Cut the Mississippi Legislature Down to Size

The July 21 Clarion-Ledger featured a letter from Shirley Coogan of Pearl calling for the size of Mississippi’s legislature to be cut in half:

“We have more members in our state House of Representatives than does California. California has only 120 in both houses. Mississippi has 122 in House and 52 in our Senate – 174 in all. Something is very wrong with this picture.

“We Mississippi citizens need to cut our number of lawmakers by half. Mississippi has the lowest income per capita in the USA, but the state ranks 34th in number of legislators.

“Listed are three Web sites that would be good for our citizens to take a look at:

“How many legislators each state has: www.ncsl.org.

“Per-capita income for each state: www.infoplease.com.

“Pay of each state legislature, providing that data not including perks and staff: www.empirecenter.org.

“I hope this makes everyone as mad as it did me. While all of us fight to raise our families and gasoline is so high and everything we buy is going through the roof, now is the time to act.”

I have previously written on this topic, and I agree with Ms. Coogan. The legislature itself obviously won’t cut its own size, as some of the legislators would lose their jobs.

The other way to bring this about would be through a ballot initiative. Mississippi has a tough initiative process, which was essentially killed in 1998, when out-of-state petition circulators were banned. There are currently several federal lawsuits on out-of-state circulators which could affect our state. There was recently a favorable ruling in an Arizona case, Nader v. Brewer. In addition, on September 25, the 10th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in Yes on Term Limits v. Savage, which challenges Oklahoma’s ban on out-of-state circulators.

In 1993, Eddie Briggs, Mississippi’s lieutenant govenor from 1992 to 1996, sponsored an initiative to reduce the legislature to a maximum of 60 representatives and 30 senators, but it failed to qualify for the ballot.

It’s also worth noting that California, which, as Ms. Coogan points out, has a smaller legislature than ours, has about twelve times our population.

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