Mississippi legislators plan to return to the state capital Monday to complete two items of unfinished business.
The first is the state’s education budget. On July 9, Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed the $2.2 billion budget submitted by lawmakers because it did not renew a teacher bonus program he favors, in spite of lawmakers insisting the program funds had been shifted, not repealed. Some also attempted to mollify the governor saying they would fix the bill in his favor if he did not veto it.
Their appeals fell on deaf ears. At the time, Reeves indicated he would call the Legislature back into session to modify the budget.
“We have to veto this so that they can come back and fix it—otherwise 23,157 teachers will get a pay cut,” he wrote in a social media post; however, the governor has refused to call a special session citing the dangers of COVID-19.
An outbreak at the Capitol following the end of the regular session resulted in about 50 lawmakers and staff members testing positive for the virus, including Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Phillip Gunn.
Wednesday, Gunn and Pro Tem Jason White filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Reeves’ veto. That move prompted the governor to strike back, calling it a power grab over pet projects. He also said the Republican-led House was run by liberals.
“There’s a small group in the House that only wants to pick fights with me—some liberal Republicans who’ve joined forces with liberal House Dems,” Reeves wrote in a Facebook post. They run the show these days: Democrats and some left-leaning GOP politicians.”
It is not clear if the House has the necessary two-thirds majority to overwrite Reeves’ veto.
The second item on the agenda for the special session is the budget for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. A dispute over $50 million the agency receives from oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico left its budget unresolved. House leaders said the Legislature should have more oversight of the funds.
Under normal circumstances, only the governor has the power to call a special session; however, a resolution passed earlier in this legislative session allows lawmakers to return for up to six days to deal with COVID-19 related issues. Other issues can be addressed with a two-thirds majority vote.