January 30, 2015 10:19:42 AM
JACKSON -- A state lawmaker who lost a contentious U.S. Senate primary last year said Thursday that he wants Mississippi to have a closed primary system that requires voters to register by party, but he thinks the lieutenant governor is blocking the way.
Senate Elections Committee Chairman Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, complained that Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves had sent a closed-primary proposal to both the Appropriations Committee and the Elections Committee. The Elections Committee can't act on the bill until Appropriations does, and it's not clear whether Appropriations will debate it or let it die for lack of action.
McDaniel said he thinks sending a bill to two committees is simply a way to kill it.
"That's a problem in our system," McDaniel said. "A bill that's been double-referred is an implicit instruction to the committee chairmen that that bill is not wanted by the leadership, for whatever reason."
However, many bills survive two committees. Tuesday is the deadline for committees to consider bills. Those that survive will move on to the full Senate or House for more debate.
"Like every other member of the Senate, Senator McDaniel has the opportunity to convince his colleagues of the merits of the bills he files," Reeves spokeswoman Laura Hipp said Thursday. "At the end of the day, the only way to affect public policy is rolling up your sleeves and putting in the difficult work of legislating."
McDaniel's Senate Bill 2613 would require voters to register by party. The only people who could vote in a Republican primary would be registered Republicans, and the only people who could vote in a Democratic primary would be registered Democrats.
Another McDaniel proposal, Senate Bill 2793, would change the process of investigating the way elections are conducted. Reeves sent it to two committees: Judiciary A and Elections.
Judiciary A Committee Chairman Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, said he will read the bill this weekend and decide whether to bring it up for a vote.
McDaniel, who had support from tea party groups, challenged longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran last year, losing in the Republican primary runoff. Cochran sought support from a wide range of voters, including African-Americans who traditionally support Democrats. Because Mississippi voters don't register by party, people can choose to vote in either party's primary. The only restriction is that a person who votes in one party's primary may not vote in the other party's primary runoff.McDaniel said Thursday that Cochran and former Gov. Haley Barbour, who supported the incumbent, used "race baiting" and "party raiding" to persuade Democrats to vote in the Republican runoff. Reeves endorsed Cochran in the primary.
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