Legislature’s new rule doesn’t work

Published 12:04 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

Inside the capitol building in Jackson, the message is clear: There’s a new sheriff in town and his cowboy hat is red with a tiny elephant emblazoned on the front.

With full control over the House and the Senate, Mississippi Republicans have begun working on changing the way state government works.

We welcome their enthusiasm and their plans to provide a more open, transparent state government.

Email newsletter signup

Citizens from all walks of life and political affiliations can agree that more open government is best.

But as the new sheriff’s office takes over, we urge them to also make sure changes are needed and actually improve the situation rather than cause more problems.

The newest internal rules change the House and Senate adopted on Wednesday may be a good example of the latter, at least if you listen to a few of the former sheriff’s regime — Democrats.

The rule requires any legislator wishing to increase state spending on a program to clearly identify where equal spending cuts can occur elsewhere.

That sounds like a not-so-bad way to get spending in check, but since the way things have normally been done in Jackson involves half the budget bills starting life in the Senate and another in the House, it may be recipe for disaster.

One Democratic lawmaker said the House isn’t allowed to amend bills in the Senate, and vice versa. That means a senator, for example, could not suggest cutting anything in from an agency whose budget is being considered in the House.

Let’s be cautious to make sure the new sheriff doesn’t shoot himself in the foot while drawing his “reform revolver” from its holster.