McCoy insists on open budget negotiations

JACKSON — After several days of meeting primarily behind closed doors, House and Senate budget negotiators since Friday have been doing business in open session.

The difference appears to be that on Friday morning, House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, sent out a news release announcing the budget leaders were meeting and news organizations were welcomed to cover the session.

Since that news release, all the meetings have been open to the media. The meetings, though, have been held in the cramped office of Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, though, instead of the many spacious and unused committee rooms at the state Capitol.

On Friday, just the news media ventured into the meetings. But on Monday, lobbyists also began coming in or standing in the doorway trying to ascertain what was being said.

McCoy has long been an advocate of open conference meetings where negotiations are conducted to iron out the differences in legislation between the two chambers. Even back in the mid 1990s, when there was no legislative rule requiring the conference committees to meet in the open, as there is now, McCoy as chair of the House Education Committee, and then-Senate Education Committee Chair Ronnie Musgrove conducted their conference committee meetings in the open.

If McCoy had not put his foot down Friday, no doubt, the negotiations still would be ongoing in closed session on trying to agree on a budget to fund state government starting July 1, which is rapidly approaching.