My late mother was a 40-year-career public school English teacher in Mississippi. One of the things I remember hearing her talk most about was discipline in her classroom and one of the offenses that drew swift and sure reprisals from her was chewing gum in class.

Several things bugged her about gum in class – damage to desks and the floors, distractions from people making noise with it and then there was the Big Objection.

“Did you bring enough gum for everybody in the class? If not, leave it at home,” Mom would intone.

I thought about my mom when I heard the flap over House Speaker Billy McCoy’s decision to let the taxpayers pick up the tab for State Rep. Tyrone Ellis to travel to Denver to attend the Democratic National Convention. It will cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for Ellis to attend. If the taxpayers picked up the tab for the entire 174-member Legislature to attend their respective political conventions, it would cost about $870,000.

There’s no precedent for the House spending taxpayer funds for this type partisan political travel. It was never done under prior House speakers.

Billy McCoy built his reputation in the Legislature on scrupulous honesty. For most of his career, he never took a dime from lobbyists. McCoy was the model citizen lawmaker. But putting his stamp of approval on this expenditure is out of character and sets a terrible precedent for the future.

For a man who has spent the last five years complaining about partisanship interfering with the political process, McCoy’s decision to use taxpayer money for this purpose is one that’s inexcusable.

Ellis and the rest of the Legislature should pay their own expenses to attend these partisan conventions.

Sid Salter Blog