Be aware of tactics in the legislature

Published 12:00 pm Monday, February 29, 2016

By TJ Ray

Are you aware of the coup that is taking over Mississippi government?

Much of it is a done deal in the State House of Representatives. In essence, the Speaker of the House used parliamentary tactics to take away the rights of others to challenge some of their shenanigans.

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He was responding to a call to have a bill read. In our great efficiency, such reading is done by a machine. (At least members will hear the words of a bill even if they never read it for themselves.) In an emergency meeting of the Rules Committee, the conclusion was that when bills come to the floor there may be no speaking or dissent.

This effectively muzzled anyone who opposed a bill. There would be no speeches by any Representative. There was to be no debate of any bills in the House. No legislator was to be allowed to express any opinion about any House bill. Bills were to be announced by the Speaker at which time each Representative would vote yea or nay.

Two aspects of this outlandish procedure stand out. First, the change in the handling of bills was altered after the legislature had been in session for some time. That is similar to changing the number of downs a team plays from four to three during the second quarter of a football game, simultaneously preventing either coach from speaking to the change.

The second disturbing consequence of this action was that a bill proposed by a lobbyist or by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) would pass with a simple majority, with no question or comment. Under the guidance of those privatization folks, the state might end up with virtual schools. That will surely save a lot of funds for buildings and buses and teacher salaries.

Have we sent a mob of thugs to Jackson? The tactics of the Education Committees are already raising red flags with many educators, but practicing teachers and school administrators aren’t as close to the ears of legislators as are lobbyists eager to get public school dollars diverted to their little schools.

Given the direction of education legislation sliding through down there, public schools stand to be seriously crippled by next year, not even knowing until the last minute which students will be in their classes as opposed to going to one county over, where there is a better football program.

Even the determination of school ratings will ultimately be decided by the state auditor. Auditor?

What in the name of good sense does the auditor know about education standards?

Our poor state has been at the bottom of education rankings too often. Now the clowns in Jackson are locking up our place in the pile and throwing away the key — or, in other words, giving the keys to education to a bunch of folks in it purely for money. Can we hope that our misguided governor, lieutenant governor and the leaders of the two education committees will come to their senses? We can hope, and you’ll know your hopes have come true when you see pigs overhead.

Conclusion: the thousands of calls and emails that poured into the House and clogged the computers moved the speaker of the House to reverse himself. That means bills will be discussed as is normally done.

Maybe there will be no more 792-page bills that were introduced and voted on in four minutes. Let’s hope a side effect of the angry response by voters rings for a long time in his ears.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at