House of Representatives an "Information Free Zone"

Posted 2/26/16

As of this morning, the House of Representatives is passing laws without debate, allowing no questions and no answers before voting on bills that affect the lives of Mississippians. Though members who are familiar with the bills may speak for or against a measure, many laws will likely be passed with legislators having little knowledge of what is included in the legislation.

Deep disagreements over the inner workings of the House of Representatives were revealed in a dispute over a bill to change Mississippi's Supreme Court districts. Members who are not on Speaker Gunn's leadership team allege that they have been shut out of the legislative process and denied the right to represent their districts.

In protest, some members began asking for each bill to be read aloud, a move that significantly slows the business of the chamber. Responding to the members' warning that they planned to stymie the work of the House until disagreements with leadership are resolved, leaders pushed through a rule change prohibiting "points of personal privilege." Points of personal privelege are used occasionally under a long-standing rule that allows any legislator to speak about a personal grievance or to address the chamber when he or she feels the leadership is acting unfairly.

Gunn's leadership team has also invoked the "previous question" on all matters before the House, which has the effect of disallowing questions and answers on any bill. Notably, in the first bill presented this morning, the committee chair chose not to explain the bill, giving only the short title before calling for passage. The usual procedure is for a presenter to fully explain a bill to the chamber and then fully answer any questions that members have about the bill.

Long-time Capitol reporter Bobby Harrison noted this morning that the Mississippi House of Representatives is now essentially an "information free zone."

All Mississippians should be alarmed that our leadership would encourage the passage of bills with no debate about their merits. This could have dire implications for the many harmful education bills that are on the House calendar for consideration. Our children could pay a heavy price for the dysfunction we see in the House of Representatives today.

Please contact Speaker Gunn and your representative and ask that they do the job we elected them to do: fully vet every bill before calling for a vote.

Speaker Gunn: 601-359-3300

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