Opinion: Another productive week for the legislature

William B. Carroll

The title of today’s piece is meant as a joke, as the legislature didn’t really accomplish anything significant of note this week. In fact, the first week of the session was mostly housekeeping and pointlessness.
Three years ago, I covered the Louisiana legislature for the Hammond Daily Star. Specifically, I covered some of our local representatives and their work in Baton Rouge. One of our local legislators had filed a bill he was quite proud of, but which didn’t endear him really to his constituents. The lawmaker, who shall remain nameless, wrote and sponsored a bill for Louisiana to urge the British government to recognize a unified Ireland. Of course this particular legislator was Irish, as am I, and felt that being Irish, he needed to take a stand for Irish-British-Northern Ireland relations. Interestingly the matter passed and Louisiana took a stand for a unified Ireland (As though England and Ireland really care what Louisiana thinks).
The reason I bring up this example is because all state legislatures do this. They spend at least some portion of their time recognizing people and teams, entities and their own little pet projects during their terms. They do this by actually wasting legislative time drafting bills and putting them to a vote. For instance, this week the Mississippi legislature worked on these gripping pieces of legislation:
SC 516 Commend Mississippi State University “Bulldogs” Football Team for Belk Bowl Victory. (I will note that there isn’t currently a separate commendation bill for Ole Miss’ Sugar Bowl win, I get partisan politics, but come on now).
SC 517 Congratulate Faith Hill for Mississippi Country Music Trail Marker in her honor.
SC 518 Recognize respected Mississippi Capitol Correspondent Jack Elliott, Jr.
SC 519 Recognize Community Builder Jack Reed, Sr., for 2015 Millsaps College Honorary Doctor of Public Service Degree.
SC 520 Commend 2015 Lewisburg High School “Lady Patriots” Volleyball Team for consecutive State Championships.
SC 521 Commend Lake Cormorant High School Marine JROTC Drill Team for State Championship.
SC 522 Commend the Lewisburg High School “Marching Patriots” Band and staff for winning consecutive Class 5A State Championships.
SC 523 Commend Bill Holmes’ legacy as longtime Executive Director of Mississippi Coast Coliseum Commission.
SC 524 Commend the Hernando High School “Marching Tigers” Band and staff for winning consecutive Class 6A State Championships.
These of course are just a handful of examples I pulled from the Legislature’s website. There are a lot more of these types of bills out there.
Now of course some of you may disagree with me, thinking that it is nice that the state recognizes people for things. But all of these commendations and recognitions are for things people already did or achieved. Do they really need a thumbs up from the legislature? Do we really want our legislature spending its time and our money recognizing and commending people? I don’t think that we do.
Again every legislature does this as a part of its regular housekeeping duties. But is this what we are really paying these people for? To waste time, energy and paper for things that really don’t matter? Now sure, if you or a family member is being recognized, you might like it. It might feel special to have the state recognize you for something you already did. But, is their recognition better than the original feeling you felt during the accomplishment itself? Of course not, so what difference does it really make to have them commend you for something? None, other than they are wasting more dollars doing it.
Sadly, states aren’t the only ones who engage in this type of pointlessness. Congress also wastes at least some of its time doing similar things.
Here is the deal, I want my legislature to go to Jackson and deal with the important issues. I want them to spend time discussing and debating issues that matter to all Mississippians. When they are done doing that, save us all a little money and go back home to your regular jobs. Stop wasting time voting on bills that mean nothing, and get to the work of trying to move this state forward. One week into session and nothing of real significance has been accomplished. How many more weeks will go by before we get to the issue that truly matter to all Mississippians?