GOP leaders have become cliquish
Two weeks since the end of the 2017 regular legislative session, there’s still no word on when Mississippi lawmakers will be called back to Jackson to handle at least a couple bits of unfinished business.
It’s not just the public that is being kept in the dark. Apparently most lawmakers are as well.
In his most recent weekly column on state government, Geoff Pender, the political editor of The Clarion-Ledger, expressed some amazement about how cliquish both chambers of the Legislature have become under Republican control.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has his inner circle, and House Speaker Philip Gunn has his, but everyone else, including other Republican members of the Legislature, are left out of the loop.
Pender shared a revealing conversation he had with an unnamed GOP senator who, though a committee chairman with around a decade of seniority, apparently isn’t in the Reeves clique.
The senator was frustrated. It was two days before the deadline for the Legislature to adopt a budget, and he said he still hadn’t been told how much money lawmakers would be able to divvy up.
The reason for cutting it so close was uncertain, but the implication was that both the Reeves clique and the Gunn clique had decided that the best way to work their will was to give lawmakers as little time as possible to question what’s going on.
The strategy didn’t work too well. Since Reeves and Gunn weren’t on the same page about internet taxation and funding road and bridge repair, the budget for the state Department of Transportation was killed. Same with that for the attorney general, a hold-up caused by trying to prevent Jim Hood, the lone Democratic statewide officeholder, from crowing too much about any legal settlements he wins for the state.
Both of these budgets will have to be adopted in a special session sometime between now and July 1.
Another item that has acquired “top secret” status could be on the special-session agenda as well: a revamped education funding formula.
When the Legislature adjourned, both Gunn and Reeves were talking like they hadn’t given up on getting a new formula adopted this year, Gunn more so than Reeves. The two of them obviously have some differences in whatever proposals they’ve been tossing around behind closed doors. But even if they work those out, lawmakers should be leery if they aren’t given ample time to digest what’s being proposed.
When something as important as how the state spends the majority of its $6 billion discretionary budget is crafted in secret, that’s a good sign to watch out. There’s something they don’t want you to know until it’s too late.
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