Republicans now dominate state government and own its performance.
Since 2004, the governor’s office has been held by a Republican. Governors make most appointments to executive boards and agencies in Mississippi.
Lieutenant governors and speakers of the house make a limited number of appointments to Mississippi agency boards. Since 2002, a Republican has made every lieutenant governor appointment. Since 2012, a Republican has made every speaker of the house appointment.
Consequently, Republicans now control and own the performance of every state agency run by appointees.
For those state agencies run by elected officials, Republicans control all but the Office of Attorney General and the Public Service Commission.
The Legislature provides the money and sets policy for the operation of state government. In January, Republicans gained a super majority in the House of Representatives. That followed Republicans gaining a super majority in the Senate four years earlier.
Consequently, Republicans now own the budget and overall performance of the Legislature.
The stated goal of Republicans has been to right size government and make it perform more effectively and efficiently.
With Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn steering the ship and their minions running day to day operations, no doubt the consensus Republican plan to accomplish this goal is on track.
Houston, we have a problem.
There appears to be little trust of confidence between Republican legislators who control money and policy and Republicans agency heads who run day to day operations. Nor is there any clear consensus about the role and function of state government. Bryant appears to be caught in the middle.
This disconnect among Republicans became highly visible during the recent legislative session and the resultant budget fiasco/retooling (pick one).
Republican Buck Clarke, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, tried to explain the disconnect:
“There are many agencies providing valuable services to the citizens of this state, many funded at a level below what we would like. We also believe that each agency is sincere in their requests for funding as they and their advocates fight for their share of the pie. The truth of the matter is though that each agency and each advocate is not so concerned about funding levels at other agencies. However, it is our job in appropriations to be concerned with every agency and the mission with which they are charged.”
Said another way, agency heads are not on board with legislative priorities.
Republican Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney, a former member of both the House and Senate, expressed frustrations shared by a number of agency heads.
“What we have had here is a failure to communicate,” said Chaney. He told the Clarion-Ledger he tried to call Clarke 27 times from March 22 through when lawmakers finished their work April 21 with no answer, “and it was the same with (House Appropriations Chairman) Herb Frierson.”
What we have had this year is malfunctioning government fully owned by Republicans. Voters expected better.
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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