/It’s just disrespectful’ Gunn uses rare procedure to kill a bill that would abolish IHL board

It’s just disrespectful’ Gunn uses rare procedure to kill a bill that would abolish IHL board

Philip Gunn, the Speaker of the Mississippi News House Nonprofits, used one of the most unusual legislative strategies to stop a bill to abolish the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning. Ten Democrats filed an earlier month bill that would eliminate the 12-member state college board and allow each state’s eight public universities the right to appoint its own board of trustees. These boards would supervise the finances of universities and make decisions about executive leadership. Rep. Chris Bell (D-Jackson), is the principal author of the bill. Bell pointed out the 2019 University of Mississippi chancellor search, as well as the 2017 controversial president search that the IHL board conducted. Bell said this week that it doesn’t matter which school you represent, no one has been happy about the IHL board. They don’t represent (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), but, they don’t necessarily represent any of our schools. They are appointed at the governor’s pleasure and serve at his will. It’s wrong and we wanted to change it.” However, Gunn killed the bill’s chances of making it to the House floor for discussion shortly after Bell had filed the bill. The House speaker can assign any bill to a particular committee at his sole discretion after House members have filed it. Often, controversial bills and pieces of legislation the speaker opposes must be double-referred. This means that they must pass through two committees before being allowed to move to the floor. Double-referred bills almost always die in committee. Gunn, however, made the unusual decision to triple-refer this year’s bill that would eliminate the IHL board during the committee assignment process. The bill must pass the Universities and Colleges Committee and the Appropriations Committee before it can be debated on the House floor. Gunn is close to all three of these committees, and they are presided over by Republicans. It is rare to triple refer bills. Gunn triple-referred five bills this year out of nearly 1,600. These were four bills to expand Medicaid under the Affordable care Act in Mississippi, and one that would abolish IHL. Gunn’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request of comment. Bell stated that “(House leaders) clearly haven’t taken the time to even review and ask questions about why this bill was filed.” It’s normal. It’s not surprising to me. They don’t take into account how individuals feel regarding the legislative process and the IHL Board as a whole.” Trey Lamar, a Republican Representative from Jackson, was one of Gunn’s closest confidants. He filed two bills this session to equalize the IHL board appointment power between Gunn, the governor, and the lieutenant governor. The state constitution makes it clear that the governor is the only person responsible for IHL board appointments. Gunn referred Lamar’s measure to the governor, which increased their chances of passing. Bell indicated that he would support Lamar’s measure, but he made contrasts between Gunn’s handling of the two plans. Bell stated that “For (Lamar’s) bill to become single-referred it shows leadership that IHL change is needed, but they don’t want a Democrat get credit for it.” “It’s just disrespectful.”