/Special session Hard feelings on display

Special session Hard feelings on display

Frierson, R.Poplarville, and the outgoing chairman, House Appropriations Committee was given the task of managing the bill that would allow Gov. Phil Bryant was allowed to access the state’s Rainy Day Fund at any level necessary to balance the state’s fiscal year budget. Thursday is the official end of the state’s fiscal years. Frierson, who will be the state commissioner for revenue on Friday, used his last remarks as a House representative to reflect on two days of special session and the tension between the Republican and Democratic parties. Frierson stated, “We are in a new, highly partisan-charged period of Mississippi politics.” It’s the job and duty of the opposition to oppose. We just went through what was happening. A leader with too much power and not enough checks is not what you want. “So that was good.” These comments ended a two-day session that saw a heated exchange between the sides. Both sides were blaming each other for the budget deficits this year and the way they dealt with budget issues during the April regular legislative session. (Jeff Amy from The Associated Press tweeted late on Thursday that Bryant be advised by state budget officials to withdraw $63 million of the reserve fund in order to balance the state’s budget. This bickering contributed to the divisiveness that began in November 2015 when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives with a supermajority. Republicans were able to control the levers and policies of state government, despite the opposition of Democrats. They had a supermajority in Senate and a GOP governor. Marty Wiseman was the director of the John C. Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University for nearly 29 years. “After decades under Democratic control, it seems that there’s an emerging breed of Republicans who may feel they were excluded all these years” he said. I’ve heard many people, both lawmakers and lobbyists, tell me they’ve never experienced the discord and harshness that the Legislature brought to their lives, and they were unable to see it this year. He said that it was almost an observable pattern. Bryant called Jackson lawmakers on Tuesday to ask them to approve the use of additional Rainy Day Fund money to balance the state’s budget at the end this month. It became evident that Democrats were still bitter about the proceedings during the regular session. The Senate quickly passed the bill Tuesday morning and sent it to the House for review. When the House was asked to vote to suspend normal rules in order to immediately consider the bill, Democrats voted against it. This requires a two thirds vote. This effectively created another day of special session. It cost taxpayers $33,228 more than the $68,720 bill that was passed on the first day. Republicans claimed that their counterparts were stalling and wasting taxpayers’ money by forcing a second session of the special sessions. Democrats lashed out at Republican leaders for their budget woes, and for having to meet again under the dome in order to hold a special session. Gunn stated Tuesday afternoon that the bill was very straightforward and not difficult. “They’re choosing to play with taxpayers’ dollars when they have plenty of time to resolve it.” Gunn continued, “We did all the work, we put the bill together, and we’re ready for rock and roll. They refuse to suspend the rules. They are the ones that caused us to return another day, and he (House Minority Leader David Baria), is trying to avoid accountability for that.” Governor. Phil Bryant also criticized the Democrats’ tactics. Bryant released Wednesday afternoon, “It is regrettable that the grandstanding by the House Democrats cost taxpayers an extra $30,000.” “I am grateful for the leadership of both the Senate and House,” Bryant said in a Wednesday afternoon release. Baria, D-Bay St. Louis compared Mississippi Republicans to a politburo which was the main policy-making arm of the Communist Party during its rule over Russia. Earlier in the week, Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, called the Republican-controlled Legislature “a dictatorship.” “Republicans attempted to railroad through a bill giving the governor carte blanche spending authority,” Baria said. “Democrats simply slowed down the process so that questions regarding the budget mess could being answered. The state budget shouldn’t be a partisan issue but Republicans continue running our government like a political politburo.” Gunn declined to comment. Tuesday’s comments were made by Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves stated: “I don’t respond much to House Democrats. They’ve had a difficult time winning elections, and they’re frustrated about that. “I understand that.” House Democrats tried to delay the process Wednesday by filing a point-of-order (claiming that House rules and Mississippi Constitution were broken) and eight amendments to the bill. These amendments would have allowed money to be transferred to agencies such as the Department of Mental Health or the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. The budget cuts to these agencies will be particularly detrimental to the state, as Democrats have made it clear. Frierson responded that the bill under consideration could not legally be used to increase money for any agency’s budget. Baria proposed an amendment to limit the governor’s transfer authority to $100 million. Other Democrats asked Republican leaders about the bill that would allow Bryant uncapped transfer authority throughout the morning. Frierson, D-Laurel, had a heated exchange with Rep. Omeria Scott. He brought prepared vote totals from April showing that the majority of House Democrats voted in favor of the appropriations being approved in the regular session. He also claimed that all past governors, even Democrats, had unlimited Rainy Day Fund transfer authorization. Scott was told by Frierson that Democratic governors could do the same thing. “It’s unlimited, for two days… I support it. Yes I do.” Republicans ignored the delay attempts and claimed that the point of order was moot. They voted to table, not debate, all eight amendments. Bobby Moak will lead the Mississippi Democratic Party in the coming months. He was ousted in November from his 32-year-old House seat. Wiseman stated that the Democrats’ actions in the special session could be the guiding light for the party over the next two-three years. Wiseman stated that the result of the special session was that many people are frustrated, particularly with the budget. There are many opportunities if the Democrats get organized. They can also present another side to the discussion and a threat, much like they did in the special session. “I’m seeing some signs that life there.” The feud was heating up near the end of today, Frierson began his calm summary of the week’s special sessions and the bickering that had seemingly dominated news cycles for months. Frierson said, “We have to learn how to manage this new political polarization.” You’ll have to face some difficult times while doing this. However, I encourage the house to learn how to manage the partisanship. It is important to continue this important work. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. 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