Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bill Crawford: Status Quo Makes No Sense

Whether you deplore the way the Mississippi Legislature currently operates or you rejoice in its works, change is needed. The status quo makes no sense.


Longtime North Mississippi legislator Hob Bryan set the stage by calling on his Senate colleagues to take back power from the lieutenant governor.

It’s no secret that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and his counterpart in the House, Speaker Philip Gunn, decide what legislation lives and which projects get funded. As Bryan noted, their extraordinary power does not come from the state constitution. Rather, it is gifted to them by all legislators through the Senate and House rules.

Ironically, Reeves and Gunn often exercise this power with little regard for, much less input from, most legislators. For example, the addition of $2 million for private school vouchers was slipped into an unrelated bill at the last minute leaving most legislators in the dark about it. Reeves wanted it added. Gunn rammed it through the House. Done deal.

It is also no secret that much of the legislation championed by these two originates from outside the Mississippi Legislature, often from outside the state.

“Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks,” reported USA Today. "In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy."

The number one state where this happens? Mississippi.

“Mississippi leads nation in filing legislation that other people wrote,” reported the Clarion-Ledger. “Between 2010 and 2018, Mississippi legislators introduced at least 744 model bills, USA Today found. That’s 200 more model bills than the next highest state.”

The newspaper also reported Sen. Michael Watson, a candidate for Secretary of State, was a top sponsor of model bills in the country.

Among the special interests involved are the infamous Koch brothers and their network of big givers and think tanks. For example, the school voucher program and its state sponsor, Empower Mississippi, and its progenitor, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, have strong policy and financial links to the Koch network. (PS: Empower Mississippi PAC was able to give Reeves’ campaign $10,000.)

Hmmm.

If so many bills come from outsiders, not from our own legislators, and the lieutenant governor and speaker decide what passes, why do we need 174 legislators? Alaska gets by with 60; Nebraska 49.

Reducing the number of legislators to less than 50 would save millions, shorten sessions, shrink government, and still yield us the same results we get now.

So, if you like current results, a smart change would be to shrink the legislature.

On the other hand, if you don’t like current results, Sen. Bryan’s suggestion to greatly curtail the power given to the lieutenant governor and the speaker makes sense. That would restore the traditional legislative process where members debate and decide on what bills to pass and which projects to fund. And the process would once again rely more on member input than outside special interests.

So, if you don't like current results, a smart change would be to limit the lieutenant governor's and speaker's power.

Either lots fewer non-essential legislators or a fully functioning legislature makes sense, but not the status quo.


Crawford is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

There goes Crawford again not sharing the whole story since it undermines his narrative:

Only 57 of the model bills in Mississippi between 2010 and 2018 became law, the USA Today investigation found.

That's one of the lowest rates of passage in the country.

Both Democrats and Republicans file these bills.

Anonymous said...

The long term answer is term limits at all levels of government, as bill modeling is also business as usual in the Congress.

But along with term limits there need to be limits on running for the other house after limiting out.

We don't need career politicians at any level. It should be public service, as intended, and not SELF-SERVICE.

Anonymous said...

KF, you are not old enough to remember the times when the DEMS ran roughshod over the state and the legislature. The pendulum may have swung too far the opposite direction but it is nothing new in the MS Legislature.

Anonymous said...

We need both.

Anonymous said...

I don't care at all for Hob Bryant and don't typically agree with anything Crawford writes. But, I didn't know most of this and am in agreement with his suggestion that it's nuts. We learned during the day of Brad Dye just how powerful the Light Guv position is. Insanity on parade.

Anonymous said...

Whatever it takes to maintain the status quo. That is Mississippi history, that is our Mississippi way of life. Almost all legislators and governors do not get elected in Mississippi as agents of change, but protectors of the status quo. That is Mississippi history, that is our Mississippi way of life. You can change things by leaving Mississippi. Many do.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi's Senate and House Republicans aren't smart enough to write many bills on their own.

