Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bill Crawford: The Arrogance of the Legislature

How appropriate. Fate chose the week of the Egg Bowl for legislative leaders to have to wipe lots of egg off their faces.

How silly. House Republican leaders passed a rule, with Senate mimicry pending, to deny media access to the Legislature’s contracts, only to find out they were violating their own law.

How embarrassing. The state’s only statewide Democratic elected official, Attorney General Jim Hood, got to slap the hands of Republican legislative leaders.

How heartening. It was then Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who championed passage of the Mississippi Accountability and Transparency Act in 2008 that the leaders violated. And it was now Gov. Phil Bryant who criticized their attempt at secrecy, “I will say an open government is a better government.”

Thanks Phil for standing tall on the importance of honest, transparent government.

Maybe our legislative leaders learned a lesson from this? Probably not.

Unlike the Governor, but like many good men, they seem to have succumbed to the siren call of power. As we know, power corrupts and breeds rotten fruits like arrogance and secrecy.

Many see evidence of these rotten fruits in our legislative leaders’ behavior since Republicans gained super majorities in the House and Senates.

Take the egg-on-their-faces EdBuild contract. “Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn said the Senate Rules and House Management Committees on Tuesday hired a private, nonprofit firm called EdBuild to examine how the state spends money on K-12 education,” reported the Associated Press in October. “EdBuild is based in New Jersey, and the firm was selected for the $250,000 contract without a bid process, the legislative leaders said.” Incredibly, the no-bid EdBuild contract followed legislative action to tighten up bid laws and contract transparency after the Epps bribery scandal involving prison contracts.

Now, these are the same two leaders who regularly tout government transparency. “Fiscal responsibility and transparency” has been a Reeves clarion call. In his listening tours Gunn regularly promotes “government transparency.”

What arrogance to tout open and honest government but not apply it to the Legislature!

Both Reeves and Gunn refused to make public the EdBuild contract. The House Management Committee then passed a rule making all legislative contracts secret. A similar move in the Senate was pending when the Attorney General slapped their hands.

Hmmm.

Two of the key indicators of tyranny are secrecy and rules that apply to everyone else, but not to the ones in power.

The EdBuild incident followed legislative leaders’ decision to only use their choice consultant to provide guidance on tax reform, Reeves’ reluctance to appoint members to the investigative PEER committee, Gunn’s moves to undermine members’ constitutional right to have bills read, secret conference committee meetings, arm twisting of party members to vote right or face consequences, and other actions that give rise to concerns about increasing arrogance and autocratic behavior.

It’s not too late for Gunn and Reeves to follow Bryant’s example.

But don’t be too surprised to see a bill adopted next session exempting legislative contracts from the Accountability and Transparency Act.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

Kingfish note: The contract will cost the legislature $125,000.  A non-profit group is paying the other half of the contract amount. 

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

A "non profit" firm only means that the principals simply disperse proceeds (presumably to themselves) at year end. The connotation of the words non profit is often assumed that this is a benevolent group that makes little or no money. There is plenty of graft often associated with this term.

Of Brief Cases and Lear Jets.. said...

Hiring a consultant, which is all this amounts to, means this:

You contract with somebody and you tell them what you want them to come back to you with at the end of a period of time.

Then, quarter-way through, half-way through and at the end of that time, you receive a pro-rata bill and you write checks.

And periodically, you get boiler-plate reports, printouts, charts and illustrations presented to you with some blanks filled in that make you think the report was drafted for your business.

And during this time, you send people to meet planes and buy box lunches and dim the lights for power-point presentations. Or perhaps you have a hired-girl who does these things.

Anonymous said...

One wonders whethΓ©r the non-profit group utilized, legally or therwise, $$ to lobby Reeves and the other primary players to get the no-bid contract pushed through in such a surreptitious manner.

Anonymous said...

Not really, 11:00. Non-profit, usually meant to refer to an entity that's organized under section 501(c)3 of the IRS code, means that they're not allowed to distribute earnings. The excess of revenue over expense is put back into the entity. A way around this is to put everyone on a nice salary for doing nothing, but the IRS is pretty good at figuring that out.

Anonymous said...

12:35 Lavish salaries, inflated expense requests, etc. pretty much guarantees no profits. As long as the principals pay their required income taxes, the IRS really doesn't care. They are getting their money through individual rather than corporate sources.

Anonymous said...

So who is the non-profit paying for half of the contract???

Anonymous said...

Mississippi Republicans believe that Trump winning the election is proof that voters believe they are doing a good job. Wrong! Trump was chosen, instead of Bush, Rubio, et.al, because Mississippians know that our politicians are not doing a good job.

Hopefully voters will wake up and put a stop to this BS.

Anonymous said...

If the City of Jackson and State of MS. wants crime stats. reduced, then lock up some of the folks in City Hall and the Legislature. It is time to drain the cesspool in Mississippi Govt...

Anonymous said...

If our judicial system is based on adversarial conflict (plaintiff vs defendant) to produce judicial balance, why do so many people rejoice when the legislative process becomes dominated by one party? Without the checks and balance of party rivalry and critique, a bunch of politicians whether dems or republican will take advantage and betray the public trust. We should be glad to see a philosophical adversary with some clout constantly watching the party in power as a check on the misuse of power. It cuts both ways...Democrat or Republican. Jackson could use the same.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about our power hungry leaders who stripped Rep. Bo Eaton of his house seat after drawing of straws where he picked the long straw. This created the supermajority that we now must deal with.

Anonymous said...

Why do they need a consultant when they can just go to their ALEC conference and get a bill already ready to go?

Anonymous said...

I hope more light will be shown on the fact that the House Management Committee (headed by Gunn's lapdog Snowden) will not authorize the PEER Committee to function. This is the only agency that can investigate the TRUTH behind what is going on down there. It is obvious they do not want the public to know what they are up to. And they don't care.

Anonymous said...

Gee, you mean the people of YOUR party are human and are seduced by money and power? You really thought they wouldn't be?
You really thought that what they said would matter more than what they do?
You never thought competence mattered including the ability to understand why basic structural principles and limiting human temptations are important?
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Anonymous said...

PEER doesn't answer to Gunn or Snowden.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:21pm

No, they answer to Hamburgler Reeves! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you'll Google PEER, they don't answer to him either.

Anonymous said...

11:21 PEER can't do its job unless it has a full committee, which is being held up by Gunn's lapdog Snowden. They are powerless at this point.
6:38 PEER is an independent body, but CAN'T do its job because of the lack of members due to intentional non-action by the leadership.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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