Cleaning out the pre-session notebook

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

With the new legislative session underway, it&8217;s time to clear out campaign and pre-session notes. Here&8217;s some observations that never amounted to much more than a passing thought to stick in the back of your head.

Justice Dickinson, we presume

State Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson took his place on the bench Monday &8212; you&8217;ll recall he was elected in 2002 &8212; and is just getting his bearings. He replaces longtime Justice Chuck McRae, who with his antics most agree became a disgrace to the court.

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Two things about Dickinson to watch. First, he has no judicial experience except for the last year. During the time from his election until just last week, Dickinson served as a special circuit judge in Forrest and Perry counties. How he adapts to life on the bench will be interesting, not that his abilities should be doubted.

Second, it should be noted that Dickinson, during his campaign, said he was against having judges appointed and instead supported the current election process. While state Supreme Court justices are not supposed to enter into the political fray, their advice will most definitely be sought on this matter.

Dickinson, who received support from traditionally Republican backers, will be at odds with many of his supporters over this matter. How he chooses to speak out on it &8212; if he indeed ever does &8212; could speak to his political future.

Can Barbour keep consensus with Tuck?

Gov.-elect Haley Barbour enters the governor&8217;s mansion with a reputation for bringing together differing sides of an issue to help form consensus. So far, his appointments to a new gubernatorial administration show he is inclusive of all races, genders and political ideologies. All of that said, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove stepped into power with similar expectations. His years in the Senate and as lieutenant governor were going to go a long way in building a close working relationship with his former colleagues, a relationship most governors never enjoy with the Legislature. As it turned out, neither did Musgrove.

Barbour will have a honeymoon period, but then a harsh reality may await. Not only is he the governor and therefore largely ignored in legislative matters by a fiercely jealous Legislature, but this governor now faces new House leadership and leadership in the Senate who is serving her first term as a Republican. Whether or not House Speaker Billy McCoy and Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck take to Barbour&8217;s style will be evident during the budgeting procedure, which could be the end of the honeymoon.

McCoy is a hardcore Democrat, and therefore is expected to clash the most with Barbour. However, it might be Tuck and Barbour who share the most friction when the newness wears off. Tuck is known for sticking to her guns regardless of political alignment. She is going to push her own agenda, and as leader of the Senate who was elected by statewide vote, that gives her more authority than the governor&8217;s office. That is a fact that will not go unnoticed if Barbour and Tuck ever find themselves on opposite sides of a crucial debate.

Hood is no Moore, or is he?

When you follow in the footsteps of someone like Attorney General Mike Moore, you have to be on your toes. The good thing about incoming Attorney General Jim Hood is that he is a sharp prosecuting attorney who has deep political roots. He should have enough savvy to hold his own.

But Moore was known for mugging the camera and inserting his influence into other matters, sometimes even legislative. How Hood handles the office could be much of the same, though it is not clear if he prefers the limelight as much.

Sam R. Hall

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