House could block 1 proposal to expand governor’s power

Published 3:16 pm Friday, February 10, 2017

JACKSON (AP) — After endorsing a proposal to give the governor more power over state boards that license accountants, architects, cosmetologists and people in many other occupations or professions, Mississippi lawmakers may rethink or even block it.

The House passed House Bill 1425 on Thursday, with 61 in favor and 58 against. The bill was held for the possibility of more debate.

Under the bill pushed by Gov. Phil Bryant, dozens of occupational licensing boards would have to send any proposed regulations to the governor, who could approve, modify or veto them.

In an impassioned speech Friday, Republican Rep. Toby Barker of Hattiesburg said it’s a bad idea to put more power into the hands of any governor. He told Democrats they might be unhappy about giving more influence to Bryant or other Republicans who might become governor. He also said Republicans should consider what would happen if the current attorney general, Democrat Jim Hood, becomes governor one day and has “single-handed ability to enforce or deny a regulation.”

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“That should give you pause,” Barker said.

After his speech, the House voted by a wide margin to keep the bill on hold. The bill will die if it is not released to the Senate by a Monday deadline.

It was written in response to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling dealing with the power of the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners. The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint saying the board, made up mostly of dentists, had violated antitrust law by blocking non-dentists from offering teeth whitening services. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that sided with the commission.

A separate proposal would also strengthen Mississippi’s constitutionally weak chief executive by having the governor, rather than a board, choose the director of the state Department of Mental Health. It is in Senate Bill 2567 , which passed the Senate by a 25-24 vote Thursday, with three senators absent or not voting. It has been held for reconsideration by the Monday deadline.