People are sadly out of step with the Mississippi Legislature

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, April 18, 2017

By Charlie Mitchell

The press and the public are out of step. We keep thinking the Legislature deals with thorny topics such as budgets and taxation, education, highways, crime and punishment, health care, economic development.

We seem not to notice the priorities have shifted to firing squads, who can refuse baking a cake for whom, being armed in church and resolving the looming crisis of people using the wrong restrooms.

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That being the case, some topics for the 2018 session:

• Paint commercials. Ban them.

Regardless of the brand, the ads are the same. Happy family. Mom gazing at a wall. Color selected at the store. Mom and family cheerfully apply new hue, not spilling a drop on themselves, the cat, the floor or the furniture. Mom and family sitting in cozy chairs in an inviting room.

That’s not how DIY painting works.

Mom does pick the color, but that’s all. Next comes removing pictures, filling nail holes and dents, taping edges, removing switch plates, moving or covering furniture.

Prep. Lots of prep.

Finally, a tray is filled and a roller loaded. After the first pass, Mom looks and says, “I’m not so sure about this color.” Dad stops, shoulders droop, cat sniffs at the paint tray. Shooing the cat away, Dad kicks the tray and paint blops over the rim.

Mom says “Well, I really have to see how the whole room looks before I decide.” Dad shrugs, goes back to rolling. When finished, Mom looks at the ceiling, announces it looks dingy.

It should be illegal to depict painting as fast or easy or neat.

• Hamburgers. Regulate them.

A hamburger is beef, bun, condiments of choice, pickle, onion, tomato (see following) and iceberg lettuce.

There is no reason or justification for adding bacon, cheese (American, feta, Gorgonzola, cheddar or asiago), a fried egg, cilantro, arugula, cinnamon, peppermints or Hershey bars.

People who engage in such balkanization are leading unfulfilled lives and may be in need of counseling. The Legislature needs to protect these people from themselves.

• Tomatoes. Require truthful signage.

A tomato is a luscious round fruit (not a vegetable) purchased in season from a roadside stand, a farmer’s market or plucked from a vine in a back yard.

Those pinkish orbs in big-store produce sections are labeled “tomato,” and it’s a flagrant lie. Bite one of them or the cardboard tray in which they come. The taste is exactly the same.

• Service charges. Disclose them.

Mississippi has had a sales tax since 1933, so we’re long accustomed to the difference between paying an advertised price and an actual price. The first sales tax (also the first in the nation) was one-half percent. The state actually issued tokens because the nation had no half-penny currency. About 30 years ago, the Mississippi basic rate was increased to 7 percent. Local, special add-ons increase the levy in many places, but they are accepted without any ruckus, too.

Service charges are another thing. They are, in essence, built-in tips akin to those imposed by restaurants in Europe.

Buy a $40 cell phone or TV plan. The bill comes for $63. This should not be legal.

• Change the cycle of flowers that wilt too soon.

Clearly, this may be under control of a higher authority. That said, it seems something is wrong when jonquils and daffodils and the blossoms on Japanese magnolias are there and gone in February. Then March comes with azaleas, dogwoods and, most shamefully, tulips. One day tulips burst forth in radiant colors and the next day the wind has reduced them to bare green stems sticking up like Martian antennae.

In a just world, these images we associate with spring would last 50 or 51 weeks each year. Then plants, like people, could then take a week or two off.

Seems fair.

• Require decipherable medical bills.

There has been some improvement by some hospitals and clinics. Still, months and months of mystery mail (demanding immediate payment) can follow getting a shot for poison ivy and be far more irritating than the poison ivy.

Why? No one seems to know, which may be the reason health care is so expensive. If the cost of car repairs — or any other transaction — were half as inexplicable as visiting a clinic, more people would walk.

Now that we know the Legislature is not interested in bold, sweeping, visionary action to right the ship of state, perhaps we should each come up with our own list of peeves and get them on the calendar.

The address is P.O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215.

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at