After furious debate on Mississippi's so called Sunshine Act, Democrats in the House of Representatives successfully killed the bill...for now.

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Sunshine Act Bill Dies in Legislature

By Daniel Cherry | Published 09 Feb 2012 07:56pm | comments

The most hotly contested issue so far this session caused a big stir when it hit the Mississippi House of Representatives' floor. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the so called Sunshine Act took a big blow yesterday.

After more than an hour of debate between House Democrats and Judiciary Committee A Chairman, Mark Baker, Baker refused to answer more questions on the Sunshine Act bill...infuriating Democrats like Rufus Straughter.

Rep. Straughter: He's not going to yield for any more questions?

Speaker Gunn: Correct.

Rep. Straughter: Are we in a democracy here?

Speaker Gunn: The gentleman has the right to answer whatever questions he wants, and he can refuse to answer whatever questions he wants.

Rep Straughter: My question Mr. Speaker is: Are we in a democracy?

The bill would have allowed state agency heads to hire their own attorneys without consent from Attorney General Jim Hood. Many Democrats see it as a political move to limit the power of the AG, the only Democrat holding statewide office. Democratic Representative Bob Evans said during a break, Democrats are fighting the measure.

"It's just another attempt of the Republican majority in the House now, unfortunately, to ram something down our throats. But if they expect us just to sit there like little wimps or rabbits or whatever, they've got another thing coming. We're not planning on doing that."

And yesterday Democrats were successful. Representative Cecil Brown filed a point of order questioning the constitutionality of the bill. The Sunshine Act, if passed as is, would have amended another portion of the state constitution by reference...which is illegal. Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn agreed. Gunn then killed the bill, which he authored, but he says he plans to make changes and reintroduce a similar bill next week.

"I think the citizens in this state are concerned about it. I know many, many legislators are concerned about it. I know the Senate is addressing it and we're looking at it. It's an issue that's got to be addressed."

Gunn and other Republicans say the law is needed so agency heads can hire outside council when they feel Attorney General Hood can't appropriately represent their agency.

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