‘Father' Doesn't Always Know Best

At a recent event featuring Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Gunn told the audience that Reeves and his wife had recently celebrated the birth of their third daughter. Gunn said he especially sympathized with what Reeves is going through in caring for a newborn because, Gunn joked, he has 122 kids to deal with, referring to Mississippi House of Representatives members.

As observers of the current legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude in just a couple of weeks, we've seen our fair share of temper tantrums, scolding, playground tussles, bullying and legislative proposals that carry the stink of dirty diapers.

Even Gunn, who thinks of himself as the House's patriarch, and Reeves, to a lesser extent, can be bratty. Just look at how Gunn purportedly stood in the way of the Department of Revenue's move from Clinton to downtown Jackson.

After the House indicated that the charter-schools bill is likely again headed for defeat by sending it to a conference committee, Reeves, who badly wanted the charter bill, essentially took his toys and went home. After expressing disappointment in the House for again shooting down the schools proposal, Reeves said, "I look forward to passing real education reform next year."

To paraphrase Chris Rock, Gunn hasn't always gotten his "big piece of chicken" to which fathers feel entitled, either. Sure, the attorney-general power-killing Sunshine Act is headed for passage as did the Ryan Petit Child Protection and Child Rape Protection Act and tighter abortion restrictions, all of which Gunn championed.

But Gunn and his GOP compatriots got spanked on the issue of finally getting an Arizona-style immigration law, something that seemed unstoppable when the legislative session began in January, thanks to a contingent of determined Democrats (with some backroom help from key Republicans) playing the role of redheaded stepchildren.

While Gunn's assertion of himself as a patriarch of sorts might explain the sometimes heavy-handed way he operates as speaker, he isn't the only lawmaker with a father complex. How else do you explain why lawmakers keep trying to "protect" us? Restricting abortion access protects women's health. The name of Mississippi's anti-immigration law, the Safe Community Police Act, conveys the need to protect citizens from ill-intentioned dark-skinned outsiders. The various budget plans we've seen propose cuts in libraries, the arts, K-12 and higher education, and health care all because some legislators think they're protecting our long-term interests.

Putting legislators in charge of the state treasury doesn't mean they're in charge. There's still a lot of the people's work left to do. In these final days of the legislative year, it's up to us, the taxpayers, to remind lawmakers who's the boss.


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