GEOFF PENDER: What the Legislature has here is a failure to communicate

Alan Lange, at Y’all Politics, recently penned: “By condensing almost the entirety of legislative appropriations and finance issues into the end of the session (over a weekend, no less), there is an enormous amount of pressure put on all things. Relative decisions on spending money between agencies or programs have to be made quickly and sometimes it’s not real smooth.”


But this bum’s rush, hurry-up offense is being put on more and more legislative work — not just the budget, but policy and general legislation. Most committees don’t hold full-on hearings or debates anymore. They’ve become quick huddles called shortly before deadlines, during which bills are handed out, then votes are called a few minutes later. Bills aren’t so much vetted in committee as they are either passed by acclamation or not taken up at all. In at least a couple of instances this session, committee votes were held without lawmakers even having updated versions of the bills in hand.

In the House, Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, does frequently hold GOP caucus meetings. But these (which are closed) appear to be more to gauge a controversial measure’s pass/fail potential more than to seek rank-and-file input. But maybe I’m wrong — they are secret, after all.

Most rank-and-file lawmakers are given info on a need-to-know basis, and apparently they don’t need to know many things until it’s time to vote. This strikes me as odd, that secrecy and timing strat-e-gery have increased even as Republicans have increased their hold on the Legislature to a super-majority. The Democratic Party is barely a going concern in state government these days. From whom is the leadership trying to keep secrets?

Clarion Ledger