Anonymous said...

Does any of this squabbling even matter if Mississippi's population increases by 1 million illegal aliens? How do we handle the burden? How will the Department of Education handle the students? We don't have the resources of a state like Texas or California.

Wake up and look around you.

Anonymous said...

KF, serious question.

Does this liberal whiner pay to post his whiny liberal columns here?

Anonymous said...

The Mississippi Constitution Commission during it's work took note of the problems Mr. Crawford describes.
Recommendations were made by various committees to re-write language ( in one case, eliminate one section as legal scholar or English scholar could glean what it was intended to say...literally " gobbledygook").

At the last gathering of the entire Commission, Brad Dye showed up ( having never attended or participated) and while smiling, gave a thumbs down to every proposal. Since elected officials made up most of the members in attendance and felt they needed Dye's good graces, the effort to have a Constitution that improved government failed.

I was shocked that our State Senators and Congressmen who had participated and supported the proposals all suddenly " changed their minds".


Anonymous said...

8:16 am You seem to miss the point.

It doesn't matter how successful or unsuccessful the Kochs may have been, it matters that they try to interfere and that there are those who are supposed to represent us but who are actually Koch errand boys.

Some of us are also aware of the Koch family history and recognize their tactics.

Anonymous said...

Just an example of how dysfunctional Mississippi is. Texas has 7.3 times the population of Mississippi. Texas has "really good" roads and a functional economy. Why do we in Mississippi have 52 state senators while Texas has only 31? Just one example of our broke state spending money we don't have.

Anonymous said...

Hob Bryan clearly has no expectation that Jay Hughes can or will win.

Anonymous said...

I don't care at all for Hob Bryant and don't typically agree with anything Crawford writes. But, I didn't know most of this and am in agreement with his suggestion that it's nuts. We learned during the day of Brad Dye just how powerful the Light Guv position is. Insanity on parade.

Will you still be in agreement after you find out that Bryan was one of the key Senators who changed the rules to give Dye and his Lt. Gov successors the power? Bill Crawford will never share that sordid little fact with his readers. If the sitting Lt. Gov was a Democrat and if the Democrats were competitive enough to win the office this year you wouldn't be hearing nothing out of Bryan about any of this. NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

12:38 you need to find another source of news.

Anonymous said...

Strange that Crawford thinks this strength of the LG and the Speaker is something new. Guess in hia old age his memory is failing him, and he doesn't remember the days of Speaker Newman or certainly not Speaker Sillers. Hell, one doesn't have to go back that far - let's look at the term, particularly the last one, of Speaker McCoy.

Just because our state went through one period where the LG, and largely the Speaker were denutted by a strong Governor with a legislature that would back him over the weak LGs, and uphold a veto in the House against McCoy - don't fool yourself into following Crawford repeating of the CL and the MississippiToday cap complaining that Reeves is carving new ground in running the Senate.

It's just like the days prior to 2004, with the Speaker and his few lieutenantes and the LG and his loyalists following right behind determining what bills live and what bills die.

Anonymous said...

2:12 - Regardless of who it was that signed on to giving Brad Dye and his band of outlaws the power of an oligarchy, I don't care who gave the Lt. Governor the power he has. This state has been run by the Buddy Newmans, Dyes, Worm-farmers and Reeves forever and it will never change. Even the one who did a belly-flop and became a used car dealer....all have made their negative mark.

Anonymous said...

2:37 why?

Kingfish said...

What's funny is reading Mac Gordon's lauding of Ford et al today for teacher pay raises.

Let me see, It was Ford and his gang who hiked the PERS benefits, as Ms. Robertson was so fond of telling us - and she was right to do so.

Legislature had to bail out PERS this year to the tune of $75 million. How much of that money could have been used for teacher pay raises? In fact, how many contribution increases have taken place because of the increase in benefits they passed? Money that could have gone towards teachers and other causes.

