/There is reason big buildings in Mississippi are named after House speakers

There is reason big buildings in Mississippi are named after House speakers

Gunn, a Clinton Republican is expected to be elected by the House members for a third term of speaker. The three most powerful positions in state government are the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House. One advantage is held by the speaker over the other positions. The speaker may serve for as long as they like. The governor can only serve two terms. The term limit for the lieutenant governor is two terms. Technically, one person can serve two terms in lieutenant governor, then run for another term after a four year hiatus. However, this has never been done. The governor was limited to one term before 1987’s Constitution changes. Many believe that the fact that the governor can serve two terms has significantly increased the power of this position. Many also believe that the absence of term limits allows for the speaker to consolidate power in ways that the lieutenant Governor, who preside over the Senate, cannot. The real power of a presiding official is the ability to do what he or her can for a member in future. A term limit restricts the power of a presiding officer. Gunn was able to pass the controversial funding formula change in his chamber to ensure less state funds for local school districts last term, but Reeves couldn’t pass it out of Senate. Reeves was already a lame duck lieutenant- governor when the controversial bill was being considered. In a significant moment in Mississippi politics, in 1987 the state House voted in favor of curtailing the power of C.B., the third-term Speaker. “Buddie” Newman. One of the changes made in that historic House vote was to limit the number of terms a House member can serve as speaker. The new rules were in place and House members elected Tim Ford as their new speaker in 1988. He was a young lawyer from northeast Mississippi who served portions of Prentiss, Lee, and other counties. Ford’s second term was not over. House members reexamined the limits placed on the speaker’s term and repealed the rule with a vote of 76 to 43. Ford stated to the press at the time that the term limit removal was a result of the members and not Ford. He also said that he wasn’t trying to influence the vote on the issue by the House. Ford stated that he had tried hard to avoid it. Charlie Capps, an ex-House Appropriations Chair and a cigar-smoking Delta power broker, proposed that the term limits be removed. It is worth noting that Capps was Ford’s lieutenant. Capps claimed that “We are already operating as a lame duck speaker.” There are many members who want to be speakers and they are participating in various activities to support them. For continuity and consistency, I believe we need to remove this cloud from the House.” But Eric Clark (of Taylorsville), who was one the leaders in the rules change initiative that restricted Newman’s power, later served as secretary-of-state. He argued that “If the speaker has unlimited tenure, then he creates an electoral machine.” This is unhealthy. “The House will move in the direction that it answers to the speaker, and not to the people of Mississippi,” Coincidentally the House voted shortly after the first term Lt. Governor to remove term limits on speaker. Eddie Briggs introduced legislation to the Legislature that placed term limits on the office and lieutenant governor. House members were open about the fact that they removed term limits from the speaker because they believed that their side could gain an advantage in ongoing power struggle under the Capitol dome by having an unterm limited presiding officer. Ford served four terms as speaker of the Mississippi House. Only Walter Sillers, the legendary name of the tallest office building in the state, served a longer time, from 1944 to 1966. Gunn may not serve longer, but he is allowed to by the Mississippi House rules.