By NEMS Daily Journal
It’s always encouraging when a politician does what he says he’ll do, and newly inaugurated Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves followed through on a campaign promise last week when he announced his state Senate committee appointments.
Republicans now hold a solid 31-21 majority in that body, so a case could be made by partisans that the Republican Reeves should name all GOP committee chairs. That’s the way it’s done in Washington, after all. And four years ago when a Republican-propelled effort to oust Democrat Billy McCoy as House speaker fell just short, McCoy retaliated by shutting Republicans out of committee chairmanships.
But Reeves had pledged to appoint Democrats, as well as to be attuned to geographic, racial and gender diversity in his assignments, and he did that. Of the 39 committees in the Senate, 21 will be chaired by Republicans and 18 by Democrats.
Granted, the most powerful committees will be led by Republicans. Appropriations and Finance, the spending and taxing committees, Education, Public Health and Judiciary A all are prime appointments and they all went to Republican senators, which is hardly a surprise.
But Reeves named Democrats to several committees that are more than merely nominal chairmanships. He clearly intends to take advantage of the full range of knowledge and expertise in the Senate and, even more important, not to define the work of the Senate in a strictly partisan fashion.
The most significant committee chairmanship for a Northeast Mississippi senator went to Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford, who will head Education. Tollison switched to the Republican Party after re-election as a Democrat last fall. For years he has been a staunch proponent of fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, and that isn’t likely to change.
In addition to a bipartisan slate of committee assignments, Reeves last week urged a renewed commitment to education and work force training as the top priorities for creating a jobs-friendly environment and moving the state ahead.
This week, new House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton will announce his committee decisions. After an acrimonious four years of partisan division, Gunn could set the stage for a productive, cooperative term with his own inclusive appointments. His remarks after his election as speaker indicated a desire to see a new unity of purpose in the House.
For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans control all of state government, but the new leadership can do the state a big favor by establishing a governing atmosphere that minimizes a lockstep partisan approach. Reeves’ appointments last week were a good start.