The House and Senate adjourned the 2019 Legislative Session today, but not before the leadership of both chambers cheated their way to an increased appropriation for private school vouchers and proudly acknowledged doing so.
Late yesterday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Reeves sneaked $2-million in additional voucher funds into an unrelated agency conference report (SB 3049), presenting it for a vote minutes after secretly inserting the language and before legislators had a chance to read the bill. Sen. Buck Clarke presented the bill to the Senate, choosing not to reveal the new language to his colleagues – a blatant violation of trust and of legislators’ obligation to inform the body of significant changes to legislation. (Buck Clarke is running for state treasurer in November.)
Likewise, the conference report was quickly moved to a vote in the House, though House conferees say they did not know the voucher funding had been added. House Speaker Philip Gunn has acknowledged that he did know about the hidden language, but he chose not to reveal it to House conferees or members.
Many have asked why legislators didn’t read the bill and catch the added language. Read how the move to mislead and circumvent their fellow legislators unfolded.
When the voucher language was discovered, the bill was held on a motion to reconsider in each chamber, giving legislators another opportunity to vote on the matter.
Despite the leadership’s threats to kill local projects of legislators who voted to remove the voucher funds from SB 3049, a majority of the House voted not to move the bill on with the voucher language intact. After the first two votes failed, the chamber recessed and leadership continued to pressure representatives. On the third vote, Gunn was able to coerce enough representatives to refrain from voting at all, shifting the balance and allowing the bill to pass. You can see all three House votes here: Vote #1 Vote #2 Vote #3
When the Senate voted this morning, Lt. Governor Reeves refused to acknowledge senators’ request for a roll call and ruled the voice vote in favor of moving the bill forward with the voucher funding. When Sen. Derrick Simmons protested, pointing out that a sufficient number of senators had requested a recorded vote, Reeves gaveled him down – literally ordering Simmons to be seated. We will never know how the Senate really voted on that motion.
Friends, it is time for new leadership! We need legislators we can trust to stand up for our children and our public schools, and legislators need leadership they can trust to fairly preside over their chambers. Fortunately, we have an election just around the corner!
Will you help us elect a better Legislature?
We’ve heard from so many of you who are frustrated and angry over actions in this session. If you are ready to make a change, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s turn that anger into effective channels for change in Mississippi! Our children’s futures are at stake. And together, we’ve got this!