- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Senate returned to a normal pace Thursday after two Democrats stopped having bills read aloud to delay the chamber’s work.

However, the House was still slowed by a bill-reading filibuster and representatives were working late into Thursday evening.

Sens. Barbara Blackmon of Canton and Sen. Deborah Dawkins of Pass Christian had bills read aloud all of Wednesday and a few hours Thursday - a filibuster technique that’s available to any legislator who wants to show dissatisfaction with how the legislative process is working.

They stopped the demands for reading after they met privately with Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to tell him they think chairmen are limiting debate on bills and amendments.

Dawkins said Reeves didn’t offer a deal. Instead, she said she and Blackmon decided on their own to stop the filibuster after expressing concerns to him.

“We got their attention,” Dawkins said in an interview.

Blackmon said as she left the Capitol for the long Easter weekend: “We believe we had highlighted that deliberation and discourse is important to the process. We accomplished our goals.”

Some senators complained that they didn’t know what Blackmon and Dawkins were trying to accomplish because neither fully explained it to most of their colleagues.

House Democrats filibustered Wednesday and Thursday because of unhappiness about a Republican-led effort to expand the Jackson airport board. House Democratic Leader David Baria of Bay St. Louis said many Democrats believe Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn misled them about the airport bill after another partisan rift in late February.

As part of a deal to end the earlier rift, “the speaker promised he would kill the airport bill, then he didn’t,” Baria said Thursday.

“We have to trust in one another to conduct the business of the House,” Baria said.

Gunn said Wednesday that he had never promised to kill the airport bill. He also said some Democrats had spoken to him about changing the bill rather than killing it. The speaker also criticized members for having bills read aloud: “You know good and well the only reason they’re reading bills is to try to slow the process down. Every one of them in here can read. Every member can read.”

Both chambers used computer-generated voices to read the bills. Democratic Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, an attorney, filed a court complaint against Gunn because the House had the computer set to read at a rapid pace that many representatives said they couldn’t understand.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd issued an order Wednesday telling Gunn to stop using the rapid setting. Thursday night, the Mississippi Supreme Court tossed out Kidd’s order without explanation, and the House immediately resumed using the fast setting.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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