GOP Lawmakers Get Creative

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

In the Mississippi House of Representatives, every committee is chaired by a Democrat. And because of that, only a small number of bills written by Republicans make it to the House floor for a vote.

So House GOP members tried to bypass committee chairmen and garner enough support for a vote on a voter ID measure, the Child Protection Act, outside counsel accountability and forced unionization.

"We are demanding and requesting that all members of the House be given the opportunity to be heard on these important pieces of legislation," said Rep.
Mark Baker, Republican, of Brandon.

But without the support of Democrat-led committees, Republican issues usually have no chance of seeing the light of day.

"Our people want us up here dealing with issues and we're up here dealing with issues," said Rep. Phillip Gunn of Clinton, a Republican. "We're trying to get the issues on the floor."

And one by one, four bills were asked to be withdrawn out of committee. Then Democrats tabled the motion.

"Don't you agree it's better to go by the committee system, who have researched and thoroughly discussed?" said Democrat Rep. Bennett Malone of Carthage.

Sometimes emotions spilled over.

"You and others, for some God unknown reason, decide you'd rather bring it out here and make a show out of it instead of looking out for the welfare of the people you claim you want to look out for," said Democrat Rep. Ed Blackmon of Canton.

"Gentleman, this is not a show," said Republican Rep. Alex Monsour, Jr., of Vicksburg. "Sir, if you'd brought this bill out, it's been voted on the floor of this House. It passed last year."

House majority leader Tyrone Ellis calls the move a cardinal sin.

"Any time you try to circumvent the process, you are going behind the leader's back and the speaker's back," claimed Ellis.

Rep. Baker says Republicans won't stop trying to let their voices be heard.

"Sometimes it's like beating your head against the wall, but sooner or later, you're going to break down the wall," said Baker.

One issue that has broken through is the voter ID bill. A weakened version passed out of committee Tuesday afternoon and will be on the House floor soon.

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