Analysis: Mississippi Legislative transparency a matter of perspective

A Republican leader of the Mississippi House says the Legislature operates more transparently now than ever. But a longtime Democratic senator says the Legislature falls short of even its own past practices of conducting public business out in the open.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden of Meridian and Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory presented contrasting views last week at a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government.

Snowden was elected to the House in 1999. He said when he first arrived at the Capitol, the only way to read a bill was to fetch a paper copy. Now, he said, bills are posted online, and amendments that are offered during House or Senate debates often appear online within minutes. The floor debates themselves are available live on the legislative website .

“It’s really, from my view, a much more open process than it’s ever been,” Snowden said.

Bryan was first elected to the Senate in 1983, and served about the first half of his Capitol career in the majority party when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Republicans gained control of the Senate before the House, and they have held a majority in both chambers since the 2011 election.

Bryan said that during a special session in late August, too little time was spent debating important details of bills, including one authorizing a state lottery.

Final versions of bills are supposed to be negotiated by six people – three from the House and three from the Senate who are appointed to a conference committee. In the special session, House and Senate leaders negotiated privately on the lottery bill for hours before House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves named conferees. (Read more…)