veterans. This act, HB81, was authored by Representative Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven).

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Update: Parker DUI Reform & Local Infrastructure Bills Pass Senate

Parker’s measures to close DUI loopholes; allow municipalities to retain sales tax from state for infrastructure move to House for consideration

JACKSON (March 10, 2016) – Two of Senator David Parker’s (R-Olive Branch) legislative priorities have passed the Mississippi Senate and now proceed to House of Representatives for consideration.

Parker’s bills to close the DUI loopholes which allow repeat offenders to plea to a first time offense and escape punishment passed unanimously. The DUI Modernization and Technology Act (SB2777) and the DUI Transparency Act (SB2778) will standardize reporting procedures within in Mississippi and with other states to ensure multiple “first” offense charges are not used to avoid punishment, as well as provide sentencing reform to allow an easier path toward prosecuting second offense violations.

“Currently, 92 percent of DUI offenses are adjudicated as first offenses, even with violators who have multiple violations,” Parker said.  “Letting someone with multiple offenses skirt through the process avoid prosecution puts themselves and the public in danger. These measures close those loopholes.”

A bill (SB2146) which allows local government to retain more sales tax revenue for infrastructure projects, rather than sending it to the state to redistribute passed the Senate 46-4 last week and is now under also under consideration by the House of Representatives. The measure would increase infrastructure funding for municipalities by $42 million statewide after a three-year phase-in without increasing taxes. Towns and cities would keep an additional half-percent of sales tax collected, increased each year for the next three years from the current 18.5 percent to 20 percent to benefit roads, bridges, water and sewer and other local infrastructure projects.

“This increase in funding to municipalities isn’t an answer to all their infrastructure problems,” Parker said, “but infrastructure is a long term challenge and this provides a long time budget increase by returning more money and power to local governments and without raising taxes.”

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Parker’s “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” Passes Senate

Would allow family-based alternative to foster care

JACKSON (March 7, 2016) – Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) introduced and moved through the Senate the “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” (SB2493) which would provide a mechanism for a family based alternative to foster care. The measure passed unanimously and is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

“Our first priority is the safety and welfare of children. But the Mississippi foster care system is overcrowded and has failed many children and families. This provides a mechanism to keep children safe, reduce government interference in family lives, and reduce the number of cases flooding the foster care system so it can better address the needs of children in the most severe circumstances,” Parker said.

The legislation would allow a parent or guardian to designate someone else as “attorney-in-fact” with power regarding the care and custody of a child for a short period. The designee could care for the child without many of the current foster care hurdles. A parent would have the ability to revoke the power of attorney at any time. There would be no foster care compensation to the designee and the child would not be considered to be in foster care. Sponsor organizations to aid would include churches and other charitable organizations.

“Some parents face health or dependency issues which prevent them from meeting the needs of their children. But they have family or friends who love those children, can provide a stable and healthy environment for them and would welcome the opportunity to care for them while the parent or parents treat their challenges. Government doesn’t need to intrude, can’t afford to intrude, and would do greater damage by intruding in the lives of some children who have a network to care for them. This measure would enhance the family unit while allowing the state to spend more time and resources on those who need the foster care system.”

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Parker Bills Close DUI Loopholes

Reforms would prevent multiple “first offense” DUIs

(February 19, 2016) – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary-A Committee approved two DUI reform bills sponsored by Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) which would close loopholes allowing repeat DUI offenders to negotiate punishment and penalties as “first offense” violations.

“Our laws currently encourage prosecutors and judges to adjudicate DUI violations as first offense DUIs to prevent the courts from being bogged down by DUI jury trials. As a result, 92 percent of DUI offenses are adjudicated as first offenses, even with violators who have multiple violations,” Parker said. “These bills adjust offense categories to overcome that challenge, and require accurate and transparent reporting of DUI convictions. We must be serious about DUI violations and close the loopholes that allow repeat offenders to continue their dangerous and life threatening behavior while only facing the punishment of someone who does it once.”

