Hughes puts foot down at capitol

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 24, 2016

Staff report and Associated Press

Oxford’s Jay Hughes, a first-year leader in the state House of Representatives, filed for an emergency restraining order Wednesday in Hinds County Circuit Court, seeking to require the Mississippi Constitution be followed in the chamber of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

At issue is Article 4, Section 59 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, which requires all bills be fully read before they are voted upon.

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Hughes said historically the House clerk has personally read each bill aloud, in its entirety. However, in the last few years, an electronic device was purchased at taxpayers’ expense to automatically read the bills aloud. The reading procedure has been invoked each year as long as members can remember.

This session, however, Hughes said Speaker of the House, Phillip R. Gunn, has accelerated the reading speed to the highest possible level on the machine, which reads the words faster than any human ear or mind can even arguably comprehend, or about 10 words per second.    

Hughes said multiple representatives pleaded on the House floor for the practice to stop, but Gunn said the Constitution said nothing specifically about being able to understand the bills, and refused to slow it down as it has always been. So, Hughes took the step of legal action.

“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” said Hughes. “This is no different than a bully on a public school play ground.”   

In his post to constituents, Hughes said, “Silence is consent. Today I chose to speak — for the MS Constitution and its people. We must respect the law. I cannot sit by and watch legislation harmful to education and the people just evade the entire process.”

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd issued a temporary order, saying bills must be read “in a normal speed.”

The hearing on a permanent injunction is Monday, at 9 a.m., in the Hinds County Circuit Courthouse before Judge Winston L. Kidd.

Gunn criticized Hughes, a fellow attorney, and said any lawmaker who wants to read a bill can do so on a state-provided computer.

“This whole stunt, the TRO, is simply an attempt to keep us from doing the work of the people,” Gunn said. “And I’m not going to stand for it. We’re going to do the work of the people.”