Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A preview of the coming Personhood war in the Legislature ***UPDATED***

Last week, the House took up HB 16, a measure followed closely here and across statewide media.  The public's attention to HB 16 is no doubt due in large part to the national outrage following the Penn State child molestation debacle.  As you may recall, HB 16 was dubbed the "Mississippi Child Protection Act", and was authored by Speaker Philip Gunn (R - Clinton).

The bill itself was handled poorly by Republicans, who attempted to railroad through a bill that even they admitted was horribly drafted and needed major work.  That led to a long, protracted battle on the floor, with Democrats offering amendments and Republicans (and some Democrats) voting them down.  Lost in the flurry of amendments was a very important one which provides us with a preview of the coming legislative battle over the issues at the core of last November's Personhood Amendment.

In HB 16, there was a section that sought to define "abortion" (lines 64-75). That's important, because in it, Speaker Gunn attempted to write out the "life of the mother" exception.  As those who followed the Personhood battle will recall, many Personhood supporters argued that abortion in any instance is wrong, even if the mother's life is at stake.  To them, they would rather the child live and the mother die or have them both perish than to have any abortion performed.  That is an extreme position not supported by any mainstream religious denomination.  But it is apparently supported by quite a few Mississippi legislators, even those from districts that voted against the Personhood Amendment in droves.

Thanks to Rep. Bob Evans (D - Monticello), we have a list of those who voted against excluding medical procedures used to save the life of the mother from the definition of abortion.  Rep. Evans offered Amendment 5 to the bill, which bill sponsor Rep. Andy Gipson (R - Braxton) argued against.  When the voice vote was held, Speaker Gunn declared the amendment lost and moved on, refusing calls for a roll call vote.  (A roll call vote would allow the public to see how everyone voted on the amendment.)  My guess is that Speaker Gunn knew the implications a roll call vote would have, and tried to avoid one as best possible.  Evans outmaneuvered Speaker Gunn later, however, and moved that the vote on Amendment 5 be reconsidered.  As a result, the roll call vote on the motion to reconsider Amendment 5 leaves us with a paper trail of who voted against protecting expectant mothers.  Given last November's numbers on the Personhood Amendment, some of these votes are quite surprising, as they are out of line with their districts.

So here they are, the representatives who voted against protecting the life of the mother exclusion whose districts voted "No" on Proposition 26. The first 5 on the list are from districts that voted over 70% against 26:

  1. Rep. Bill Denny (R - Jackson)
  2. Rep. Deborah Dixon (D - Jackson)
  3. Rep. George Flaggs (D - Vicksburg)
  4. Rep. Brad Mayo (R - Oxford)
  5. Rep. Randall Patterson (D - Biloxi)
  6. Rep. Brad Oberhausen (D - Raymond)
  7. Rep. Scott DeLano (R - Biloxi)
  8. Rep. Hank Zuber (R - Ocean Springs)
  9. Rep. Chuck Espy (D - Clarksdale)
  10. Rep. Greg Haney (R - Gulfport)
  11. Rep. Casey Eure (R - Biloxi)
  12. Rep. Rita Martinson (R - Madison)
  13. Rep. Richard Bennett (R - Long Beach)
  14. Rep. Alex Monsour (R - Vicksburg)
  15. Rep. Carloyn Crawford (R - Pass Christian)
  16. Speaker Philip Gunn (R - Clinton)
  17. Rep. Jeffrey Guice (R - Ocean Springs)
  18. Rep. Nolan Mettetal (R - Sardis)
  19. Rep. Greg Snowden (R - Meridian)
  20. Rep. Jessica Upshaw (R - Diamondhead)
  21. Rep. Charles Busby (R - Pascagoula)
  22. Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D - Charleston)
  23. Rep. Gene Alday (R - Walls)
  24. Rep. Gary Chism (R - Columbus)
  25. Rep. Kevin McGee (R - Brandon)
  26. Rep. Pat Nelson (R - Southaven)
  27. Rep. Ray Rogers (R - Pearl)
  28. Rep. John Moore (R - Brandon)
  29. Rep. Tom Weathersby (R - Florence)
  30. Rep. Tom Miles (D - Forest)
  31. Rep. John Read (R - Gautier)
  32. Rep. Hank Lott (R - Sumrall)
  33. Rep. Jason White (D - West)
  34. Rep. Sam Mims (R - McComb)
  35. Rep. Larry Byrd (R - Petal)
  36. Rep. Tommy Woods (R - Byhalia)
  37. Rep. Bobby Howell (R - Kilmichael)
  38. Rep. Forrest Hamilton (R - Olive Branch)
  39. Rep. Steve Horne (R - Meridian)
  40. Rep. Andy Gipson (R - Braxton)
  41. Rep. Joe Warren (D - Mount Olive)
  42. Rep. Michael Evans (D - Preston)
  43. Rep. Wanda Jennings (R - Southaven)
  44. Rep. Bo Eaton (D - Taylorsville)
  45. Rep. Jim Beckett (R - Bruce)
  46. Rep. Trey Lamar (R - Senatobia)
  47. Rep. Jeff Smith (R - Columbus)
  48. Rep. Brian Aldridge (R - Tupelo)
  49. Rep. Timmy Ladner (R - Poplarville)
If this coalition sticks together, we'll have Personhood by the end of the session.

