Mississippi Inauguration (copy)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, center, delivers an address after being sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in House chambers at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A state Senate committee on Tuesday killed a bill that would have required Reeves and future governors to reveal the donors who paid for inaugural events. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON • Lawmakers killed legislation Tuesday that would have provided transparency around how Gov. Tate Reeves and future Mississippi governors raise and spend money on inauguration festivities.

House Bill 1019 said Reeves and future governor-elects would be required to reveal their inauguration financial information to the Secretary of State’s Office, similar to how politicians must publicly disclose information about their campaign funds.

But the bill – which passed the House 116-1 – died when a Senate committee declined to consider it. Tuesday was the deadline for legislative committees to sign off on general bills that were authored by the opposite chamber.

“So far I had 180 bills this year, and that means a lot of bills fail,” said Sen. John Polk, who leads the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee, where the bill died. “And that’s just one of them that’s going to fail.”

Polk said inauguration reform is an issue he’d be “glad to consider” in a future legislative session.

The bill’s advancement in the Legislature had followed stories in the Daily Journal and Clarion Ledger that detailed how Mississippi does not regulate inauguration fundraising like many other states and the federal government.

Governors and other top Mississippi politicians have instead long used 501©(4) nonprofits to fund their inauguration ceremonies, parties and transition expenses. Donors to those nonprofits can be kept secret.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, had labeled it a “good government piece of legislation” that would help voters know who was contributing to their elected officials.

HB 1019 wasn’t the only transparency bill that died at the Tuesday deadline.

Another bill Polk declined to consider in his committee was House Bill 718, which would have let the public search online for the campaign finance reports of local elected officials and candidates.

Under current law, those reports must be requested in-person from the county or city clerk, who may charge a fee to make copies.

That bill unanimously passed the House, but was never debated in the Senate. The bill’s author, Rep. Timmy Ladner, R-Poplarville, previously said it was a simple effort to increase transparency and accountability around political fundraising and spending.

“I mean, it’s a public record,” he said of the campaign finance reports of local politicians. “Why not give the public access to it?”

LUKE RAMSETH is a Jackson-based reporter covering the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature for the Daily Journal. Email him at lramseth@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @lramseth.

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