January 5, 2017 10:28:34 AM
The Legislature opened for business in Jackson Tuesday and wasted no time in addressing many of the serious issues facing our state. By the close of business Tuesday, the House of Representatives had filed 318 bills, which to a normal person might seem to suggest that there an awful lot of things that need to be fixed in our state.
That's not even the half of it. Last year, there were 2,758 bills presented and typically anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 bills are presented for consideration, of which about a quarter actually become law. That's an average of about 15 bills per legislator.
This first batch of would-be laws makes no mention of the most serious issues facing our state: education financing, road and bridges infrastructure, campaign finance reform or tax reform.
We assume those serious issues will be addressed between now and Jan. 16, the deadline for submitting bills for consideration.
While those hot-button topics have yet to be addressed, there are some interesting measures in this first batch of bill.
The very first bill filed, by Earle Banks (D-Jackson), seeks to classify venomous snakes as inherently dangerous to humans. That this bill is necessary suggests that Mississippians are stupid, stupid people. But let's give Banks some credit here. You could make an argument that Banks is actually acting against his own self-interests. He is a mortician by trade. Once people realize that venomous snakes are "inherently dangerous," he may well wind up losing a customer or two. You rarely see this sort of self-sacrificing statesmanship in our Legislature.
As the first bill filed, it's obvious our legislators are off to a fast start in fixing our problems.
There is also a bill that allows motorcycles to run red lights under certain conditions (Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie). Another bill requires that all public schools have their students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the first hour of the school (William Shirley, R-Quitman). Any school that refuses to force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance would be subject to a $1,500 fine under the theory that there is no patriotism quite like coerced patriotism.
There is a bill that punishes poorly performing school districts to teach Home Economics (Omeria Scott, D-Laurel) on the theory that nothing inspires students to take academics seriously like making them learn to sew or bake a cake.
Aside from these important measures, there are bills doomed to failure (such as any bill proposed by a Democrat, for example).
Chief among these are two bills presented by Dave Baria (D-Bay St. Louis). The first proposes the state implement a $9-per-hour minimum wage. The second proposes equal pay for women.
We all know how that will turn out, of course.
The state has never implemented a minimum wage of any sort, which means that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour stands as law here.
As for equal pay for women, well that's downright heresy. It's almost like saying women are not inferior beings, which is a well-known fact.
That's why you see so few women in our Legislature. Of 174 members, just 23 are women. At 13.2 percent, that's the lowest percentage of female representation in the nation.
Women in Mississippi generally know their place. Hint: It ain't the Legislature.
No, men are far better suited for this important work. We cannot entrust women to understand that venomous snakes are dangerous, for example.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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