/Caucuses prepare for 2017 session

Caucuses prepare for 2017 session

Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), Speaker of the House, had reserved a conference space at the Manship for legislators and lobbyists to use during the two-and-a half-hour lunch meeting. Meg Annison (gunner’s spokeswoman) said that the meeting takes place each December and that they were discussing Gunn’s legislative priorities. These include education reform and campaign finance, as well as a rewrite to the state school funding formula and budget issues. House Democratic Caucus Chairman, House Minority Leader David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis), said that his caucus met multiple times outside of the legislative session. The most recent meeting was Dec. 15. Caucuses do not have to meet in public. Baria declined any details about the policy discussions at the Democratic Caucus meeting earlier this month. Baria stated that they discussed matters related to policy and fundraising and other things that would benefit our members. When asked if lobbyists attend Democratic Caucus meetings he replied that sometimes a lobbying organization will buy legislators lunch and then stop by to introduce themselves. Annison stated that similar lobbyists from Butler Snow also attended the Republicans’ lunch meeting. They then left. Rep. Charles Busby (R-Pascagoula) said that he attended Wednesday’s meeting, where he estimates there were approximately 50 lawmakers. He said that the main topics were the reform of the Mississippi Adequate Educational Program and campaign finance reform. Gunn and the Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves has not yet received recommendations by EdBuild, the October-hired group to review and revise MAEP. Reeves spokesperson said that the recommendations should be finalized within a few weeks. This is because the Republicans are in a unique position to move legislation through the system, since November 2015, when Mississippians elected the first Republican supermajority to the Legislature. Gunn stated to reporters that one of his priorities was to ensure legislators’ campaign funds are only used for purposes related to their work as legislators. Although campaign finance reform legislation was defeated by the Legislature in recent years, it was close to being passed during the 2016 session. The bill would have limited campaign funds to personal expenses like clothes and cars, and provided transparency in reporting. Unfortunately, it was killed at the final hour. The bill was following a series of articles by The Clarion-Ledger, which detailed how politicians used campaign funds for everything from cowboy boots and apartments to name a few. It also highlighted the lack of reporting requirements that makes it difficult to track where campaign money is going in certain cases. Both caucuses meet every week during the session.