February 13, 2018
Today I am beginning a daily journal of my life as a Mississippi state representative. Representing the people of District 6 which includes Olive Branch, is a great honor and my hope is to be the people's eye and ears into their state government. I realized this weekend after a brief conversation with a friend that I come off very negative about our state government. His question, which was really a statement, was surprise that I was considering running for a second term.
I know I'm often very negative about government and the possibility of making our government better, but I've not given up nor am I ready to stop fighting. I believe in our country, our state, and especially the people of Mississippi and our way of government. We, the United States of America, of which Mississippi is proudly a member, are the best government every established in the history of the world.
I proudly stand up and ferociously fight for our freedoms and our liberty. Our freedom and our liberty is what makes this place great.
Today is February 13, 2018 and we are approximately half way through the 2018 legislative session. Last week was the deadline for the House and Senate to pass bills that originated in their respective chamber. Today begins the process of each chamber voting for appropriation bills.
The Appropriation bills indicate how the House wants to divide the states money between all the state agencies. This is where this process has devolved into something that I think it should not. Today we will pass more than 50 appropriation bills that are largely filled with bogus numbers. What happens is the Chairman of Appropriations simply fills in the amount of money that the Legislative Budget Office (LBO) recommends. There will be very little debate or discussion about what any representative believes is important nor will there be any discussion to question if its even the government's responsibility to fund a particular agency, like MS Public Broadcasting that I believe we should not fund.
What happens is we pass these bogus appropriation bills that all contain a reverse repealer which means they repeal before they go into affect which means the Senate must take the reverse repealer out that forces each bill to a conference committee. These conference committees, consisting of three (3) House members and three (3) Senate members who will then decide how much money each agency will receive. Then the Conference Report comes back to each chamber and we are expected to vote in favor of the bills. What has happened is that over the years this process has become one that is controlled almost entirely by a small group of legislators and the folks from LBO.
WHAT I DID TODAY
Today I did a lot of nothing this morning. I picked up my shirts from the cleaners and then went to the Republican Caucus lunch. Now I'm sitting on the House floor writing this and waiting until the House convenes at 2 pm when we vote for the appropriation bills. For those members on the appropriations committee, senior members, they met this morning at 10 and voted out of committee the 50 bills that the House will take up today. Like my vote, most of those members voted on these bills knowing the money in each bill had nothing to do with reality.
So this afternoon is busy but a waste of time! Sorry, I just can't think of anything positive to say about this process.
Tonight the governor is hosting a reception for members of the House of Representatives. I will go to it at 5, mostly to be seen and to support our governor. Receptions like these are often tiring but they do serve a valuable purpose. Since most will attend, both Republican and Democrat, it gives us time to talk away from the capitol. Often times political agendas are put aside, well maybe not put aside but at least everyone is a little more relaxed so discussions are less tense.
I've also got a dinner hosted by the malt beverage lobbying group. Again, like receptions events this gives legislators an opportunity to form relationships with business folks across the state and often our own districts and learn about their specific issues. Sometimes a little knowledge from their point of view sheds light on a topic and helps the legislator understand both sides of an issue. (and it doesn't hurt that they feed us very good steaks).
I know this process seems unfair to citizens because a group who can afford to feed a legislator gets more notice and attention than everyday citizens. That could be true and honestly it sometimes is true. But I can tell you from experience that legislators do listen when citizens speak up and voice their opinion, especially when they do so in large citizen run groups.
So I've just been presented with a dilemma. I vote against all bond bill because I think we have borrowed too much money. If we as a state can't pay for what we want then we shouldn't do it. HB1543 is a bond bill that would require the state to borrow $5 million to build a Workforce Development Center in Pearl River County. Desoto County wants to build one also, now Desoto County has raised private money to pay for the vast majority of our center, Pearl River wants the state to pay for all of theirs.
I've been approached because some legislators want to amend HB1543 to include borrowing $1.5 million for Desoto County so we can build a workforce development center.
So what do I do, do I change my vote and vote against the standard I've set, which means voting for all the bond bills; do I vote against everyone else's bond bill but vote for the one for Desoto county; or do I continue to vote my conscience and vote against all bond bills even one that benefits Desoto County.
By voting against every bond bill and opposing one that includes Desoto County it may kill the bond bill entirely which will anger folks, the governor, and most other legislators. Its also been suggested to me that I simply "take a walk" on this vote and simply not vote for or against the bond bills.
Guess I've got a decision to make.
Well, I can't take a walk, I tried that last year on one difficult bill and I felt so bad about not doing what I was elected to do that I had to go back and register my vote late. So "taking a walk" is not an option for me, so I'm left with making a decision to vote for or against.
I know my decision, I will vote my conscience which is to vote No on all bond bills even one that could include money for Desoto County. Whoever is angered by my vote can just be angry. That is not my problem, its there's.
That's it for today.
PS - I don't proof read these daily journals so don't hold misspelling or occasionally something that is written poorly against me. This is steam of consciousness writing.