Much has been made of late about the accessibility (or lack thereof) to our Lieutenant Governor, Tate Reeves, by members of the Mississippi State Senate and the public at large. I can only speak of my experience and those of the colleagues and friends who I have spoken with regarding our interactions with Governor Reeves and his staff. I have found the Lieutenant Governor and his staff to be completely accessible. I understand that as a statewide elected official, he has requests monthly for literally hundreds of meetings and no one could make them all when requested but I have found in my experience that every State Senator who has wanted and requested a face-to-face meeting with Governor Reeves has been granted an audience with him.
I would add that Governor Reeves has a Pro Tempore of the State Senate in Senator Terry Brown whose door is always open to any member of the State Senate. I cannot recount all of the times that I have needed to speak with Senator Brown that I would simply walk into his office and have an unscheduled meeting with him in his office or on the Senate floor. I can also say the same about Governor Reeves’ staff. Each committee in the Senate is assigned a liaison from the Lieutenant Governor’s office who we as members and chairman have a complete open door access policy to speak about bills or concerns. My staff member is Rebecca Staples and I can honestly say that she is on speed dial and answers her phone both during and after work hours and even on weekends when I have a question about senate business that I need to run by her.
I have heard these rumors about supposed meetings of 15 Senators who are allegedly unhappy with the way in which the Senate leadership is handling matters of Senate business and did a little digging to ascertain if such a group existed and why they were meeting. I discovered with very little effort that the aforesaid group of Senators is a group of mainly freshmen senators who met both last year and continue to meet this year as a class to discuss issues of concern to them as they learn the process of the State Legislature. I can report that the members of this freshman group who I spoke with about any concerns stated that no such subversive discussions were held – far from it. They simply meet to keep each other informed about bills of concern to each of them and try to assist each other in navigating the process of passing legislation and constituent services.
To recap, I must restate that I have found NO state senator that I have spoken with who has been unable to get a one-on-one meeting with Governor Reeves when they requested a meeting. In fact, on many occasions I have found that you can simply walk up to his office and find him there working and if he isn’t already meeting with someone else at that time, you can get a meeting immediately.
I know that there are people who are unhappy that the Lieutenant Governor has stood firm on his commitments to pay down the State’s debt which he campaigned on for two years. I can tell you that we have to say “No” to a lot of very good and meaningful projects because to say “Yes” to them would be to bankrupt the State. We are in tough economic times still as you can tell in your own pocketbook and anytime you fill up your tank at the local gas station, but we are cognizant that in keeping down our state’s debt and the related debt service, we can pay-as-you-go on many projects just like Mississippians do every day in their family and business budgets. The Lieutenant Governor is committed to putting Mississippi in the best financial footing to face our challenges head on and to bring jobs to the Magnolia State. If this doesn’t sit well with certain people whose projects don’t get approved in a given year, that is unfortunate, but the patient requires the touch medicine sometimes in order to survive. That doesn’t always make you the most popular kid in class, but it does mean that the bills get paid and services get delivered on time.
On another personal note, I can tell you that the Lieutenant Governor has spent a lot of his “free time” assisting in the Capitol Prayer and Ministry Foundation that he along with Chairman Ben B. James, Jr., began last year and have continued this year. They together planned the ministry which meets every other week for a prayer luncheon which is open to all of our statewide elected officials, all members of the State Legislature and staff and all of the members of the State Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Tate has spent hours meeting during the out-of-session time planning the ministry activities with Chairman James. Governor Reeves has personally held fundraisers for the ministry so that no one who wishes to attend the prayer lunch has to pay to attend and has personally attended the events and made phone calls to prospective speakers for the luncheons. This, along with his family commitments, keep him extraordinarily busy but it is refreshing that he still finds time for those most important things like honoring the LORD and taking care of his three beautiful girls and sweet wife.
I know that the demands on Governor Reeves’ time are many and varied but I personally want to say that it has been my experience that he has always made time for my Senate colleagues, the State business, the Capitol Prayer and Ministry Foundation as well as his family commitments. That is amazing to me and I very much appreciate that in him.
Sen. Joey Fillingane