Hoseman says he will make a decision on run for governor after legislative session

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman told Picayune Rotarians on Tuesday that after the next legislative session he would look at the possibility of whether or not to run for governor.

He said that decision is not on his plate right now as he wrestles with reform issues in the Secretary of State’s office.

Hoseman is a Republican.

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The Vicksburg native spoke to the Rotarians’ noon luncheon at Magnolia Columns on South Curran Avenue.

“I just don’t think it is appropriate to jump out only a year and half after I was elected to tell you that I am running for something else,” he said in a response to a question from the audience.

“What I want to do right now is the job I was elected to do,” he added.

Since his election, Hoseman’s efforts as Secretary of State has brought a number of reforms and attention to what was looked on as a rather staid agency from which is little heard.

Hoseman’s efforts have brought about reforms in how the state does business and brought the agency more attention. In the last two years it has morphed into a wide-ranging agency, he said.

He said one of his most proud achievements was establishing a “public policy department” shortly after assuming office.

“We began looking at all the laws that affect businesses, everything in the state. We started a whole new department,” he said. “That proved to be a good idea because most the legislation for reform over the past two years was generated out of that department that was started immediately.”

He reviewed some reforms with Rotarians.

“I wanted to do 16th section land reform and revenues in that area are up a lot. I also wanted to reform all the business laws in Mississippi so that we have the best business laws in the country,” he told Rotarians.

The Secretary of State oversees 650,000 acres of 16th section school lands throughout the state and last summer established a Web site where they are all listed along with accompanying pertinent information. Reforms to school land leases began about three decades ago, resulting from a series of lawsuits having to do with leases signed for 99 years at pennies per acre.

When the Web site was first established, it got 180,000 hits the first month, he said.

Hoseman claims his reorganization of the system has helped produce a 42 percent gain in 16th section land revenues from 2007 to 2008, or a net gain of $22 million.

He said in 2008 16th section land revenue for the Pearl River County School District was $96,748.53, for Picayune $135,187.51 and Poplarville $190,069.59.

Concerning the revamping of state business laws, he said, “When you are getting businesses to locate here, you will be able to say we have the best business laws in the country,” he said. “We intend to have that done next year.”

Hoseman also said his office has taken steps to regulate cemetery funds, the sale of copper to prevent copper theft, and security laws violations.

He said copper thefts are down 50 percent since his office moved to monitor it, that the state has seized five cemeteries where fraud was a problem and that the state has taken the lead nationally on reforms in security laws violation.

He said fraud in connection with cemeteries had become widespread in the state and said the new law passed by the Legislature requires that money in connection with a cemetery has to go into a trust fund and be held in a bank.

“This industry in the past has been poorly regulated,” he said.

He said one cemetery in Vicksburg was supposed to have $580,000 in its account, and when audited, had only $221. “This has been an ugly situation for Mississippi,” he said. He said the state has seized five cemeteries so far and placed them under the Secretary of State’s jurisdiction.

He said documentation of copper sales is now required. “Mississippi is the first state to have that,” he said.

He said his office has taken steps to increase accountability over charitable contributions and allows the Secretary of State’s office to revoke charters for dishonest charities. He said that prior to the reforms, Mississippi’s laws covering charity were “toothless.”

He said legislation generated by his office that will be instrumental in setting up entertainment districts passed last session and allows developers to write off investment in such enterprises over 5 years instead of 40.

“That will help revitalize a lot of downtown districts,” he said. The districts are required to be family friendly.

“As you can see the Secretary of State’s office is now a very wide-ranging agency and we are still added on to it,” he said.