Charlie Mitchell

Rep. Jay Hughes will pay a price for the fun he's having

Charlie Mitchell
Charlie Mitchell

State Rep. Jay Hughes could introduce a bill next session to declare sweet tea the state beverage and it wouldn't make it out of committee.

Why?

Because the first-term Democrat from Oxford tugged on Superman's cape.

Not only did he decline to join the go-along-to-get-along game, he took to this "new thang" (social media) to give his constituents the inside story.

He will be ostracized.

A bit of setup: In November, Mississippi voters were invited to amend the Constitution to require adequate funding of K-12 public schools. State officials, from the governor on down, railed against this usurpation. They inserted a poison pill, raised advertising money by questionable methods, left no stone unturned to send 42 down in flames. And they won.

Now, witness the reprise Hughes wrote on Facebook as this year's legislative session ended:

"THREAT: Vote against Initiative 42 OR ELSE these really bad things will happen:

1. Tax dollars for your schools will go to other districts;

2. Funding will have to be cut for things like mental health and regional centers;

3. Funding will have to be cut at universities and community colleges;

4. A 'single judge' in Jackson will make all the decisions;

5. We will fully fund education without a court making us; and,

6. We will be able to put more money into Classroom Supply Fund.

REALITY: 42 FAILED --as requested -- and the majority proved the following:

1. Your tax dollars are NOW going to go to other school districts;

2. Funding has been CUT for mental health and regional centers;

3. Funding has been CUT for universities and community colleges;

4. A 'single judge' was DENIED jurisdiction over a legislative matter this session in less than 24 hours;

5. K-12 public education was just UNDERFUNDED by another $176 million for next year.

6. Classroom Supply Fund was just UNDERFUNDED by another $24 million for next year."

Hughes is a former Oxford alderman. Hughes is not the only legislator with a Facebook page, but he's rare in that he doesn't use his purely to raise money and congratulate himself.

How has the public responded?

He has about 2,000 regular followers and the number is sure to grow.

A truth of lawmaking is that arm-twisting takes place off camera. Junior lawmakers -- and especially freshmen -- are told in no uncertain terms they will vote as told by "leadership" or no bill with their name on it will see the light of day.

Be too persistent and you'll find your district redrawn in a way you'll never be re-elected.

Hughes described it this way:

"Word of the day: Caucus

Meaning: A meeting of the members of a legislative body who are members of a particular political party, to select candidates or decide policy.

Reality: A group of elected people who meet behind closed doors, without any news media, listen to special interest groups or leadership and decide what bills will be allowed out of a committee or be able to be brought up in public for a vote."

Hughes points out point not one time during the 2016 session did a member of the majority party argue against a bill. The reason? No bill opposed by the majority made it to the floor.

"This deprives the public of the true transparency and debate/information on matters being decided that impact all Mississippians," Hughes wrote.

Unhappy lawmakers? Not new. A tool that allows a renegade lawmaker to connect so immediately and directly? Pretty cool.

Here's betting the "leadership" would love to find a way to shut it down.

Hughes' term summary (abridged, see Facebook for others):

FAILED BILLS:

Domestic Violence as divorce ground

Campaign Finance Reform

Pay Raise for Teachers

Roads & Bridges Repair Program (Never brought to floor)

Change the state flag

PASSED BILLS:

$265 million economic incentive package for two foreign companies (Special Session)

$415 million in tax cuts

$250 million Bond/Borrowing Bill

Budget increase for prisons

Budget cuts to Veteran Affairs

Budget cuts to Mental Health

Budget cuts to Human Services

Budget cuts to Health Dept

Budget cuts to Medicaid

Budget cuts to Universities and CC's

Removal of special funds and dedicated funding for all departments, killing trust funds for deaf and blind, and fire trucks for counties

Guns in churches

Discrimination against LGBT and anyone who had sex outside of marriage

Hunting License Secrecy."

Hughes will pay for refusing to play, but he apparently thinks it's worth it.

Charlie Mitchell, former editor of the Vicksburg Post, is assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677. Email: cmitchell43@yahoo.com.

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