SB2778 – DUI Transparency Act

  • Adjusts offense categories
  • Lower 2nd offense penalty below jury trial threshold to remove motivation of judges and prosecutors to reduce charges to 1st offense
  • 3rd offense penalty automatically a felony
  • Creates new 4th offense category
  • Mississippi Alcohol Safety Program mandatory after 1st offense
  • CDL separated from non-commercial to close loophole by downgrading license to avoid prosecution
  • Creates random drug testing as interlock substitute for DUI narcotic violators
  • Creates $100 civil penalty for court clerks who fail to report DUI convictions

SB2777 – DUI Modernization and Technology Act

  • Creates advisory committee to monitor reporting of 1st offense DUIs
  • Committee to report findings by end of the year to measure impact of SB2777 & SB2778
  • Mississippi Justice Information Center will standardize reporting of DUI offenders and repeat offenders
  • DUI convictions to be reported within 5 days
  • Streamlines DUI records for courts and prosecutors
  • Requires NCIC database entry to identify offenses for and from other states
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Parker Legislation Would Boost Local Infrastructure Funding

A bi-partisan bill (SB 2146) introduced by Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) would increase infrastructure funding for municipalities by $42 million statewide after a three-year phase-in. The plan would not increase taxes, but would increase the share of sales tax already collected to be retained by the municipality. Towns and cities would keep an additional half-percent of sales tax collected, increased each year for the next three years from the current 18.5 percent to 20 percent to benefit roads, bridges, water and sewer and other local infrastructure projects.

“We have infrastructure needs in our communities and this is a conservative approach to solving those challenges. Local governments know better how to address their priorities than the state, and this increase in funds would allow them to make local decisions on how best to use it: whether as a supplement to their budget, or using the increase toward a bonding measure for major infrastructure projects,” Parker said.

Fellow DeSoto County senators Chris Massey and Kevin Blackwell have co-sponsored Parker’s plan.

Currently, Olive Branch retains $8.2 million in sales tax a year. Parker’s proposal would increase that amount to $8.6 million, $8.8 million and $9 million over the next three years. Southaven would see its share increase from $12.9 million to $14.3 million. Hernando currently retains $2.9 million which would escalate to $3.2 million. Horn Lake’s revenue would increase from $3.9 million to $4.3 million and funding for Walls would reach $67,353 up from $61,080. (All numbers calculated by the Department of Revenue based on FY2014 actuals increased for 2% growth factor.)

“This increase in funding to municipalities isn’t an answer to all their infrastructure problems,” Parker said, “but infrastructure is a long term challenge and this provides a long time budget increase.”

Sixteen other senators are original co-sponsors of SB2146: Tommy Gollott (R-Biloxi), Derrick Simmons (D-Greenville), Philip Moran (R-Kiln), Rita Parks (R-Corinth), Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), Michael Watson (R-Pascagoula), Chris Caughman (R-Mendenhall), Chad McMahan (R-Guntown), Joseph Seymour (R-Ocean Springs), Bill Stone (D-Holly Springs), Juan Barnett (D-Heidelberg), Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula), Dennis DeBar (R-Leakesville), Charles Younger (R-Columbus), Sean Tindell (R-Gulfport), and Tammy Witherspoon (D-McComb).

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Paid for by Friends for David Parker

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Parker Named Chairman of Veterans Committee; Vice-Chair of Local & Private Committee

State Senator David Parker takes over as Chairman of the Senate Veterans & Military Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Local and Private Committee for this term in the legislature.

“I’m honored to serve Mississippi’s military families,” Parker said. “My father served in World War II and I can understand and relate to those senior veterans and their families, and appreciate the challenges of our current men and women in service and new veterans.  As of October last year, we had 14,654 veterans in DeSoto County. Those in military service to our state and country make great sacrifices for us. I’ll make it a priority to serve them and their families in the Mississippi Senate.”

Parker noted his position on the Local and Private Committee will be important for DeSoto County.

