Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann joined Gov. Tate Reeves in his daily COVID-19 update on Facebook Thursday in a show of unity.
The three Mississippi leaders have been engaged in a sometimes rancorous public disagreement over who should have spending authority over the $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The governor has maintained that he holds the authority under Mississippi law to disburse funds during emergencies. Gunn and Hosemann say that any allocation of funds belongs to the Legislature.
Last week, Mississippi lawmakers passed a bill to strip Reeves of his authority on the amount in question in a hastily called emergency session. Hosemann, although a member of the executive branch, stood against the governor and with the Legislature on the issue.
In Thursday’s Facebook update, the three shared the stage. Reeves profusely thanked Gunn and Hosemann for joining him, and said they met Wednesday night at the governor’s home at his invitation.
“It is critically important that we, as a state, come together in these challenging times,” Reeves said, adding that the one thing they all agree on is doing what’s best for the people of Mississippi.
The governor said they agreed to “hit the pause button” and work together to come up with a solution. Gunn and Hosemann agreed to hold the bill without a veto for a few days to work together on how the money will be spent.
“While we may be holding that bill, we’re not holding our work,” Hosemann said, and he mentioned a hearing with the Department of Employment Security to find out why the agency is still having serious issues to deliver much-needed unemployment benefits to all who need them.
Gunn seemed ready to move on from the squabble.
“The conclusion we have reached is that the Legislature will appropriate the dollars in conjunction with the governor administrating those dollars,” Gunn said. “The main concern for us right now is to set up relief for our small businesses. In our conversation yesterday, I think all three of us agreed that was our number one priority.”
Gunn said the legislature is working on a plan to provide relief to small businesses, many of which have had no revenue for weeks. He hopes to make the details—and the funds—available next week.
“We agree that for us to work together is a priority,” Gunn said.