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Curtain could be falling on ads starring elected officials

Gov. Phil Bryant was in the House last week for his State of the State address.
Gov. Phil Bryant was in the House last week for his State of the State address. AP

I thought it was a mistake. It had to be a mistake.

Two Democrats and two Republicans authoring the same bill. I checked it once. I checked it twice. I rubbed my eyes, walked around the hall and came back and checked it again.

Dang. It said the same thing.

Republican Reps. Jerry Turner and Noah Sanford and Democrats Tom Miles and Jay Hughes are behind a bill that would ban Jackson’s star politicians from starring in commercials and the like that are produced at taxpayer expense.

Hughes certainly has made a name for himself, disagreeing with House leadership early and often. Last year, he sued Speaker Philip Gunn to get him to slow down a machine that was reading bills faster than a Chicago lawyer.

You could say he was unpopular in some circles. Still, he found a way to get along.

“There are some people here who are true of heart,” he said, “who know the lack of transparency hurts Mississippi.”

Most of the ads targeted by the bill are public-service announcements that serve a useful purpose. Like the Secretary of State’s Office ad, which explained voter ID. Or the Insurance Department ad on fire safety. Or the Department of Transportation ad on a new app.

The problem is, when you put an office holder in a leading role, it starts, to the untrained eye, to look like a political ad. The bill, which has a long way to go, would end all that.

But what brought Democrats and Republicans together? Hughes credits Turner, chairman of the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee.

“I consider him a statesman, not a politician,” Hughes said. “That’s why he’s the chairman of the committee.”

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton