A common complaint among legislators is a lack of time to actually read bills. The tactic used by leadership in nearly every legislative body is to overwhelm legislators so they don’t know what is in the bills. This leaves legislators simply following leadership and voting however they are told. One term used in the Mississippi House is “vote bottom right”. If you look at the voting board in the House, you will see “Speaker” at the bottom right. Many legislators simply look at what the Speaker is doing and vote with him.
When faced with over 2,500 bills during the 3 month legislative session, committee chairmen who refuse to provide agendas for bills being considered and a Speaker who regularly suspends the rules and brings up bills for a vote in hours instead of days, legislators are left voting for bills they have never read. Unfortunately, a large majority of legislators just don’t care because they are too busy going to dinner and living the high life off of a lobbyist to spend time reading bills and making informed decisions. But there are a few of us who believe it is our job to be informed and make the best decision possible before casting our vote.
When I first arrived at the Mississippi legislature, I was determined to read bills and know what I was voting for or against. I spent hours every night reading bills that were assigned to my committees only to find out the chairman wasn’t considering any of the bills I had read.
Experince helped me prepare. I learned to eliminate some bills authored by Democrats that were never going to pass and I learned to speed read bills by finding the underlined portions which indicate new language to a code section of law. But none of this solved the problem and completely helped me make informed decisions.
So, I made an agreement with a couple of other legislators to divide the bills among ourselves. We would meet once or twice a week to discuss and inform each other about the bills we had read. While this method helped, we were still behind and found it impossible to read everything we needed to read. I’m pretty sure one of us made a statement similar to, “Reading these bills is a full-time job.”
Rep. Joel Bomgar had the idea of hiring someone to read, grade, and rank bills. This “bill reader” would evaluate each bill based on a specific criterion and provide an analysis of each. This proved to be a huge help, allowing each participating legislator time to focus on amendments or other aspects to pass better legislation.
This year the Mississippi Freedom Caucus has taken over the responsibility of hiring a bill reader and working with him to ensure we have the best information possible on which to make decisions. Now, because of you and your financial assistance, we have produced a website that is not only available to any legislator but also available to citizens who want to stay informed.
This website keeps track of bills as they are filed and makes it to the House Calendar. Our bill reader reads each bill and grades the bill based on the criterion set out by the Freedom Caucus.
Each bill is assigned a grade.
- Green – GOOD POLICY – advances freedom or limits government
- Yellow – does not offend our principles
- Red – BAD POLICY – violates our principles by limiting freedom or growing government
You are invited to keep track of bills as they make their way through the process, read the analysis of each bill and decide for yourself if the bill is good policy or bad policy.
We want your feedback and insight into the decisions we make. Go to, www.FreedomVotes.ms to find bills and read our analysis.
If you have comments about a specific bill or you think we have missed something that would change the grade of a bill, please submit your comments by using the link below.
We look forward to reading your opinions and insights as we work together to make Mississippi the best place to work, live, and raise a family.