JACKSON -- Mississippi politicians would be banned from appearing in tax-funded advertising during election years under a bill moving through the Legislature.
Senate Bill 2281 passed Wednesday and goes to the House for more work.
"My constituents asked for it because they felt like a lot of elected officials may have an unfair advantage during an election year," said Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg.
It's not unusual for elected officials to appear in publicly funded commercials promoting their official duties.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, for example, is appearing in TV ads that explain the state's new voter ID law. The ads are similar to campaign ads he used to build name recognition when he ran for statewide office in 2007 and 2011.
In the campaign ads, Hosemann sat on a bench with a polite older woman who called him Dilbert, Philbert and Engelbert as he politely corrected her. In the voter ID ads, Hosemann explains what kind of photo ID voters can show at the polls -- and in one scene he talks to a man on a park bench.
Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office, said the state has spent $41,789 to air the voter ID ads, with money budgeted by the Legislature.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves served as state treasurer from 2004 to 2012, and appeared in TV ads to promote enrollment in a state-sponsored college savings plan. The ads featured the gospel song "This Little Light of Mine."
During debate Wednesday, Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, stood at the side of the chamber and quietly sang "This Little Light of Mine." Watson is in the Senate Conservative Coalition, a group of Republicans who've said the Senate leadership is not conservative enough.
Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd -- who has resigned and pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing justice and witness intimidation -- used public money to pay for election-year signs with anti-drug messages.
"Conveniently, it said, 'Don't do meth,' and conveniently, beside that was his face on billboards," Wiggins said.