Republican leaders Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have reached out to Democrats, naming several to head legislative committees.
Reeves named Democrats to head 18 of the Senate’s 40 committees. Gunn named Democrats to head 10 of the House’s 43 committees.
You might ask why there are so many committees. When I served in the 1980s there were 26. If someone can give you a reasonable, good government answer for so many, please send it to me.
But, if you start thinking about this, you may end up asking why there are so many legislators in our small state…52 in the Senate and 122 in the House. Speaker Gunn has considered this question. In 2010 he introduced a constitutional amendment to reduce the number of house members to 104. He also introduced bills to limit terms and reduce salaries.
But with no such changes imminent, we’ll have to wait and see if he or Reeves make any future moves to reduce anything.
If you consider the major legislative committees to be Rules, Appropriations, Finance/Ways and Means, Education, and Judiciary A, you will find all now headed by Republicans. Each committee also has a new chair. Indeed, only one of the major committee chairs under former Speaker Billy McCoy got a chairmanship or vice chairmanship. Democrat Joe Warren of Mount Olive, the former Rules chair, will now head Local and Private. Interestingly, Gunn not only demoted former Appropriations chair Johnny Stringer of Montrose and former Ways and Means chair Percy Watson of Hattiesburg, but switched their money committee memberships.
If you consider the next tier of committees to be Public Health, Transportation, Municipalities, County Affairs, Corrections, Judiciary B, Constitution, Universities and Colleges, and Local and Private, you will find five of the nine Senate committees and four of the nine House committees chaired by Democrats. All the committees have new chairs, except two in the Senate. County Affairs and Municipalities will still be headed by Democrats Nicky Browning of Pontotoc and JP Wilemon of Belmont, respectively.
The primo committee is the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Gunn’s appointees include Republicans Greg Snowden of Meridian, Speaker Pro Tem; Herb Frierson of Poplarville, Appropriations chair; Jeffrey Smith of Columbus, Ways and Means chair; and John Moore of Brandon, Education chair; and Democrats George Flaggs of Vicksburg, Corrections chair; and Preston Sullivan of Okolona, Agriculture chair.
Reeves has not yet named his appointees, but they will include Republicans Terry Brown of Columbus, President Pro Tem; Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, Finance chair; and Buck Clarke of Hollandale, Appropriations chair. The remaining three will likely include one or two Democrats.
It will be interesting to see if Reeves and Gunn embracing Democrats reduces partisan squabbling this time around.