OPINION: Last Days of 2019 Session Expose Deception, Manipulation

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"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." —Lord Acton

On the last day of the 2019 session, Mississippi lawmakers were stunned to discover school vouchers had appeared in an appropriation bill at the very last minute. Aside from a handful of co-conspirators, no one had any inkling that the $2 million in taxpayer money had been slipped into a bill to fund the Department of Finance and Administration.

Earlier the same day, House Education Chair Richard Bennett presented the conference report on Senate Bill 2770—the teacher pay raise. Under questioning, Bennett repeatedly denied that he was aware of any school-voucher language existing in any measure under consideration. He even allowed that he "had been searching for it." The House believed him, and it now appears that he was deceived, along with the rest of the legislature—save a cabal of insiders privy to the plot.

This situation is a blatant example of the pitfalls of the method by which conference reports are shoved through the process at literally the last few hours of a 90-day session. It is apparent that those who managed the DFA bill did not intend for the sneaky inclusion to be noticed.

There is no other way to explain the fact that Senate Bill 3049 contained this accidentally discovered language than to lay it at the feet of leadership who thought they'd get away with it. They were caught red-handed, but because they have a super-majority, they did it anyway. There were Republican members of the House who joined with Democrats in an attempt to undo the wrong and stop the appropriation from becoming law. Many of them risked arm-twisting, threats and denigration from their own leaders to do so. However, in the end, the powerful speaker of the House was able to twist enough arms to move the

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