A New Twist on the LG Race

While most everyone assumes that the state constitution vests with the Lt. Governor the power to appoint committee chairmen and committee members in the Senate, and exercise other powers that allow him or her to control the flow and content of legislation through the Senate, all of that authority is actually given to the Lt. Governor by the rules of procedure that the entire Senate adopts in the first week of the regular session following statewide elections. Those rules are in effect then for the four-year term. So, when the Senate convenes in January of 2008, first on the agenda will be adoption of the rules that govern how the Senate operates and what powers the Lt. Governor will exercise. Both Democrats and Republicans are talking about election scenarios that could leave the state senate with a slightly Democratic majority membership and either Charlie Ross or Phil Bryant as Lt. Governor or a slightly Republican majority Senate with Jamie Franks as Lt. Governor. In either case, here is what could easily happen — either the Democratic majority or the Republican majority could vote to adopt rules that would vest with the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate (the number two position in the Senate heirarchy who is elected by a majority of the membership) all the powers now given to the Lt. Governor. In other words, if the Democrats win enough seats to gain a majority in the Senate (the GOP now has a 27-25 lead) and either Bryant or Ross is elected Lt. Governor, then those Democrats could elect one of their own to serve as President Pro-Tempore and give that person the power to appoint committees and their chairmen. Republicans are brainstorming about a similar scenario if Franks is elected LG, but the Republicans maintain their current majority. In either case, the Lt. Governor becomes the highest paid figurehead in state government. It is for this reason that the Democrats and Republicans in Mississippi know that electing a Lt. Governor is not enough in 2007; electing a majority of the Senate is of equal importance.

Andy Taggart
Red/Blue
Clarion Ledger
7/9/7