Gunn restricted finances affect of rank-and-file lawmakers

When the Mississippi Legislature convenes at midday Tuesday, it’s going to mark the ultimate time for Home Speaker Philip Gunn to gavel to order a daily session.

The 2023 common legislative session would be the swan track for Gunn’s historic tenure as speaker of the Mississippi Home of Representatives.

The Clinton Republican has introduced he won’t search reelection for a sixth time period within the Home in 2023. He’ll go away workplace as the primary Republican speaker because the 1800s, because the third longest serving speaker in state historical past and because the guiding pressure of laws in 2020 retiring the state flag that included the Accomplice battle emblem prominently in its design.

He additionally is likely one of the main architects of a legislative rule that arguably offers the leaders of the Home and Senate unprecedented energy over the budgeting course of.

The query is whether or not that rule — one of many Legislature’s most authoritative guidelines in current historical past — will finish with Gunn’s retirement.

That rule strips away practically all, if not all, of the ability for rank-and-file legislators to have a say in finishing up their most simple perform: deciding the way to applicable state funds.

The rule requires a member wanting to supply an modification to extend funding for a program or company — such because the Division of Well being to take care of the state’s ongoing litany of well being woes — to specify from what company the cash can be taken.

On the floor, the rule appears logical and honest. In spite of everything, legislators shouldn’t be spending cash the state doesn’t have. However the rule, because it was crafted in 2012 when Gunn was first elected speaker by his colleagues, severely limits the pot of cash a rank-and-file legislator can contemplate when making an modification to extend funding for the Well being Division, for training or for some other company. The rank-and-file legislator, as an illustration, couldn’t make the modification to spend any of the $4 billion {dollars} in reserves the state at the moment has for a program the legislator believes wants extra funds to take care of a disaster.

And to make the method extra difficult, the cash have to be taken from a finances invoice that’s earlier than the chamber at the moment. You will need to perceive that every chamber takes up and passes half of the greater than 100 payments funding state companies and commissions after which exchanges payments with the opposite chamber. The Home will ship their appropriations payments to the Senate and vice versa. If a member of the Home needs to extend funding for the Mississippi Satisfactory Training Program, as an illustration, and wishes to take funds from the Division of Transportation to take action, the member can’t if the Transportation invoice is within the Senate on the time as an alternative of the Home.

Republicans took full management of the Mississippi Legislature in 2012. The budgeting modification was included into the joint guidelines of the Legislature that yr by the 2 new presiding officers — Gunn within the Home and then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves within the Senate.

Curiously, when reporters advised the late Terry Brown, on the time the brand new Senate president professional tem, concerning the Home plan to enact the finances rule, the Columbus Republican who had loads of conservative bona fides flashed his mischievous smile and mentioned the rule wouldn’t be taken up within the higher chamber. He mentioned senators wouldn’t help a rule to severely restrict their say within the course of. A day later, presumably after assembly with Reeves, Brown was advocating for the modification.

It handed each chambers and since then legislators have acted mainly like lemmings in the case of the finances course of, passing what legislative management presents to them throughout the waning days of every legislative session.

In 2024 there can be a brand new speaker of the Home. The favourite to switch Gunn is Home Professional Tem Jason White, R-West. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann would be the heavy favourite to win reelection as presiding officer of the Senate.

Hosemann was not lieutenant governor when the budgeting rule was enacted, and through his first time period because the presiding officer he has at occasions displayed extra of a willingness to let the members of the Senate have a say within the legislative course of.

With Hosemann nonetheless in workplace and a brand new speaker in place, members might flex their collective muscle to demand a change to the rule.

However first, legislators will serve one other yr below a course of the place they’ve little or no say in how state funds are spent.

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