Anonymous said...

12:38 PM I wish we could attract 1 million immigrants to this state. This state needs diversity it has been completely destroyed by the corrupt good ole boy system that baits the rural meth heads and bible thumpers every election with some new racial angle to stay in power.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like some folks don't like how we run things here in the Great State of Mississippi. Seems a there are a lot of comparisons to other states. Well if y'all don't like the way we do things you are free to leave. Go one now, git.

Anonymous said...

@6:10PM
What about me, the law abiding business owner struggling to compete against a competitor who pays his 20 illegals to do the job for less than it takes to pay 2 of my legal citizens who have mortgages and pay taxes?

Those illegals all have kids in public schools and they live 8 deep in a 3 bedroom mobile home that they rent. It's also my understanding from local supermarket owners that they draw SNAP/EBT benefits on their children born here in the US because they show no legal income.

How much do you and Kingfish think this growing problem is going to cost the taxpayer in Mississippi? Kingfish, why don't you lay off PERS for a while and investigate the mass employment of illegal immigrants by agriculture, contruction, restaurants, and hospitality industry in Mississippi.

Maybe that subject is just too scary and difficult? Maybe Kingfish is afraid of being called racist? Maybe JJ might lose too many campaign ads? I don't know but too many are turning a blind eye.

Rod Knox said...

The legislation that would have enforced e-verify was trashed 6:46. Our esteemed Republican state government is determined to keep labor cheap for the hospitality industry and farmers by allowing them free reign to employ illegals. Those hard core conservatives talk a tough game but they slip back into the locker room at the precise moment to dodge answering questions regarding such questions. And Supertalk will pretend the Gov, et al, went the last mile to help you and apparently you believe them.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see both the house and senate made up of fewer members, but make it a full time job and pay a good wage. This will attract better people to the job. BUT we must have term limits along with this. Something like this: 20 senators @ $150,000 per year. 40 representatives @ $100,000 per year. Maximum two terms in each job. Make the jobs 'full time', but give generous time off for them to be in their district. Perhaps 4 ea 3 week vacations per year. Sound like a good job? Great. We should get better people this way.

Anonymous said...

8:36...Where are you gettin' the weed?

Anonymous said...

8:36, if your logic was correct, we'd have the best education system in the U.S. since our "brilliant" (extreme sarcastic label) state education superintendent is the highest paid in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

@Rod Knox
Spare me the rhetoric. I don't listen to talk radio. And e-verify is only a tiny puzzle piece in a big picture. The state and federal legislators need to be held accountable.

Why are these illegals allowed to get vehicles, housing, benefits, and enroll their numerous children into schools? Why does every authority that encounters them and uncover their status turn a blind eye? What laws allow them to freely take from a system that they do not contribute too?

The floodlight of journalism needs to expose these shadowy schemes and question how legislators are addressing this issue.

Anonymous said...

$150,000 per year for a legislator? They act like God and fight for a seat like its a throne for the current $11,000.

Anonymous said...

Supertalk owns the governor and lt governor. Or should I say the Gov and Lt Gov own Supertalk via Frontier Strategies. That's the most dirty circular pattern of money flow in state history.

Anonymous said...

Crawford, the Ledger and Hobby Bryan whine about the source of legislation but they don't mention the policy issues legislation addresses. If it is a good idea and someone introduces it, who cares whether it was prepared by Mississippi legislative staff, the GOP, the Dems, ALEC or the Easter bunny? it isn't about the origin of a bill. It is about the policy. if it is good, go for it. If it is bad, send it to the game and fish committee and kill it there.

Anonymous said...

"KF, you are not old enough to remember the times when the DEMS ran roughshod over the state and the legislature. The pendulum may have swung too far the opposite direction but it is nothing new in the MS Legislature."

Let's stop pretending as if anything changed from the Dixie-Democrat Majority from 1865 until 2010, with the Republican Majority now.

