I am writing this at 11:57 pm on March 31 and we have three minutes to make the final vote on the last appropriations bill. If we don’t take this vote, then we have missed the constitutional deadline and the bill is dead, maybe.
How did we get here?
The legislature is controlled by deadlines that have been set by the state constitution. The constitution determines when the legislature begins, when bills must be filed and most importantly, it strictly controls how long the session will last.
Article 4 Section 68
Appropriation and revenue bills shall, at regular sessions of the Legislature, have precedence in both houses over all other business, and no such bills shall be passed during the last five days of the session.
One of the most important deadlines is set by Section 68, above. Last week, the leadership could see they were not going to make the March 27th deadline to pass bills that would spend your money. So they went to the members of the House and the Senate and told them they needed to extend the session. One thing I’ve learned around here is that the legislature can do anything they want, suspend rules, make new rules or ignore rules with a simple majority vote to do so. The constitution and the rules really do not apply.
So a resolution was presented to the House and the Senate to suspend the rules and extend the session until April 4, (on paper only because we actually ended the session today, April 1) instead of the constitutional date of April 2.
That is why I am sitting here on March 31, and waiting as they scramble to get an agreement on this one last bill.
But wait, the dysfunction isn’t over. We missed the new March 31 deadline. So at 12:01 am on April 1 we gaveled in a new legislative day. We did all the required items, we were led in prayer, said the pledge, and voted present for the new day.
But what about the deadline? We are now less than 5 days until the end of the new extended end of the session. So what do we do? Well, now I’m told that this bill doesn’t directly appropriate money from the state treasury, it just “transfers” money from one place to another so it can be passed and we don’t have to abide by the deadline. Only a politician could come up with this foolishness.
The point of relating all of this fiasco to you is to show just how dysfunctional the Mississippi legislature has become. How can a legislature controlled by people of the same party be completely unable to come to any agreement on spending your money? Are they arguing over differences in ideology? Are they so far apart in their desire of how to spend your money that they just can’t agree?
Or is it, as one senior legislator put it, they are simply arguing over control and personality?
Whatever the problem, I can tell you one thing for sure. This is not how your legislature is supposed to operate.
It’s now 4:00 pm April 1
I’m completing this at 4:00 pm on April 1. I’ve left the Capitol and I’m home reflecting on the events of the last couple of days. The hold up last night and the reason for all the delay and fighting was disagreements over the “member projects” bill, House Bill 603.
The last bill voted on in the 2023 legislative session contained $700 million dollars of special projects requested by legislators.
This money is what the leadership uses to keep legislators in line during the session. If a legislator votes how they are told during the session, then they get to take home some cash for unneeded roads, ballparks, running trails and any number of projects.If your legislator brags about how much of this money they have brought home, you need to know that during the session they have sold their vote (your vote) for this cash.
The Mississippi legislature is broken, it works against the people of this state and until the citizens make some major changes, Mississippi will always be last economically, last educationally, and first in corruption.