Mississippi Edition


4/19/21 - J&J Pause & Effects Monitoring | Vaccinating Rural Communities | Your Vote, Your Voice: Part 4

With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still on pause, health officials examine vaccination rates and the hesitancy factor.Then, from the Gulf States Newsroom, how partnerships with community health centers are reaching rural residents in the region.Plus, in part four of You Vote, Your Voice, we explore how those with felony convictions lose access to the ballot.Segment 1:The vaccination in Mississippi continues despite an unexpected bump in the road.Last week the state put a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in accordance to CDC guidelines after a small number of rare blot clots were attributed to the shot.State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, in a roundtable with leaders of the Mississippi Medical Association, called the decision wise.The pause raised two immediate questions - how will distribution be affected and will hesitancy in ALL vaccines grow.Dr. Dobbs says some logistical adjustments are being made to compensate for the temporary sidelining of the J&J, but doesn't think long-term goals will be affected.Segment 2:About two in five Americans live in rural areas across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Many of these residents are people of color, low-income and uninsured – communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden Administration has given billions in funding to community health centers in its mission to get vaccines to those populations. But for much of the rollout, these providers were underutilized. From the Gulf States Newsroom, Shalina Chatlani reports.Segment 3:In thirty-seven states, those who lose their right to vote due to felony convictions, have those rights restored immediately upon release.That, however, is not the case in the Magnolia State where it is estimated that ten percent of potential voters have lost access to the ballot. In Mississippi, a conviction of any of twenty-three felonies results in permanent disenfranchisement. We talk to Nshombi Lambright, Executive Director of One Voice Mississippi and Pauline Rogers of RECH Foundation about the challenges of disenfranchisement.

4/16/21 - Parole Eligibility Bill Waits | Initiative 65 Hearing: Underlying Factors | Poetry Out Loud 2021

Community leaders urge Governor Reeves to sign a parole eligibility bill that’s been sitting on his desk since the end of the legislative session.Then, while the arguments in the case against Initiative 65 focus on process, under the surface the subject of the matter - medical marijuana - is playing a significant role.Plus, this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition might look different, but the result is familiar.Segment 1:A bill to expand parole eligibility in Mississippi is waiting to be signed into law by the Governor.It's a measure advocates say could reduce prison overcrowding, reduce corrections spending, and help reconnect families.Yet, since being passed with bi-partisan in the legislature weeks ago, the bill has remained in limbo awaiting a signature.Pastor C. J. Rhodes of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson advocates for prison reform in Mississippi. He tells our Kobee Vance the bill provides the opportunity to restore families. Russ Latino, President of Empower Mississippi, says the bill would ease overcrowding, and free up needed resources to focus on those who actually pose a danger to communities.Segment 2:Initiative 65 - the constitutional amendment ballot referendum establishing a medical marijuana program in Mississippi - hangs in the balance following a Supreme Court hearing this month.It is one of many ballot referendums - some successful, some not - that have gone through the same process outlined by the Mississippi Constitution.Mississippi's Voter ID law passed the same way.Others - like the personhood amendment or Initiative 42 to fully fund the MAEP - failed but made it to the ballot in similar fashion.But 65 - with the controversial subject of medical marijuana lying under the surface - drawing the eye of scrutiny over the initiative process.Matt Steffey is a professor of Constitutional Law at the Mississippi College School of Law.In part two of his conversation with our Michael Guidry, Steffey argues once you look past the narrow argument of constructionist interpretation, the underlying factors behind the case rise to the surface.Segment 3:This year's Poetry Out Loud competition had a different feel to it due to the coronavirus pandemic.Contestants, who usually compete together in regional and state finals, presented their recitations alone - in front of cameras.But, rising to the top of a crowded field of 947 students was a familiar name and voice to the Mississippi Poetry Out Loud community - Morgan Love, who you just heard.The senior from the Mississippi School for the Arts followed her 2020 win by capturing this year's title.She shares more on her experience and what lies ahead with our Michael Guidry.

