BRIAN PERRY: Legislative privilege

Taking public information presumed to be protected and making it public weakens the value of that presumption moving forward. Applied to the legislature, it would weaken our doctrine of separation of powers.

Legislative bodies routinely spend money on the type of research EdBuild conducts. The U.S. Congress spends $100 million a year to support and employ a 600 person staff at the Library of Congress to serve as the Congressional Research Service. In Mississippi, the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER Committee) provides information to assist with legislative oversight to the tune of nearly $2.5 million a year. All that information is released only as the legislature determines appropriate.

I believe in open records. Perhaps there is a case to be made that the legislative branch today should face the same transparency requirements as the executive branch. I’m open to that discussion. But I’m not shocked the Mississippi House Management Committee continues more than three centuries of the Western democratic practice of legislative privilege, and I’m not willing to hastily abandon the separation of powers doctrine over one contract.

Neshoba Democrat
11/23/16