Public expects more of lawmakers

Published 11:00 am Friday, February 26, 2016

In case you’ve missed all the drama unfolding in the Mississippi House, here’s a quick recap:

Black Democrats accused Republicans of unfairly freezing them out of the legislative process, and they are stalling House business to pressure the majority GOP, The Associated Press reported.

Exactly how are they stalling the legislative process? By having bills read aloud as a form of protest. A machine-generated voice spent several hours Thursday reading a 293-page bill that would freeze school superintendents’ salaries for three years. After the reading, the bill passed 83-39.

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Democrats had the bills read aloud to protest a redistricting bill they said could hurt the chances of black or Democratic candidates from being elected to the state Supreme Court, Public Service Commission or Transportation Commission, AP reported.

“Democrats say moving Simpson County from the Southern District to the Central District would reduce the chance of Democrats and African-Americans winning seats,” according to AP. Some Democrats say Republicans aren’t consulting them even about bills directly affecting their districts.

In response, the House voted to limit its own members’ ability to make speeches. Such speeches are called points of personal privilege, and they typically are made by a few members each legislative session, usually if a member feels aggrieved about the conduct of the House, AP reported.

Of course Democrats feel left out of the legislative process. That’s to be expected when Republicans control the House and Senate. But that doesn’t mean Republican legislators should ignore their fellow lawmakers, especially when it comes to passing legislation that directly affects their districts.

Limiting participation of Democrats will only fuel party division, and there’s more than enough of that going on already. We’re quite sure the public doesn’t expect its elected representatives to behave so poorly. Our advice to them: play nice and get to work.