Paul Hampton

Asses are plentiful, but they’re not cheap

The rotunda of the Capitol in Jackson.
The rotunda of the Capitol in Jackson. AP

Just when voters, as lawmakers hoped, started forgetting about the past legislative session, State Auditor Stacey Pickering has to go and release his report on the price of this year’s Legislature.

The grand total, according to the OSA, was, best I can tell (it is a state-generated report), $5,560,864 and that’s just what you, the taxpayer, spent. I’m sure lobbyists and other spendthrifts were at least as generous.

Among the House members on the Coast, most got around a $50,000 county base salary, per diem and mileage. But remember, they worked extra hard. They had a 120-day session and an extra one-day session. Those steaks don’t chew themselves, either.

I’d like to think most of them earned it. Most work hard enough to fool me at least.

The highest paid among them was Richard Bennett. I don’t know exactly what Rep. Bennett did to earn his $61,171, but I know the results. He’s chair of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and we still have a thriving casino industry here where the Bible Belt is as wide as the one worn by the heavyweight champion of rasslin’.

No wonder he’s a little skittish around reporters.

The person paid the least, David Baria, got $40,161. He’s the head of the Democrats in the House. Guess he was paid per Democrat.

Now, for the most overpaid member of the House, I’m going with Jeffrey Guice of Ocean Springs. He got $54,956.

And what did he do in his 190 + 1 days?

He authored a bill asking New Orleans to send Beauvoir any Confederate memorial the Crescent City doesn’t want. It died a lonely death in committee.

He also legislatively patted so many folks on the back I’m surprised he didn’t sprain our wallets.

“American Idol” winner Trent Harmon was commended. The PERS building was renamed for former House Speaker Tim Ford. A piece of Highway 182 was named in honor of longtime Rep. Esther M. Harrison.

Guice commended charter boat captains, ousted county board members, football players, war heroes, a long snapper and an NFL referee and still had time to try to get an exemption from the vaccination requirements for public school students. It — cough, cough — died in committee.

But what he’ll always be remembered for, if I have anything to do with it, is the beatdown he took on social media when he suggested a young mother, Nicki Nichols, who asked all lawmakers for help navigating the swamp of health care for her diabetic daughter, buy her diabetes supplies herself.

“The anger seething from my bones cannot be put into words,” Nichols posted early on. Then she found her voice.

It was the singular achievement of the legislative session. In the middle of the political tornado known as Donald Trump, a meek lawmaker from Mississippi managed for a day or two to out-Donald the Donald. Well done, sir.

There was a bright side. Thousands more people know about the struggles young families face when a child has Type 1 diabetes. I’m not giving Guice any credit, though.

But I do have a bone to pick with Guice. How come Karl Oliver only cost his constituents $21,470?

Karl who? Allow me. He’s the ingrate who suggested Becky Guidry of Gulfport should go back where she came from if she couldn’t toe the GOP line.

I guess the price of an ass is slightly higher in the southernmost counties.

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