JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for the Mississippi House speaker say it doesn't matter that bills were read aloud at a superfast pace during a legislative dispute.
They say the important thing is that Speaker Philip Gunn fulfilled the state constitutional requirement to have them read out loud when a House member requested it.
House Democrats had bills read aloud in March as a delay tactic because they believed Republicans who hold a three-fifths supermajority were ignoring their concerns.
Democratic Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford sued Gunn for having a computer voice read bills "so quickly that no human ear nor mind can comprehend the words."
Any member of the Mississippi House or Senate can demand that a bill be read aloud immediately before a final vote on it, according to Section 59 of the 1890 state constitution.
In arguments filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court, Michael Wallace and other attorneys representing Gunn said legislators can read any bill on paper or on a state-issued computer, so it isn't necessary for them to understand a bill when it's read aloud.
"Here, it is undisputed that Speaker Gunn has acted consistently with the literal words of Section 59 of the Constitution," Gunn's attorneys wrote. "Although Rep. Hughes complains that bills are being read too fast, he admits that all words of all bills have been read."
Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd issued an order March 23 to block Gunn from using the fast setting for the reading. The Supreme Court tossed out Kidd's order hours later, and the speedy voice resumed.
In briefs filed Tuesday, Gunn's attorneys also said legislative disputes must be resolved within the Legislature, not by the courts. They noted that in a 2001 ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court refused to interfere with how then-Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck handled an internal dispute in the state Senate.
Hughes must file his own brief by June 21, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the dispute July 19. Justices said last week that they would not listen to recordings of the computer voice speed-reading bills as they consider the case.