‘He is a good man who let power go to his head’, Resigning lawmaker says speaker refused to support them despite PERS ruling

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'He called us into his chambers and told us point blank, he was not going to support us,' Blackledge said.

Ramona Blackledge is resigning from the Mississippi House of Representatives amid pressure from Speaker Philip Gunn over whether a retired public employee could also serve in the state legislature.

The Public Employees Retirement Systems say she and three other freshman Republican lawmakers can.

The lawmakers want to be able to draw their state pension while serving in the legislature.

Speaker Philip Gunn says it is ‘not right for them to do so‘ — despite the legislature being part time.

“He is a good man who let power go to his head and I think he needs to reevaluate his positions,” said Ramona Blackledge (R-88) who is resigning.

Blackledge is a retired Jones County tax assessor, she is joined by Rep. Dale Goodin , Jerry Darnell — both retired educators, and Rep. Billy Andrews a retired judge.

“It was the Friday after we were sworn in that he called us into his chambers and told us point blank, he was not going to support us — well you could’ve hit me in the head with a ball pin and hammer because it was just that shocking to me,” she said.

In 2019 the PERS board began steps to withdraw regulations that prevented state and local government retirees and retired public educators from drawing their monthly pension while serving in the legislature.

“The PERS problem was overcome , the IRS problem was overcome so we had no clue that our problem was going to be with the Speaker of the House,” Blackledge said.

Former Attorney General and Democrat Jim Hood issued an opinion saying retirees could serve Blackledge says she suspects Speaker Gunn is playing politics.

“Attorney General’s opinions in the past have had solid support in the law except for this one — and it should be tossed in the can they actually and this is a quote considered it a joke,” she added.

Blackledge says the Speaker was not going to support legislation to clear the confusion.

“We were all Republicans number 1, we were part of the body of the legislature, number 2 and here’s a man that says he is not going to support us what the heck,” she said.

She says she does not have the resources to challenge in court, but she’s sorry to her constituents in District 88.

“There’s got to be a special election that’s going to cost more money to my county , I am heartbroken I have agonized for three weeks and I felt like I was pushed in a corner with no way out,” said Blackledge.

Blackledge defeated incumbent House Republican Gary Staples.

Her seat will be filled by special election when the governor orders it.

Blackledge says she has always wanted to serve people and says if those elected lose those ideals to serve— “you become a politician not a public servant.”

The speaker’s office said he did not have time to do an interview today. 12 News has not received a statement about the issue.

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