Powerful seats of top legislative leaders in question following separate DUI arrests


The 2019 Mississippi legislative session will begin with the specter of the two highest-ranking lawmakers having recently been arrested on charges related to driving under the influence.
Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton
Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Burton, R-Newton, was charged with driving under the influence Wednesday night in Starkville. This was his third DUI arrest in four years.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, pleaded no contest last month in Meridian Municipal Court to refusing a breathalyzer when suspected of driving under the influence in late September.
The Senate and House pro tems, considered powerful and enviable posts in the Legislature, serve in absence of the presiding officer. The posts draw extra campaign contributions and lobbying efforts from interest groups, and both pro tems also oversee the operational management of their respective chambers.
“I know firsthand what it is like to make a mistake and to accept the consequences for those mistakes,” Burton said in a release on Thursday. “I respect and applaud law enforcement for always erring on the side of caution. I truly believe this is a misunderstanding.”
When asked if he would consider stepping down as pro tem, Burton replied: “No. No plans to do that.”
It remained unclear Thursday afternoon how Senate leadership would handle Burton’s arrest. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who serves as president of the Senate, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mississippi HouseRep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian
Meanwhile, Snowden’s future as House pro tem could lie in the hands of the House Ethics Committee and the greater House body.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, referred the issue to the House Ethics Committee. Gunn said he had no authority to take action against Snowden even if he chose to since Snowden was elected to the District 83 House seat by voters in Lauderdale County and as pro tem by