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Vote switchers made difference

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Story:

By William H. Perkins

Editor

Anti-lottery campaigners, many of them Mississippi Baptists, cheered as Governor Phil Bryant’s bid to get his state lottery bill through the Mississippi Legislature failed Aug. 23 during the special session he called to address transportation needs unmet in the regular legislative session earlier this year.

After wrangling between the two legislative chambers produced a compromise lottery bill that the Senate quickly approved, the House of Representatives subsequently voted to kill Senate Bill 2001, as it was styled.

However, the joy felt by lottery opponents, most of whom were uninitiated in the ways of the Legislature, was short-lived. Held over on a motion to reconsider, the same bill sailed to victory the next day when 13 representatives changed their votes from “nay” to “yea” in favor of the lottery.

“That’s like the football team that loses the coin toss at the beginning of the game announcing they don’t like the outcome of the toss and want to do it over until they win,” said Kenny Digby, executive director of the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

“The lottery bill failed. It makes no sense for the leadership of our legislature to allow the identical lottery bill that failed to be re-voted until it passes.”

The representatives who flipped their votes overnight, enabling the lottery to pass, were:

  • Ed Blackmon Jr., Canton (Dist. 57).
  • Kevin Ford, Vicksburg, (Dist. 54).
  • Debra Gibbs, Jackson (Dist. 72).
  • Gregory Holloway Sr., Hazlehurst (Dist. 76).
  • Joey Hood, Ackerman (Dist. 35).
  • Kevin Horan, Grenada (Dist. 34).
  • Chris Johnson, Hattiesburg (Dist. 87).
  • Robert Johnson III, Natchez (Dist. 94).
  • Kabir Karriem, Columbus (Dist. 41).
  • Doug McLeod, Lucedale (Dist. 107).
  • Jody Steverson, Ripley (Dist. 4).
  • Cory Wilson, Madison (Dist. 73).
  • Adrienne Wooten, Ridgeland (Dist. 71).

Two representatives went the opposite way, changing their “yea” vote on the first ballot to “nay” on the re-vote. They were:

  • Jeremy Anderson, Escatawpa (Dist. 110).
  • Larry Byrd, Petal (Dist. 104).

“I believe there are two points that shouldn’t be overlooked in this scramble to pass the lottery bill,” Digby said. “One, the identical lottery bill, SB 2001, was voted down and then voted up in less than 24 hours. That could only have been brought about by intense outside pressure. What that pressure or those pressures were, I can’t say.

“Two, it was the leadership that allowed SB 2001 to unfairly stay alive after it had been legitimately voted down by a majority of the House.”

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, a member and leader at Morrison Heights Church, Clinton, governed the House during the special session and the lottery bill’s passage. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, a United Methodist, was in charge of the Senate.

Both have said in the past that they personally opposed a state lottery. Prior to the special session, however, the pair indicated they intended to allow the legislative process in their respective chambers to proceed when it came to consideration of the lottery by legislators.

Vote rosters from the Mississippi Legislature are notoriously unreliable because legislators are allowed to change their votes after a bill has passed or failed.

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