/Hosemann says session to resume on May 18, business as usual plus pandemic response

Hosemann says session to resume on May 18, business as usual plus pandemic response

In simultaneous news releases, Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn announced Monday the return date. Hosemann was in his first year of office as lieutenant governor. He spoke during a virtual meeting of Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/capitol media corps. He stated that the plan is to first take up the majority of legislation that was in limbo during the March recess, and then move on to the state budget overall in June. Hosemann stated that he hopes to pass teacher pay increases when the session resumes, as well as funding for early childhood education. He said that the things he needed to do were generational, and referred to teacher pay increases and early childhood education. This pandemic should be temporary, he said. The Senate passed an essentially $1,000 per year raise which will amount to about $75 million annually. It is currently pending before Congress. Hosemann stated that he believed the bill was passed and that we should move forward with it. Hosemann stressed the importance to pass the pay raise but also acknowledged that it might be difficult to pass an overall budget for the state’s next fiscal year. This fiscal year begins July 1. Due to the severe economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, state revenue collections will likely drop dramatically in the next months. Gunn and Hosemann had been in communication with state agency heads, asking them to find ways to save money during the last months of the current fiscal to reduce some of the budget year’s demands. Hosemann stated that plans were to resume the session at the end of March with business as usual. However, Hosemann acknowledged that bills that would normally have passed may be sacrificed due to the increased attention that the Legislature might need on the pandemic. He said that leaders are looking into the possibility of buying medical masks, gowns, and other items for emergencies. This is in response to the pandemic. He also said that there will be an increased focus on voting than was possible before the recess. He suggested that laws may need to be changed to ensure safety for voters who go to the polls to cast their ballots if the coronavirus remains a problem during November’s general election. He said, “We must pray it doesn’t come back, but be prepared in case it does.” Hosemann stated that Senate Elections Chair Jennifer Branning (R-Philadelphia) and Senator David Blount (D-Jackson) have been studying election laws. Blount is a veteran of voting issues. Hosemann didn’t commit to making any changes, but stated that everything from expanding early voting for emergencies to more protection at the polls would be considered. He stated that “we want all (eligible persons) to vote” and that they want to provide safe environments for them to do so. Mississippi is among a few states (less than 10) that have not made “no excuse” for early voting or not taken measures to ensure the safety and security of voters in November. Hosemann stated that consideration is also being given to the safety measures that will be needed at the Mississippi Capitol when session resumes. Hosemann stated that the press will have access to the building for coverage, but suggested that some groups might not be allowed to enter due to the need to continue social distance.