Thursday, February 12, 2009

Republicans Don't Go Both Ways -- Goodbye to Bi-Partisanship in the Mississippi Legislature

This morning's Clarion-Ledger reports on the House of Representatives' deliberations and vote on the Voter ID bill. The story is here:

Natalie Chandler reports:

The bill received 77 votes of support, and 44 votes in opposition after an hours-long debate that ended with several lawmakers removing their authorship of the legislation. It could be debated again before advancing in the 2009 regular legislative session.

* * * *
Voter ID measures have repeatedly failed in the Democrat-controlled House, and Wednesday's debate showed a lingering racial divide on the issue. Several Legislative Black Caucus members who had authored House Bill 1533 in its original form removed their names from the revised version.

The original bill allowed voters to show various forms of identification that do not include photos, such as utility bills or paychecks. House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Willie Bailey was one of several caucus members who signed onto it.

"I thought we could at least try to come to some kind of common ground to get this issue behind us," said Bailey, D-Greenville.

But in a narrow vote, Republicans successfully led efforts to change the bill to require state-issued photo identification.

State Rep. Herb Frierson, a Republican from Poplarville, offered the revised bill.

So, here's what happened. In the Mississippi Legislature, a committee chair is omnipotent. He or she can block any bill referred to the committee simply by never "calling the measure" up for a committee vote. Voter ID has been killed by Reps. Bailey and Blackmon for years in this manner.
This year, proponents of voter ID asked House Democrats, including the Legislative Black Caucus, to offer a compromise solution to the voter ID debate to get the measure out of committee. Representative Bailey did so. He mitigated the many concerns about the use of voter ID to intimidate older and minority voters.

But when the bill got to the floor, as if by pre-arrangement, a Republican offered an amendment that stripped away all of Mr. Bailey's protections.

That may be "politics as usual," but it isn't very smart. If I were a House Democrat, I wouldn't give the Republicans ANY more deals this session, PERIOD.

And I'd also tell my colleagues in Washington to roll the SOB's (oops, I mean GOP's) in Congress this session. If Repubs won't work both sides of the aisle in Jackson, why should Dems work both sides in DC?

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