Republicans often tout the need to reduce the size and scope of government. It’s one of the most widely held conservative political ideologies. Some often think in terms of finances (less taxes) while others focus on governmental agencies and their impact on citizen liberties; both are worthy goals.
But now that Republicans control every level of Mississippi state government, how can these new conservative leaders lead by example and make a swift, noticeable impact in their quest to reduce the size of government?
I would propose we begin by consolidating state Senate and House committees which would ultimately lower both chambers’ budgets, encourage more focused leadership, reduce the opportunity for committee “pocket vetoes,” and promote more robust floor deliberations allowing for increased governmental transparency.
A quick look at the Senate and House committee structure would point any logical person to a number of ideas on how these groups could be consolidated. In the House, there are 49 standing committees listed filled by 122 state representatives. In the Senate, there are 43 standing committees listed filled by 52 state senators. With numbers like these, there is obviously quite a bit of overlap.
While a number of scenarios could be proposed, here are a few of the most obvious options for legislative committee consolidation:
* Education and Universities & Colleges (Senate and House)
* Agriculture and Forestry (Senate and House)
* Public Health & Human Services and Medicaid (House)
* Judiciary A, B, and En Banc (House)
* Judiciary A and B (Senate)
* Apportionment & Elections, Legislative Reapportionment, and Congressional Redistricting (House)
* Elections, Congressional Redistricting and Legislative Reapportionment (Senate)
* County Affairs, Municipalities, and Local & Private Legislation (Senate and House)
And this is just a start. Many more could be explored and consolidated.
There is absolutely no reason a concerted effort to consolidate committees would not work and benefit state government, that is as long as the best interest of the state is the goal for all rather than legislators’ desire to be called “Mr. Chairman.”
Rumor has it that committee consolidation may be on the table for both Lt. Governor-elect Tate Reeves and Speaker-in-waiting Phillip Gunn. If this is indeed the case, it would be a strong start for Republicans in leading by example in the effort to reduce the size and scope of state government.
As an added caveat, I would also suggest that Gunn consider revamping the House management structure to include possibly eliminating the Speaker Pro Tempore position and establishing an official Office of the Speaker. Such a move would serve the House well as they attempt to move into a new generation of proactive governance as compared to the reactionary efforts of the past.