4/15/21 - Clinics Adjust to CDC Pause of JnJ | Initiative 65 Hearing: Legal Arguments | Book Club: No Common Ground

Clinics adjust to the temporary pause in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.We examine how the new CDC guidance could effect the vaccination effort in the Magnolia State.Then, the fate of medical marijuana is in the hands of the Mississippi Supreme Court following yesterday's oral arguments.We break down each side of the debate.Plus, in today's Book Club, a historian lays out the history and motives behind erecting monuments in homage to the Confederacy.Segment 1:Clinics across Mississippi are adjusting their coronavirus vaccination plans as the state puts a temporary pause on the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.Health officials say nearly 42 thousand doses of the single shot JnJ vaccine have been given in Mississippi, - that's around 3 percent of the nearly 1.5 million doses administered in the state.The pause is due to a number of JnJ recipients developing a rare form of blood clots.At the Healthworks Immunization Clinic in Hattiesburg, Dr. Rambod Rouhbakhsh says the clots need to be fully investigated. He tells our Kobee Vance, the pause will effect health providers' vaccination efforts differently, and the CDC's decision is an example of the robust monitoring all the vaccines are receiving.Segment 2:The fate of Initiative 65 - the constitutional amendment ballot referendum establishing a medical marijuana program in Mississippi - rests in the hands of the Mississippi Supreme Court.And while the subject of the widely used plant may be controversial, the debate over 65 boils down to a legal argument over constitutional language. To better understand yesterday's hearing, our Michael Guidry joins Matt Steffey - professor of Constitutional Law at the Mississippi College School of Law.In part one of their two part conversation, they break down the legal arguments presented to court.Segment 3:Before Confederate monuments began coming down in recent years,to the consternation of some and the jubilation of others, the history of when they began to go up is long.In her book, "No Common Ground," Karen L. Cox talks about heritage versus history and how women took the lead to erect the largest number of monuments before the turn of the 20th century.

4/14/21 - J&J Vaccine Pause | Your Vote, Your Voice: Part Three | Supreme Court Hears Initiative 65 Case

Health officials call for a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a change in CDC guidelines.Then, in the third installment of Your Vote, Your Voice, we examine both past and existing barriers to ballot.Plus, the fate of medical marijuana possible hangs in the balance as the Mississippi Supreme Court hears oral arguments challenging the legitimacy of Initiative 65.Segment 1:Mississippi vaccine providers are pausing Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccinations in the state while the CDC investigates siz related cases of blood clots.No cases of the rare blood clot associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine have been identified in Mississippi. But health officials in say they are erring on the side of caution until the CDC has finished it's investigation. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the risk of someone getting this type of blood clot from the J&J vaccine is extremely rare. Around 53,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine are at clinics, pharmacies and hospitals across Mississippi. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says those doses will likely not go to waste in that time.Segment 2:Throughout American history, access to the ballot has been a dynamically controversial issue.When the nation was founded, voting was limited to white landowners.Efforts to expand the right to vote over the centuries were often met with resistance.And even after the 15th, 19th and 26th amendment removed federal restrictions based race, color, previous condition of servitude and sex - and reduced the legal age to 18 - many communities still face barriers to voting.Aside from voting rights secured through constitutional amendments, the federal government currently exhibits little power over elections.The power to manage and administer elections belongs to the states, and it is where some barriers can still be found. We examine the history of voting laws and practices designed to create roadblocks to the ballot with Christy Wheeler, co-President of the Mississippi League of Women Voters and Pauline Rogers of the RECH Foundation.Segment 3:Mississippi Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments today challenging signature collections for Initiative 65.The constitutional amendment - approved by over 70 percent of Mississippi voters last November - makes medical marijuana legal in the state.But the mayor of the City of Madison is challenging the initiative, claiming signature collections for the ballot referendum are unconstitutional. The Mississippi constitution requires an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts.The state lost a seat after the 2000 Census, but the constitution hasn’t been updated to four districts to change the process. Ken Newburger is with the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association.He says signatures gathered during the initiative process were legitimate.

