1.11.24 – BY EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS – JACKSON, Miss. (AP)
A new committee leader in the Mississippi Senate will influence whether the state revives a way for people to circulate petitions to put issues on the statewide ballot.
Republican David Parker of Olive Branch was appointed Thursday as chairman of the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee. He replaces Republican John Polk of Hattiesburg in that role.
Moments after Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announced senators’ committee assignments for the four-year term, Parker told The Associated Press that he will start thinking about proposals to create a new initiative process.
Although Parker did not mention putting restrictions on campaign spending to collect signatures on petitions, he said: “I don’t like when people outside of Mississippi come into Mississippi and try to change the way we think.”
Mississippi had an initiative process for decades until the state Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the process was no longer valid because it required people to gather an equal number of signatures from outdated congressional districts.
During the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions, the House and Senate disagreed on details for a new initiative process, so the issue remains unresolved.
The change in the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee chairmanship was one of a few that Hosemann made in Senate leadership positions.
Republicans hold a majority in the 52-member Senate, and Hosemann gave most of the high-profile chairmanships to fellow Republicans, as he did in his first term.
Hosemann appointed Republican Nicole Boyd of Oxford as the new chairwoman of Universities and Colleges. In that position, she replaces Republican Rita Parks Potts of Corinth, who is the new chairwoman of Local and Private, a committee that considers requests such from cities and counties, such as authorization for local taxes to fund parks and recreation projects.
Hosemann kept the same leaders of the two money committees — Republican Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg in Appropriations, which helps write the budget; and Republican Josh Harkins of Flowood in Finance, which handles taxes and borrowing.
He also kept Republican Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula as chairman of Judiciary A and Republican Joey Fillingane of Sumrall as chairman of Judiciary B — committees that consider changes that affect criminal and civil cases.
Also remaining in significant chairmanships are Republican Dennis DeBar of Leakesville in Education; Democrat Hob Bryan of Amory in Public Health and Welfare; Republican Kevin Blackwell of Southaven in Medicaid; Republican Jenifer Branning of Philadelphia in Transportation; and Democrat David Blount of Jackson in Gaming.