Paul Hampton

Legislature will just chug along as long as we let it

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, denounces a Facebook remark that Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, posted last month. Hines told a special session of the Legislature on Monday that Oliver’s lynching remark was ‘domestic terrorism.’
Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, denounces a Facebook remark that Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, posted last month. Hines told a special session of the Legislature on Monday that Oliver’s lynching remark was ‘domestic terrorism.’ AP File

I’ve stumbled around through many a dictionary in pursuit of just the right word to describe the Mississippi Legislature.

“Extraordinary” never made the short list.

But the same people who come with bill names such as Financial and Operational Responses that Invigorate Future Years Act, chose to call Monday’s session of the Legislature an “Extraordinary Session” to deal with that act.

That’s one way of looking at it.

Apparently at one point, there was debate over whether to take up bills in the House Appropriation Committee before anyone had laid eyes on the bill. That, I’m sorry to say, is hardly extraordinary. That’s just the way good ol’ boys work.

Much of what was taken up Monday was dropped on lawmakers at the last minute. Gov. Phil Bryant, just three days before the session began, expanded this “most ordinary” session to include the aforementioned “FORTIFY Act.” Oh, and there were “technical amendments” to the Budget Transparency and Simplifications Act, the measure that swept fees and other money collected by departments and agencies into the general fund. Those adjustments brought $600,000 to Biloxi to settle a suit over rent payments by a casino.

The lawmakers managed to take care of all of that and pass the appropriations for the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Transportation and still have time for black lawmakers to give Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Nowhere, a much deserved tongue lashing for his infamous “lynching” post on Facebook.

Oliver just hunkered down and took it. He should have done the right thing and resigned as Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes and others in the Black Caucus suggested, along with the dolt who tore up Barnes’ resolution and surreptitiously left the pieces on her desk.

Perhaps surreptitious is the word I was looking for all along.

But I would have thought a political party with super majorities in the House and Senate and control of all statewide office with the exception of the Attorney General’s Office could hide their shenanigans in plain sight. Turns out, it was disagreement in the Republican Party that led to the special session. That’s no way to shenanigan.

Every problem or issue that was dealt with existed during the so-called “regular” session, although I hesitate to use the word regular with anything that happens on High Street.

“Under the current regime,” said Rep. David Baria, leader of the Democratic minority in the House, “they tell us how it will be. They don’t want hearings, they don’t want questions. They don’t want to slow the train.”

Until the train leaves the rails, as it did with the Biloxi suit.

A lot of these problems are on us, the people of the Coast, because we let them get away with it.

Someone just asked me if the Legislature is still in session. Baria said people ask him, “How are things going in Washington?”

We’re 150 miles away and often an afterthought. There is a live stream, which tends to freeze at the most inopportune time. There is a website that’s helpful during a regular session but was useless during the less-than-ordinary session.

That leaves us with Twitter.

Perhaps a tweet from Arielle Dreher of the Jackson Free Press would wake us up: “The only cash cow that I see in the next two years to save the state of Mississippi is the BP money.” -Rep @steveholland16 on SB2002 #msleg.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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