Mississippi’s Democratic lawmakers are worried a new set of legislative rules could further tip the balance of legislative power in favor of Republicans.
House and Senate rules dictate how both chambers and the legislature as a whole operate. They cover everything from who can stand where on the floor of the senate to how long Representatives can debate a bill.
While the rules are generally the same from one legislative session to the next, they do have to be readopted every four years. This year, Democratic lawmakers like Representative David Baria of Bay Saint Louis believe the legislature’s Republican leadership is trying to change the rules in their favor.
“What it appears that the leadership is doing is, more or less, consolidating power in the Speaker’s office,” Baria says. “In other words, taking it from the members and putting it in the Speaker’s hands. That’s certainly their right to do that. If they got enough votes to do that, and they certainly do, then they can do that.
In particular, Baria is concerned about a change to the rule requiring a three-fifths supermajority to amend tax and spending bills
However, Republicans argue the change is aimed at making the legislative process easier. House Rules Committee Chair Jason White of West says the change only applies to portions of those bills that don’t have anything to do with spending
“As long as you’re not adding, deleting, changing or repealing the revenue feature of the bill, it doesn’t require the three-fifths supermajority,” White says. “It only requires a simple majority like any other law that would pass.
Representatives voted to approve the House rules yesterday, they are now sending the amended, joint rules, governing both chambers, to the Senate.