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Rep. Hughes: MS High Court to Hear Briefs on Meaning of “Read” and “Immediately”

Representative Jay Hughes (D-Oxford)
Representative Jay Hughes (D-Oxford)

During the 2016 legislative session, there was a dispute over the 126-year-old constitutional requirement that all bills shall be read in full before final passage. Reading of the bills has been utilized by both parties, each year, for decades, as a form of filibuster or dissent.

The exact language is contained in Article 4, Section 59, specifically provides: “every bill shall be READ in full IMMEDIATELY before the vote on it.”

Speaker Gunn used an electronic device, set on level 10 of 10, to have the bills read on the House floor 10 times faster than the human ear or mind could comprehend. Rep. Hughes (D-Oxford) objected to this affront on the integrity of the institution and filed for an injunction in the mandated Circuit Court. Speaker Gunn immediately had the dispute removed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which took jurisdiction and dissolved the injunction in less than 3 hours.

In the “Reading” case of “Speaker Gunn v. Rep. Hughes,” the MS Supreme Court yesterday issued a briefing schedule on the constitutional question of the meaning of the words “read” and “immediately.”

Speaker Gunn contends an electronic reading device at warp speed is good enough. Rep. Hughes contends that simple constitutional meaning and integrity of the institution is that an average human should be able to comprehend the spoken word.

Speaker Gunn’s brief is due by June 7, Hughes’ brief by June 21. Arguments before the full MS Supreme Court (en banc) will be on Tuesday, July 19.

One question posed in the Briefing Order is whether the Supreme Court should involve itself in interpreting the Mississippi Constitution, or if it should ever tell the legislature it is violating the Mississippi Constitution. Rep. Hughes believes the question is pretty elementary: If not the Supreme Court, then who checks a branch of government which may be in violation of the constitution?

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