The 2016 legislative session has gotten off to a slow start. Lawmakers have been waiting to see who will be declared the winners of a set of election challenges. But that might change, soon.
Work at the state Capitol has ground to a halt. Over the past two weeks, House and Senate leadership have delayed the process of assigning committees.
They’ve been waiting to see who will officially be declared the winner of two legislative races that are still in contention. For House District 79, Republican Mark Tullos is challenging Democrat Bo Eaton. In Senate District 37, former Republican Senator Melanie Sojourner is contesting Democrat Bob Dearing’s win.
But that stall may soon come to an end. On Friday, the special committees heard final arguments. The House and Senate panels will now deliberate and bring their judgment to their respective chambers.
Republican Terry Burton of Newton is the Chair of Senate’s special committee. He says the process has gone well.
“It’s gone very well,” says Burton. “Long, arduous, intense at times, but this is a very difficult task for the persons involved, the two candidates and for the members of the committee. It’s very difficult when you “sit in judgment of your colleagues.”
But some Democrats are not sure the hearings were quite equitable. Representative Robert Johnson of Natchez believes the hearings would have been handled differently if the challengers had not been Republicans.
“I believe they would make shorter work of it,” Johnson says. “In fact, I think if their roles were reversed, I don’t think you’d see a Democrat challenging because they wouldn’t think they would have much of a chance anyway.
Special Committee members hope to have a decision on who will fill the contested seats by the end of the week.