Legislative turnover creates committee shuffles

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will make an unusual number of committee assignments in the coming weeks.
Normally, the presiding officers make committee assignments at the start of a four-year term. But because of the large number of legislative vacancies, the two presiding officers will have the opportunity to make some significant appointments in the coming days – in the second year of the term.
“I’m playing it,” Gunn said. “I am trying to reshuffle based on requests and the options.”
Gunn will make committee assignments for Rep. Bill Kinkade, R-Byhalia, recently elected to replace Tommy Woods, R-Byhalia, who resigned for health reasons, and for Rep. Brent Powell, R-Brandon, who replaced Kevin McGee, R-Brandon, who stepped down because of ethics issues.
Another vacancy occurred in the House with Sunday’s death of Rep. David Gibbs, D-West Point. Gibbs’ replacement will be elected late in the 90-day session at best.
The vacancies create a domino effect that affects not only the new members, but others. On Monday, Gunn appointed Chris Brown, R-Aberdeen, to the influential Public Health Committee to fill the spot left by McGee.
Both McGee and Woods also had slots on the chamber’s two money committees – Appropriations and Ways and Means – that will be filled by veteran members.
McGee also had a slot on Education that could be key as the Republican leadership works to get a controversial charter school bill passed out of that committee.
In the Senate, Reeves said he will fill slots “in the next couple of weeks.”
He is in an unusual position. One new member, Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, was sworn just before the start of the session. Today, Angela Turner Lairy and Kenny Fowler, both of West Point, will vie in a Senate District 16 special election to fill the spot left vacant by the death of Sen. Bennie Turner, D-West Point, in November.
And in February there will be a special election in Hinds County to fill the slot left vacant by the death of Sen. Alice Harden, D-Jackson.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com