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MS Supreme Court sides with governor on partial vetoes

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(Photo by formulanone from Huntsville, United States - Mississippi State Supreme Court, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74651323)

The Mississippi Supreme Court broke precedent Thursday in siding with Gov. Tate Reeves regarding his partial veto of a spending bill for federal funds.

The decision reverses a decision by the Hinds County Chancery Court that said the governor had overstepped his authority with the partial veto.

House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White sued Reeves after he vetoed two sections of House Bill 1782, an omnibus bill covering spending from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES act. Spending in the bill included multiple departments and agencies, including the Mississippi Development Authority, the State Department of Health, the State Department of Mental Health, and the board of trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Reeves vetoed vetoed the provision that the Mississippi Department of Health disburse $2 million of funds to Tate County and the provision that the Mississippi Department of Health disburse $6 million of funds to the MAGnet Community Health Disparity Program. A lower court agreed with Gunn and White, who cited previous Supreme Court decisions upholding their position that the Mississippi Constitution does not allow line-item vetoes.

The state Supreme Court reversed the court’s decision in a divided opinion, citing the omnibus nature of the bill.

“The removal of these appropriations did not affect any other appropriations in the bill. The partial veto properly removed parts that could ‘be taken from the bill without affecting the others, which [could] be separated into different parts complete in themselves,’” the court wrote.

Four of the nine justices concurred with the opinion. One concurred in part (with five concurring), and two dissented (with three concurring).

Read the decision.

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