State Politics

Court orders Mississippi House speaker to slow it down

Rep. Jay Hughes, R-Oxford
Rep. Jay Hughes, R-Oxford

A state House member from Oxford has obtained a court order telling the House speaker to stop reading bills so fast.

First-year Rep. Jay Hughes filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court on Wednesday alleging Speaker Philip Gunn violated the state Constitution by reading the bills with an electronic device at such a high speed "no human ear nor mind can comprehend the words of the bills."

Judge Winston L. Kidd issue a temporary restraining order requiring Gunn to have the bills read at a normal speed until a hearing on a permanent order could be held at 9 a.m. Monday.

According to Hughes, Gunn has said the Constitution says nothing about the speed for reading bills. In Hughes complaint, he directs the court to the live stream of the House proceedings, which indeed have bills being read at a speed that was impossible to understand. Gunn could not be reached.

"What brings me to today, quite simply, is the Mississippi Constitution," Hughes said, during a streaming show on his Facebook page. "There is an old procedure that was put in in 1890. It's a right. It's just like the freedom of speech. ... That said every bill shall be read aloud in the hallowed chambers of the Mississippi Legislature, of the House of Representatives, of the Senate."

Minority Democrats have been having the bills read this week in both the House and Senate in what the Republican leadership considers a stalling tactic because the Democrats don't have enough votes to block bills in either chamber. Often in the past, both sides had agreed to waive the reading.

He said Gunn's actions Wednesday essentially left the Democrats out of the legislative process.

"The people have been left out in the cold," he said. "To me it's kind of like a bully on a schoolhouse playground. Just because you have a majority or a supermajority, does not mean you get to totally disregard the political process."

But Republicans blamed Democrats for trying to slow the process down for no reason and no hope of defeating any bill.

"They are given the bills ahead of time to avoid this issue, however, they are refusing to do their job and read and familiarize themselves with the bills prior to coming to the floor," Rep. Chris Brown, R-Aberdeen, wrote on his Facebook page. "Everyone has access to the calendar and bills days in advance of coming to the floor. With this dilatory action, we lose out on valuable time to discuss and debate bills that affect YOUR future. Shame on the MS Dems! #pettypolitics."

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