CATEGORY: Governor



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON - Gov. Kirk Fordice, who spent about a month in Africa in 1994, will return to Africa for most of September.

His staff announced Wednesday that Fordice would leave on the trip - which will include a wild game safari - on Monday and return Sept. 24. His public schedule will resume Sept. 29.

"As an avid sportsman and outdoorsman, I am looking forward to devoting some of my personal time to one of my favorite hobbies - hunting," Fordice said in a news release.

Fordice held a news conference Wednesday morning where he announced a new jet service for the Jackson International Airport. He took questions on other topics but did not say anything about the hunting trip.

The trip was announced later Wednesday via a news release.

"The governor is paying for all expenses," said Heath Hall, a spokesman for Fordice.

The news release said Fordice "will be traveling with New Orleans philanthropist and personal friend Pat Taylor."

Taylor, a businessman who has lobbied states to establish scholarship programs for low- and middle-income students who excel academically, also accompanied Fordice on his trip to Africa in July 1994.

That trip also lasted about a month. During his absence, then Lt. Gov. Eddie Briggs expanded the call of a special legislative session that Fordice had scheduled for August.

The state Constitution gives only the governor the authority to call a special session and gives the governor the authority to decide the topic of the special session. Briggs, who was acting as governor with Fordice out of state, added an additional topic to the special session.

The action brought to light the disagreements between Briggs, the first Republican lieutenant governor of this century, and Fordice, the first Republican governor of this century.

One year after the 1994 action by Briggs, many political insiders say Fordice made no effort to help Briggs during his re-election effort. Briggs was defeated in 1995 by then-state Sen. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat from Batesville.

While Fordice is out of the country, Musgrove will be serving as governor.

Under the state Constitution, anytime the governor leaves the state, the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor.

When Fordice suffered a near fatal one-car automobile crash last November, Musgrove served as acting governor for more than a month.

While out of the country, Fordice said, "I will have direct access to a phone and a fax machine, which will allow me to be in constant contact with my office."

Although Fordice said he will be in contact with staff, Hall would not reveal what countries he will visit in Africa.

"It is a personal trip," said Hall, who said he didn't know if anyone else would accompany the governor on the trip. He said first lady Pat Fordice would not make the trip.

Fordice also has made one other trip to Africa during his tenure. In 1995, Fordice traveled to Africa for a trip that was sponsored by a group that received most of its funds from tobacco companies.

Fordice said he thought the economic development trip was paid for by the National Governors Association.

After the trip, Fordice filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to try to stop state Attorney General Mike Moore's lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

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