Legislature encounters early shake-up

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Even though the current four-year legislative term is still in its early stages, there is already significant upheaval occurring in the Mississippi House and Senate.
There will be at least four new members of the 174-member Legislature sworn in at some point during the upcoming 2013 session.
On Tuesday, two new members were selected in special elections. And in the coming weeks, voters in Senate District 16 will go to the polls to fill the vacancy left by Tuesday’s death of incumbent Bennie Turner, D-West Point, and voters in House District 59 will select a replacement for Kevin McGee, R-Brandon, who resigned as part of an agreement with the state Ethics Commission after his family business did work for the state.
Gov. Phil Bryant has set the District 59 special election in Rankin County for Jan. 8. In the coming days he will schedule a special election for Senate District 16, which covers all of Clay and portions of Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Noxubee counties.
Special elections were completed Tuesday to fill vacancies created by resignations. William “Bill” Kinkade of Byhalia won a special election to fill a House District 52 slot left open by the resignation of Tommy Woods, R-Byhalia, this summer. The district consists of portions of DeSoto and Marshall counties. Kinkade defeated Jeremy Bryan of Barton.
Woods resigned for health reasons while earlier this year Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, resigned from the Senate, citing the need to spend more time with his family. On Tuesday, Olive Branch optometrist David Parker defeated incumbent Rep. Pat Nelson, R-Southaven, to win Flowers’ seat.
Had Nelson won the Senate seat, another special election would have been needed to fill the House vacancy he would have left.
But other special elections are expected for legislative seats during 2013. Rep. George Flaggs, a Democrat, has announced he will step down July 1.
Flaggs is running for mayor of Vicksburg. And Rep. Chuck Espy, also a Democrat, is running for mayor of Clarksdale. If Espy is elected mayor, he will have to resign from the House.
Time will tell whether there will be more changes in the 122-member House or 52-member Senate. Those that already have occurred have allowed Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, to make changes on the Education Committee to make the panel more friendly to charter school legislation.
Other committee changes also will be required because of the vacancies and special elections.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com