“The challenges DeSoto faces due to our population growth and proximity to Memphis requires flexibility in local government. When the state makes exceptions to general policies for specific needs in an area, that will go through the Local and Private Committee. I look forward to being able to address the needs of county and municipal governments as Vice-Chairman,” Parker said.

Parker will also serve on seven other committees: Economic Development, Elections, Finance, Housing, Judiciary-A, Public Health and Universities & Colleges.

“I appreciate the confidence Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves has shown in my work for DeSoto. On these committees I can work directly to advance conservative reforms in state government,“ said Parker.

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Senator Parker, Optometrists Launch Statewide Vision Initiative

Mississippi optometrists to provide no-cost eye screenings for children who failed 3rd Grade Reading Assessment

Senator David Parker is working with the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and the Mississippi Vision Foundation (MVF) in a statewide initiative to provide eye exams at no-cost to the nearly 15 percent of third graders who did not pass the state reading assessment test and do not have insurance. The exams are offered through July 31.

“One of the major stumbling blocks of early childhood education is not addressing students who have vision problems. If they’re unable to see their lessons – on the board or in their books – they’re unlikely to succeed. They become easily distracted and give up on learning. Practically and metaphorically some students have no vision for their future because they can’t see in class.  The third grade reading gate is designed to reach students early to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to continue successfully in school.  We hope this initiative addresses a physical impairment to result in students more attentive to learning because they’re now able to see their lessons better,” said Parker who has optometry practices in Olive Branch and Horn Lake and is the only optometrist in the Mississippi legislature.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves joined in the announcement of the initiative at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson on Monday.  “Improving the reading abilities of Mississippi schoolchildren is going to be a community effort, and this is an example of how we have to pull together to make sure our third graders are reading well,” Reeves said. “I appreciate optometrists across the state donating their time and skills to see if some of these students who are struggling have vision problems.”

While there are many issues that can affect a child’s inability to read and comprehend, one of those issues can be a vision problem. Statistics show that 25 percent of all school age children have vision problems and more than 80 percent of those do not get the help they need.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said, “I have often said that it takes everyone – parents, educators and communities- working together to help students become successful readers. I appreciate the Mississippi Optometric Association’s initiative that will ensure students are not hindered from reaching their full potential because of poor eyesight.”

For students who are covered through private insurance, applicable co-pays may apply due to laws that require the doctor to collect this amount. All children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay, will be seen by ODs participating in the program. The MVF, working with industry partners, will cover the costs for student who needs an exam.

“The MOA and its Foundation are pleased to be a part of making a difference in the lives of these students and we are committed to identifying those students who have vision problems,” said Dr. Tonyatta Hairston, MOA Secretary-Treasurer and MVF Board of Directors member.  “We are also happy to announce that our industry partners are working with us to provide glasses free of charge to any student whose eye test reveals the need for corrective lenses”

To locate a participating optometrist, parents of eligible third graders should go to www.msvisionfoundation.org or call 601.572.0845. When making the appointment, parents should tell the receptionist they are scheduling the third grade eye appointment. They should bring the letter notifying them that their child did not pass the assessment test with them to the appointment.

 

Senator David Parker, an optometrist from Olive Branch, addresses the press conference and discusses the importance of clear vision in the success of childhood learning.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves expressed his support for the statewide eye exam initiative and thanked the optometry professionals involved for this component in childhood education improvements.

 

On hand for the announcement were Senator Josh Harkins, Jackson Councilman De’Keither Stamps, Senator David Parker, Senator Hillman Frazier, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Representative Kimberly Campbell, Senator Kenny Wayne Jones, Dr. Tonyatta Hairston, Senator Terry C. Burton, Representative Brett Powell, Representative Tom Weathersby, Representative Jason White, Representative Mac Huddleston and Representative John Moore.

Senator David Parker is an optometrist in Olive Branch. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and serves on the Senate Economic Development Committee, Elections Committee, Judiciary-A Committee, Housing Committee, and Public Health & Welfare Committee. He and his wife Ashleigh have four children: Allie, Jack, Luke and Jude.

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