4/13/21 - Rental Relief Program | Understaffing in Prisons | Your Vote, Your Voice - Part 2

A federal emergency relief program targets those facing rent and utility hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic.Then, understaffing in prisons across Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama has been a problem for years. We examine why it's so difficult to find and keep new correctional officers.Plus, in our second installment of Your Vote, Your Voice, we explore the different efforts and perspectives shaping the debate over extended early voting.Segment 1:Tenants in Mississippi who are behind on their rent and utility bills due to the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for emergency rental assistance through a federal relief program.Mississippi Home Corporation is administering the emergency rental assistance program tasked with allocating $186 million in aid to tenants who facing financial hardships brought on by lost income, unemployment or increased expenses because of the pandemic.Executive Director Scott Spivey shares more with our Desare Frazier.Segment 2:Across the Gulf States prisons are understaffed, which can mean dangerous and unstable conditions for prisoners and guards. Mississippi is addressing the issue head-on with a unique approach. From the Gulf States Newsroom, Becca Schimmel takes a look at that recruitment effort and examines why it’s so difficult to retain correctional officers.Segment 3:In the 2020 election, more than one in six of the 1.3 million ballots cast in Mississippi were some form of absentee ballot.This record coincided with a nation-wide trend - due to the coronavirus pandemic - of larger than usual early and absentee voting.Since then, the record use of mail-in and absentee ballots have brought with it unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and insecurity, propagated by many high profile Republicans - including three of Mississippi's House delegation and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.All four voted against the certification of the 2020 election results, and Senator Hyde-Smith received national attention for her comments on Sunday "Souls to the Polls" voting.False allegations of fraud and insecurity aside, the 2020 election did reveal a nation-wide appetite for expansion of early voting options, including mail-in ballots. Your Vote, Your Voice explores the different efforts and perspectives shaping the debate over extended early voting in Mississippi.

4/12/21 - Variants and Vaccines | Your Vote, Your Voice - Part 1 | Initiative 76

Health leaders provide updates on coronavirus vaccinations andtransmission in the state.Then, in the first installment of our Your Vote, Your Voice series, we examine the basic voting requirements in Mississippi.Plus, a coalition including the NAACP is leading the drive to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.Segment 1:Overall coronavirus transmission in Mississippi is down this spring compared to the surge in cases earlier this year.But the threat of emerging variants in the U.S. has health officials expressing some caution.State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says transmission of those variants - especially the U.K. variant - in other states is starting to have an effect. Reports show the state's vaccination rates lagging behind the national average.State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says there is a perception that Mississippi is struggling more than actually is.Segment 2:Voting is the cornerstone of the United States' representative democracy, and each individual state has incredible power to determine how its residents participate in the voting process.In the first installment of Your Vote, Your Voice, we examine the basic voting requirements in Mississippi.Secretary of State Michael Watson joins our Michael Guidry to examine the year-to-year elections in the Magnolia State, and the procedures for registering for and casting your vote.Segment 3:Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation with the lowest health outcomes.And the state is one of more than a dozen in the nation that has punted on expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act - a move that would provide health coverage for Mississippi's working poor.Now, a coalition is forming to put the decision in the hands of the voters.Healthcare for Mississippi, a non-profit of around 15 advocacy groups - including the NAACP - has filed the preliminary paperwork to put Initiative 76 on the ballot. Corey Wiggins is Executive Director of the Mississippi Chapter of the NAACP. He tells our Desare Frazier advocates have lobbied lawmakers to expand Medicaid, but there isn’t enough legislative support.So he wants to help give residents a voice in the matter.

4/9/21 - Conversation with State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs | Migrant Works Pleas for Protection

Overall coronavirus cases are trending down. Vaccine rollout is now in its fifth month. We talk to the State Health Officer about how Mississippi is faring in its year long fight against COVID-19.Plus, migrant workers profoundly affected by the ICE raid of 2019, are calling on action from the Biden Administration.Segment 1:Vaccines for COVID-19 have been available to all Mississippi residents 18 and over for more than three weeks now, but the effort to educate and encourage vaccination has been a five month endeavor for the Department of Health.Still, despite being one of only a few states to offer widen availability, the rate of Mississippians receiving at least one dose is below the national average.About one in every four Mississippi residents have gotten one shot - a rate that falls eight points below the national average of 33 percent.State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says hesitancy and access have been the two most significant challenges in getting the state to the roughly 80 percent rate needed to reach a level of herb immunity.In part one of our conversation, we discuss vaccine hesitancy, access, the question of booster shots.Segment 2:During the winter wave of coronavirus cases and deaths, residents in long term care facilities were especially hard-hit.The number of outbreaks in those facilities reached their highest points in January, right when vaccine distribution began in the state.Now, three months later, outbreaks and deaths within that group has declined significantly.We pick up our conversation with State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs discussing the vaccine effort in long term care facilities, and how a recent health grant from the CDC can help Mississippi continue it's fight against COVID-19.Segment 3:Advocates for immigrant workers in Mississippi are calling on the Biden administration to overturn policies that target undocumented immigrant communities.They say the President can start by protecting those affected by the 2019 ICE raids.Yesterday, those advocates gathered outside the Department of Labor's capital city office to deliver a letter to the Wage and Hour Division, urging the Biden administration to create protections for immigrant workers

