Legislature Spending More Than $1 Million On Capitol Improvements

Life in the House and Senate can be tough, and not just because they're arguing over laws. Sometimes, they say, they can't even see or hear what's going on.

"We've had an antequated old projector system and it's very difficult to read, especially if it's a long amendment," Sen. Terry Burton said.

"There have been frequent problems. I wouldn't say there have been insurmountable problems," Rep. Greg Snowden said.

So this year, the House and Senate decided to improve conditions. The House has purchased a new voting board.

"If things break on it, to replace it, it becomes very difficult to find replacement parts. In fact, it's almost non-existent," Rep. J.P. Compretta said.

House members are also getting a new sound system.

"It's not uncommon that the microphone will go out and they have to use someone else's," Snowden said.

The Senate will have a new sound system, too, in addition to a television monitor at the front of the chamber and small monitors built into each newly refurbished desk.

Some lawmakers say they didn't even know all this was happening.

"I've just been made aware of the fact that I voted for a bill to improve life in the Senate," Sen. Mike Chaney said.

"I don't know what the cost is and frankly don't remember it being discussed," Snowden said.

WLOX News was told the Senate's improvements will cost about $700,000 and the House's approximately $500,000. Both sides say they've been saving up for years.

"It's not like we went in and made a general fund appropriation to do these these renovations, it's something that we already planned on," Burton said.

With little money for anything else, skeptics hope they're doing the right thing.

"We can always do with progress and come up with some new way of recording things. I just would hope that this is something that has a real benefit," Rep. Sid Bondurant said.

"If it makes our life easier so that we understand the issues that we're voting on, it's probably a good dollar spent," Chaney said.

Supporters of the improvements also point out governments in other states already have some of the mentioned luxuries. They say Mississippi is simply catching up with the times.

by Davis Brister