By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant won one and lost one Monday in the Mississippi Legislature in efforts to expand his power.
The House reversed course again and sent on to the Senate by a 63-55 margin legislation that essentially would give Bryant authority of more than 60 boards that oversee and regulate various occupations, ranging from accountants, to barbers, to veterinarians.
But a short while after the House approved that measure, the Senate refused to table a motion to reconsider a bill that would have given him the authority over the Department of Mental Health. That measure originally passed last week, but on Monday, only 24 members voted to send the bill to the House, while 27 voted against it.
The inability to table the motion to reconsider means the bill is dead. It is not clear whether there are other options to try to revive the proposal later this session.
The Senate bill would have taken control of the Department of Mental Health from a governing board with members appointed by the governor. The bill would give the governor the authority to hire and fire the executive director.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, argued that the governor needed the authority to deal with federal lawsuits the agency is facing.
But Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, countered that extensive hearings should be held before making such a significant change in state government.
Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, said he opposed the bill because he believes the mental health hospital in Tupelo is doing a good job under the current governance.
Many Republicans have expressed opposition to the bills expanding the power of the governor, even though, they said they trusted the current Republican governor with that power.
Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, asked would members of the Republican majority be in agreement with giving the governor the control of the occupation licensing boards if the governor was of another party.
Rep. Mac Huddleston, R-Pontotoc, said the issue should be studied.
The House passed the bill giving the governor control of the boards, then on Friday by an overwhelming margin refused to send it to the Senate. But apparently over the weekend, the governor’s staff was able to round up the votes to table the motion to reconsider and advance the bill.
Monday was the deadline for the House to advance the bill to the Senate.