Mississippi senators are pushing for a bill to specify that lawmakers must meet publicly
A group of lawmakers is backing legislation to specify that the Mississippi Legislature is subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act, essentially prohibiting the Republican House from holding closed meetings, the Daily Journal reported.
“I just think government should be transparent,” said Sen. Jason Barrett, a Brookhaven Republican who authored the bill.
The legislation comes after a row over a private meeting of House Republicans, though Barrett, a first-term lawmaker, told the newspaper it had nothing to do with his decision to introduce the law. The newspaper reported that 19 other lawmakers have supported the bill with many references to campaign pledges in support of open government.
The Republican members of the House of Representatives, who make up the majority of the legislature, meet regularly for closed-door caucuses, at which political and legislative strategies are sometimes discussed.
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Senators in Mississippi are backing a law that would require lawmakers to meet in public rather than behind closed doors.
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The Mississippi Ethics Committee ruled last year that the Republican faction of the House of Mississippi does not have to meet outdoors. The ruling came after the Mississippi Free Press filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission, arguing that the caucuses violated the state’s open-sessions law because a majority of the House of Representatives chamber meets outside the public .
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton and the House leadership maintain that the Mississippi Republican Caucus is not a public body and is not governed by state open assembly laws.
The Ethics Committee staff, led by longtime Executive Director Tom Hood, recommended that the commission consider the Mississippi House of Representatives a “public entity” under the Open Meetings Act and require that caucuses be open. But the politically appointed commission overruled Hood’s recommendation by a score of 5-3.
The news agency appealed the verdict to a Hinds County court, where it remains unresolved.