4/8/21 - Dispelling Vaccine Myths | Grocery Tax | Book Club: Carolyn Brown | Cyber Crimes Task Force

Health leaders continue to address vaccine hesitancy.And, most states don’t have a sales tax on groceries.But, Alabama and Mississippi do. And that money could go a long way for low-income residents.Then, in our Book Club, one of the country’s largest collections of children’s literature can be found at the University of Southern Mississippi.Now there’s a book about all those books.Plus, the AG's office teams up with the Secret Service to fight cyber fraud.Segment 1:Doctors with the Mississippi Department of Health and the University of Mississippi Medical Center are working to dispel myths about the coronavirus vaccines.The efforts are part of a targeted approach to increase vaccinations within communities of color.During the early stages of the pandemic, Black and Native Mississippians were hit disproportionately hard by the virus.Since the vaccine rollout, two major challenges have emerged in the attempt to inoculate communities of color: access and hesitancy.Segment 2:Politicians on both sides of the aisle in Mississippi and Alabama have been trying – and failing – to cut the grocery tax for over a decade. It’s a sales tax that impacts low-income families the most and the majority of states don’t have it. Mississippi’s latest attempt to slash it failed when the Legislative Session ended last week. Stephan Bisaha of the Gulf States Newsroom reports on why the tax is so hard to get rid of and how Louisiana did it.Segment 3:The University of Southern Mississippi houses one of the largest collections of children’s literature in the country and we have Lena De Grummond to thank.Spending most of her adult life as a librarian in Louisiana, de Grummond was forced to retire at age 65.She was offered a job teaching Children’s literature at Southern Miss and, in an effort to reward her hard-working adult students, began soliciting materials from children’s authors and illustrators around the country.Carolyn J. Brown is one of the editors of the new book, “A De Grummond Primer: Highlights of the Children’s Literature Collection.She says De Grummond never intended to start a collection.Segment 4:Cyber crime is on the rise in Mississippi, including wire fraud, ransomware, and use of crypto-currency in illegal transactions.Now, the state's chief legal officer is partnering with the Secret Service to target these crimes.Attorney General Lynn Fitch says her office will use this new partnership to prosecute the growing number of cyber crimes.

4/7/21 - Gov. Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy | Medicaid Expansion Ballot Initiative | Southern Remedy Health Minute | Legislative Recap

State officials continue to encourage residents to get shots as Mississippi attempts to climb from the bottom rungs of the national vaccination tables.Then, a coalition of health leaders file an initiative to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.Plus, after a Southern Remedy Health Minute, we recap the 2021 legislative session.Segment 1:Over four months into vaccine availability, more than 1.3 million Mississippians have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine according to Governor Tate Reeves.But, the Magnolia State still sits toward the bottom of the national tables when it comes to partially and fully vaccinated rates, and Reeves says he is concerned about vaccine hesitancy. Yesterday, flanked by a number of doctors including State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Reeves addressed the concerns for hesitancy and says some residents are slowly realizing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.Segment 2:After years of political punting by state leaders and legislators, a coalition of medical professionals are leading the charge to expand Medicaid in Mississippi.First reported by Mississippi Today, a group - including the President of the Hospital Association - filed an an application with the Secretary of State's office to make the question of expansion a ballot initiative.Healthcare for Mississippi is the non-profit behind the new Initiative 76 effort.Dr. John Gaudet is part of the effort.He shares more with our Michael Guidry.Segment 3:Southern Remedy Health MinuteSegment 4:Mississippi Lawmakers closed out the 2021 legislative session one week ago today- allocating the state’s $6 billion budget across a range of state agencies and programs.MPB’s Senior Reporter Desare Frazier covers the state legislator and is here to give us a recap.