Another deadline to introduce bills has come and gone, and we are now able to take a peek at how Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) plans to refer certain bills this session. This year, he is doing something a bit out of the ordinary, but that is nothing new for the power-hungry Gunn.
Legislation with a direct financial impact on local communities and counties has typically been referred to the Local and Private Legislation Committee and handled there; no longer is that the case. Speaker Gunn has taken it upon himself to weaken the Local and Private Committee by enhancing the power of the Rules Committee, which is chaired by one of Gunn's top lieutenants and Tea Party sweetheart Rep. Mark Formby of Pearl River County.
During the 2013 Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, Local and Private bills that were approved by Governor Bryant were only once double-referred, which means that a bill is sent to two committees for review and approval. Gunn now finds it in his best interest to refer Local and Private bills to the Rules Committee as well so that he can have a stronger say in which bills survive.
Speaker Gunn continues to establish new precedents by circumventing veteran House members like Local and Private Chairman Joe Warren (D-Mount Olive) and tightening his iron fist of the House floor. Gunn's actions show that he has little faith in his membership, yet rank and file Republicans have resolved themselves to the fact that it's Gunn's way or the (poorly-maintained) highway. In some instances, mayors and county supervisors who switched to the Republican Party claiming that the Republican Party is more in sync with their ideology are about to have a rude awakening when they realize that one of the state's most influential Republicans has played them for fools by killing bills which could aid their community. A grand old party indeed.