In this historic first session of modern Republican leadership in the Mississippi Legislature, conservative legislation has finally seen the light of day instead of being brushed aside and occupying a Capitol garbage bin as it had only a few short months ago under the Democratic leadership.
While the marquee issues of charter schools and illegal immigration may remained bogged down for another couple of weeks, the inventory tax and other conservative agenda items are moving through the process show promise of making it to the Governor’s desk soon.
Republicans have even tackled Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood’s albatross of hiring outside counsel. Soon the AG will have a new chapter to write in his ongoing saga of “How to Hire Friends and Retain Campaign Contributors” and conservatives hope it’s one of the final chapters in the embarrassing book.
Now attention will turn in earnest to the state budget and redistricting. These two items will dominate the headlines until at least May, possibly even into June.
Republicans will work to control government spending, retain reserves, and reduce the overall state budget while Democrats (still learning how to handle being in the minority) will seek to foil conservative attempts at fiscal sanity by beating the education and Medicaid drum, seeking to stir the heartstrings of their supporters. Liberals will seek to sensationalize every move the Republicans make in this first budget under conservative leadership, mark my words.
Watch for the liberal funded sympathizer pop-up organizations like the Mississippi Democratic Trust, HOME2012, and Honor Your Promise to lead the way hand in hand with The Parents Campaign’s Nancy Loome, Rep. Cecil Brown, Rep. Bob Evans and the other old Democrat guard. The soundbites should be quite interesting for weeks to come.
As for redistricting, that’s still anybody’s guess. Republican leadership in both chambers will not confidently say that there will not be another election this year. Truth be told both parties are worried about that possibility. It is the elephant in every room at the Capitol.
Both chambers’ redistricting committees are working on their respective plans. Members are being asked for input and lines are being drawn. Where the wheel of fortune stops is the million dollar question, literally, since running another legislative election could be quite costly and not popular with the public.
Make no mistake – only a handful of sitting legislators would welcome another run so soon. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats simply do not want to have to face another campaign right now; the fear of voter fatigue and complacency on both sides is weighing heavy. So the impetus is there to get redistricting finished in a manner that is fair and acceptable to as many as possible.
The real lingering question on redistricting is what AG Hood and 2nd District Congressman Bennie Thompson’s influence will yield once a redistricting plan is passed by the new Republican controlled Legislature.
Will Hood and Thompson seek to nudge Obama’s Justice Department to question or reject the plan, forcing it back into court and upping the potential for a second legislative election?
Poker faces will be in abundance around the Capitol from here on out. It will be interesting to see just who blinks first.