Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mississippi legislators form bipartisan rural caucus

Following the lead of legislators in several other states, lawmakers in the Mississippi legislature have formed a rural caucus. "Some feel they are being left out of the discussion on what passes for more mundane legislation but that actually has a lot more impact on the local level than fights over Medicaid expansion and gun permits," reports Sam Hall of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

For example, Hall writes, rural legislators failed to dissuade the state Department of Public Safety from closing several of rural driver’s license stations across the state, "replacing many of them with kiosks. . . . This year, a Senate bill would have required one driver’s license station in each county to be manned at least one day per week. The bill died in a House committee, but a separate bill was amended in the House to include similar language. That bill is still set for floor debate.

"But the real issue is likely more than just driver’s license stations and road funds," Hall writes. "As legislative power continues to coalesce in just a few geographic areas, rural lawmakers are seeing their clout diminish." The first meeting of the caucus had 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans, "a fairly good bipartisan mix and a solid number participating," he writes. "But the question is whether or not the growing partisan rancor in the House will trump local political concerns. When the horse trading starts on key issues, you never know what will end up on the table. But 30 lawmakers sticking together for the interest of rural Mississippi? That could bode well for the state." (Read more)

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