Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wants to postpone the bulk of the 2021 legislative session, scheduled to begin Jan. 5, until March.
Hosemann made the suggestion Tuesday during a news conference where he laid out his legislative agenda for the coming year.
“I’m worried about my legislators going back (home) and taking something from one part of the state to the another that didn’t have it before,” he told reporters. “And I worry about my people who work here. We have several hundred people who work in the Capitol every day.”
In a typical year, the legislature meets in Jackson for about 90 days. This year’s session is scheduled to begin the first Tuesday in January and end March 26.
2020 was not a typical legislative year, with much of session revolving around COVID-19. The session started Jan. 7 and was scheduled to end May 10. It was a stop and start affair for much of the year and didn’t end until Oct. 2.
Dozens of lawmakers and staff contracted the virus, including House Speaker Philip Gunn and Hosemann himself.
Extending a session would require a bill originating in the Mississippi House of Representatives, however, not the Senate where Hosemann presides. Tuesday, the Lt. Gov. admitted that some House members have been less than receptive to the idea.
Mississippi is in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. December will be the deadliest month of the year for the virus. By the end of the month, the state could see nearly 1,000 deaths, which far exceeds the previous monthly high of 810 in August.
The number of new cases reported in December, likely near 60,000 by the end of the month, will nearly double case records set in July and November. Health officials are deeply concerned that cases will spike again following the year-end holidays. Because hospitalizations and deaths follow new cases, the likelihood is that January numbers will be even worse all-around.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Hosemann laid out his priorities for the coming session, which includes raises for teachers, continuing the expansion of high-speed internet, the establishment of tourism as a separate agency and reorganizing business incentives.