Politics & Government

Mississippi Legislature opens today

The 2012 Mississippi Legislature convenes at noon, with a modern-day record 47 freshman lawmakers ready to be sworn in, including 13 new lawmakers for South Mississippi.

The GOP is ready – for the first time since Reconstruction – to take control of both the Senate and the House after winning majorities in both chambers in November. Rep. Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, is expected to be elected House speaker today, the first Republican to hold that post since the 1840s. Republican Tate Reeves, who had served as Treasurer for eight years, takes the gavel in the Senate this week.

Both chambers plan to elect their top officers today, and name new committee chairmen by week’s end.

“We are expecting a peaceful transfer of power,” Gov.-elect Phil Bryant joked as he arrived at the Capitol this morning.

As lawmakers began to trickle in at the Capitol, South Mississippi veteran legislators said they look forward to the large new group of freshmen coming in.

“I think we have a good group,” said Sen. Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi, the longest serving lawmaker currently in office, with 44 years in the Senate and House combined. “I’ve talked with most of our group from the Coast, and I think they are going to work out well What advice would I give them? Listen quite a bit. I’ll do anything I can to help them.”

Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, said he’s likewise impressed with the freshman group.

“We have an extremely large number of freshmen, and I’m excited about that,” Watson said. “They are all sharp and talented and it’s great for the state to have the caliber of people we have coming in. There’s a learning curve, but it will be a much easier curve with people of this caliber.”

Read more about today's session in Wednesday's Sun Herald.