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We are no longer at the ‘party’ stage

Tate Reeves was sworn into office on Thursday as the 65th Governor of the Great State of Mississippi. During his inaugural address Gov. Reeves pledged to bring Mississippians together. If Reeves is sincere about that pledge he should follow the lead of the man that replaced him as Lt. Governor.

Mississippi’s lieutenant governor presides over the 52-member Mississippi Senate and has the power to appoint the senators who serve on and chair senate committees. New Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann appointed Republicans, who control both the House of Representatives and Senate, to most of the top-tier committee chairmanships. However, Hosemann turned heads and drew praise when he reached across party lines and offered several high-profile roles to Democrats.

“What you saw announced today is my very best efforts at putting everybody where they would best serve the state,” Hosemann said. “Hopefully that is in conjunction with where they want to be.”

“You’ll see Democrats and Republicans heading committees here. You’ll see males and females heading committees here. I see no difference in whether it’s a man or woman, Republican or Democrat, minority or whatever. We all got elected. .. They have talents and I intend to use those talents. We are now at the governing stage. We’re no longer at the party stage.”

The proof will be in the pudding, as they say, but Hosemann’s first actions in office are a far cry from how things were run in the eight years prior to Reeves moving over to the Governor’s Mansion.

I am not saying this to claim that the Democrats in Jackson have better ideas or are better at governing. What I am saying is that we will all be better served by members of both houses of our legislature and members of all political parties working together to solve our state’s problems. That means honest and passionate debate and committees that actually do the work they were intended to do, instead of simply doing the bidding of the guy with the gavel.

There are state representatives and senators on both sides of the political divide with good ideas. Hosemann clearly understands this and saw past the polarization that we’ve all unfortunately become accustomed to and did what he believes is best for the people of the state.

Even more impressive to me personally, as someone who has been vocal about the downward spiral of our state prison system and the indifference shown by state leaders over the past decade, was the reports that the Lt. Governor climbed into his personal vehicle last week and showed up unannounced at the state penitentiary at Parchman. He wanted to see for himself the condition of the prison after several days of violence and turmoil – an outbreak that claimed five lives and caused injuries to an undisclosed number of offenders in less than a week in Mississippi prisons, including Parchman and South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.

“I wanted to talk to the corrections officers and I wanted to talk to the Mississippi Highway Patrol,” Hosemann said. “And I did all of those.”
Reeves got a first-hand look at SMCI last year when he toured the facility in Leakesville. He saw the conditions and heard directly from staff about how bad understaffing was, and what it meant to the state employees serving there and the inmates under their care. He’s also heard repeatedly from MDOC officials over the years that the prison system needs more money to increase the pay for guards because the jobs are hard to fill and many are vacant.

Throwing money at problems won’t fix them, but it is hard for me to see any solution to the prison problems in our state that doesn’t involve providing additional resources. Yes, we need to continue to look at criminal justice reform and weed out any cronyism and outright fraud that is contributing to the problem, but we need more and better trained correctional officers, and we need to pay them a decent wage for the important jobs they do.

Now, back to my original point. Reeves, 45, said during his inaugural speech his will be “an administration for all Mississippi.”

He went on to say that will mean cleaning up the prison system “to provide for the safety of our citizens and the human dignity of all within the system,” Reeves said. “It will mean making sure state government is not causing more problems than it solves.”

Those are great words, but I didn’t see much of that sentiment from Gov. Reeves during his two terms in the seat Hosemann now holds. We need action. We need leaders that will forego the typical partisan talking points and dig deep into the issues and look for real solutions to our problems with infrastructure, education, healthcare and the prisons (just to name a few).

There are some very smart people in Jackson, such as our representative Dale Goodin, newly appointed Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar (R-Leakesville), and yes, Gov. Reeves. But, intellect on its own won’t get the job done. We need leadership.

So far, Lt. Governor Hosemann has shown just that. My hope is that Gov. Reeves will seize the opportunity ahead of him and do the same. After all, as Hosemann said, we are now at the governing stage. We’re no longer at the party stage.-

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