Conservatives have run this state since the civil war - they simply switched parties starting with the Johnson Administration and the peak of the switch was in 2010 during the Obama Administration.

Since 1994 - 120 state legislators have switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

22 State Senators
49 State Representatives

All of them were white

Rod Knox said...

You object to rhetoric yet HERE YOU ARE 5:25. And you imply having the low down on the situation yet keep it to yourself. My,my,my. Maybe you'll post it on Wikileaks and take the heat off Julian. But tell me all about those vehicles, housing etc. You can count on me to keep your secret. No one listens to me anyway.

Anonymous said...

All of them were white

So what?

Anonymous said...

Billy McCoy, Bennett Malone and Charlie Capps were really republicans? Holy Toledo, Batman!

Anonymous said...

1:02 on April 14:

Just to make sure the facts are presented, Lt. Gov Brad Dye had nothing to do with the failing of the 1988 Constitutional Convention legislation. That was all because of events on the House side during that session.

Also, the number of seats in the Legislature is not the problem. Having a larger number of seats allows everyday citizens to compete for House or Senate seats. The big problem with the legislature is that they allow problems to fester and just kick the can down the road. The U.S Congress also does this. Wile term limits might help, the size of the legislature will have no effect on this problem.

Regarding outside-written legislation being introduced, what each legislator introduces is his or her prerogative. Special interests write legislation for Congress as well. None of this, at the state level or at the federal level, gets any media attention until conservatives start doing it and succeeding.

Anonymous said...

11:05 am I was there at the last working meeting when Dye appeared just before the votes on the recommendations were to take place.

I was on the Commission and the work that was done was never part of the " legislation" you cite. That was legislative chicanery to make it appear that the Commission's work wasn't in vain.

And, you are either naïve or duplicitous to suggest that legislators hadn't rather be spoon fed party approved legislation with guaranteed promotional support than to do the hard work to research the merits legislation and to get new legislation through a convoluted process designed to prevent serious consideration.

Anonymous said...

By the way, 11:05 , the legislative committee studied the legislative structures of all the States. While the Uni-Cameral form would be most suited for a population as small as ours, we felt that would be hard to " sell" as only one State used that form. We recommended a different approach used in several States that would significantly reduce the legislator and be far more representative and reflective of the population that exists. Currently, the underpopulated rural areas have a disproportional stranglehold on the State. That was intended when the first Constitution was written to empower " the planters". We studied the history as well.

Study...something we don't get out of politicians these days.

Anonymous said...

7:52/8:04 am:

The Commission vs the legislation: I wasn't there for the Commission meeting, but that Commission and almost all other commissions are for study and recommendation. In fact, it is somewhat arrogant for a commission member to think that their report or study it the end-all. The thing that really matters is the legislation, as it has the effect of law rather than just recommendation. I don't know what Brad Dye did at the last Commission meeting; I do remember that the actual constitutional convention legislation was killed because of floor amendments by former Reps. Ken Stribling and Mike Mills (currently a federal judge) on the floor of the House. These amendments eventually brought the National Right to Work committee into the state, who $ucce$$fully lobbied to kill it by a later House floor vote. None of this happened in the Senate or by Lt. Gov Dye. Say what you want about Dye, but this was one time he didn't do it.

Legislators are a lazy bunch indeed. A lot of them do in fact rely overly on "model legislation" and some of it actually passes. However, the folks in rural Mississippi want their legislators to take care of the interests of their county or counties, and the model bills wont help those legislators get reelected.

Lastly, the article talked about reducing the size of the legislature. A unicameral legislature would be a good thing, because so much good reform legislation gets passed by one house only to die in the other. However, you must be a Republican, because they are the only people who would benefit by making each house smaller (and thus, making each district bigger). Unless you have tons of personal or PAC money, it is hard to win a legislative district now, but it will really be hard if there are less districts.

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