***UPDATE*** (2/10/12 at 6:27 p.m.) - Rep. Toby Barker (R - Hattiesburg) was inadvertently added to the list of representatives who voted against the Motion to Reconsider.  Rep. Barker instead voted "present".  His name has been removed from the above list.  My apologies to Rep. Barker.


Leslie said...

How is it that the majority of MS can vote NO to this, but then those who we elect to REPRESENT our opinions in congress can turn around and try to pass this? If they are representing our collective opinion, then shouldn't this be a non-issue?? It failed in the polls; therefore, the state of MS as a whole (as in the majority vote) does not want this.

bill said...

Matt, be accurate. The roll call vote was for reconsideration, not for up or down on the amendment. You can suppose all you want, but it's not accurate to say any of the people on your list voted against the amendment. Their vote merely signifies that they considered the subject closed after the voice vote.

It's also not accurate for you to suggest that a majority of the Republicans in any of these districts voted for or against 26. All we know is that it went down hard in the general election, and in order for it to do so Republicans would have had to vote against it. To say that a legislator would lose support over his roll call vote on the issue, however, must assume that the Republicans in his district will have a better choice next time. Bad assumption...unless the Republican picks up a primary opponent he'll probably be safe in the general election, even if he votes against some sort of personhood bill.

That said, I voted against 26. I thought it was poorly written and would have cost the state millions in legal fees before it could be enacted, if it ever got that far. I don't have any problem trying to overturn Roe v. Wade. I'm against abortion, although with reasonable exceptions, but it's not an issue that dictates by itself who I'm going to support. Bill Billingsley

bill said...

Leslie, the Republican legislators probably aren't getting a lot of feedback on this from their Democrat constituents. The squeaky wheel, while not always getting the legislative grease, will at least cause the guys to get the oil can out and take a look. Plus, you have to assume that most Democrats voted against personhood, so while it would have taken some Republicans to defeat it at the level it lost, the Republican legislators may be more worried about fighting off a primary opponent than they are another Democrat. Bill Billingsley

Cottonmouth said...

Leslie, I think Bill is telling you (and others) to contact your legislators. Each one of their names is linked to their contact information within the post, so you can click away.

Bill, I am being accurate. It was a vote on whether to reconsider Amendment 5, as I said. It was the last opportunity to add "life of the mother" language to the bill. If you deem it important, you vote to reconsider.

You next raise a point rooted in your beliefs about a representative form of government. Your view is that a representative is only beholden to the voters in his district who belong to his political party. My belief is that a representative is beholden to the voters of his district, period.

Leslie said...

Your last sentence is my whole point. Thanks for the links.

bill said...

Matt, you misread my poorly written point about Republicans vs. Democrats in a legislative district. Of course a legislator is there to represent all the citizens of his district, not just the ones who voted for him and not just the ones in his party. My comment is rooted in my firm belief that most legislators - not all, mind you - ask themselves this question before they vote on any issue: Will my opponents be able to use this vote against me in my next election? When I was lobbying in Washington back in the old days I heard that literally from Congressional staffers when I would ask them to cosponsor a bill, and I'm pretty sure the folks in Jackson have also figured it out. In the case of personhood and Republican legislators, my point was that they're not worried about losing Democrat votes - they're not going to get those anyway. In fact, as I stated in my earlier post, most of the feedback they get from their districts - and this holds true of the Democrat legislators as well - is from supporters, not the voters in the other party. I doubt that many Democrats in the Republican represented districts have weighed in on personhood with their House members. When it comes to getting reelected - and that's the goal of all 174 of them - they're going to pay more attention to the ones who will help them in that effort. Just a fact of political life...oh, and don't misconstrue my comments as being critical of Republicans. The actions the Republicans might take on personhood aren't any different than what the Democrats would do on their pet causes if they were in charge. BB

Anonymous said...

Of course we are going to get a Personhood law passed in Mississippi by the SLRP-lovin crew, we just have to, or else, to quote Mississippi Governor Dewey Phil Bryant, "Satan Wins"!