/During another fight with Reeves, lawmakers leave without passing DMR budget

During another fight with Reeves, lawmakers leave without passing DMR budget

House Speaker Philip Gunn stated Tuesday that he believes it is wrong for one person to have $40million to go out as he wishes, regardless of who they are. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has also caused an outbreak among lawmakers, forced lawmakers to adjourn the on-again/off-again 2020 session that had been ongoing since January. DMR’s budget which only includes $1.4 million in state funds general funds is not under threat. However, spending control of approximately $46 million in Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act money are. GOMESA is a revenue sharing scheme for Gulf oil and gas producing countries. The program was established in 2006 by the then-Mississippi Govs. Phil Bryant and Haley Barbour controlled the approval of GOMESA project vetted through DMR. Although initially small, revenue grew steadily. Legislators and others have raised concerns over whether coastal protection and restoration projects are being chosen. Millions of dollars in GOMESA funds were granted to construct boardwalks near casinos and a Gulfport aquarium. The plan includes a tram system that was threatened with being “de-obligated” for failing to meet GOMESA requirements. Other projects have been criticized as not fulfilling the intended purpose. House lawmakers proposed this year to include legislative oversight over GOMESA spending within DMR’s budget. This was because the Legislature controls the state purse strings, and not the governor. Reeves called the move “power grab” but said that he should keep the money under his control as his predecessors. The issue has divided lawmakers on the coast. Reeves was lieutenant governor for eight years in the Senate. The Senate has refused to remove Reeves’ GOMESA spending authority. The $6 billion budget was set by the Senate, and lawmakers left town July 1, still in a deadlock over the DMR budget. They were hoping to return in a week to negotiate DMR’s budget. However, a COVID-19 epidemic at the Capitol infected 49 lawmakers and forced the Capitol to close for several weeks. On Monday, lawmakers reconvened in large part to override Reeves veto of the majority of the public education budget. The Legislature overrode the governor’s veto for the first time since 2002 when it was defeated by lawmakers. Gunn also sued Reeves, a Republican, over Gunn’s partial vetoes in education and federal COVID-19 healthcare spending. Gunn claimed that the governor has stepped outside his constitutional bounds. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate voted in favor of Reeves’ education veto being overridden, but the House was still divided over the GOMESA funding. DMR is primarily responsible for marine law enforcement and has continued to use federal funds which account for a large portion of its operational budget. This cannot go on indefinitely and DMR employees were not paid during the July temporary furlough. The DMR issue was the subject of negotiations between the Senate and House that continued into Monday night. Gunn stated that the House presented the Senate and Governor three compromise options. Gunn claimed that all of these proposals were flatly rejected. Senate leaders offered to create a legislative advisory panel to make recommendations about spending and projects. Senator Philip Moran (R-Kiln), chairman of Ports and Marine Resources, stated that the committee would consist of three members selected by the House and three members from Senate. “The House didn’t want anything… (Governor’s control) has been the same since 2006. Why would you suddenly want to change it? It’s worked well. It has worked well. Read stated that the House did not just turn money loose with no specific projects. Gunn said that there was a bigger issue than the disagreement over Reeves line-item DMR, DMR, and other issues this week. Gunn stated that only the Legislature can spend dollars. “We don’t have one government. We won’t allow the governor spend money. This is not the law.” Reeves has the power to call the Legislature back into special sessions, but he has stated recently that he is reluctant to do so due to the COVID-19 epidemic among lawmakers. The Legislature will reconvene in October._x000D