/Lawmakers discuss indefinitely extending session as they return to Jackson after coronavirus recess

Lawmakers discuss indefinitely extending session as they return to Jackson after coronavirus recess

Sources told Mississippi Today that lawmakers in the Senate and the House have been discussing keeping the Legislature in session to allow them to return to the Capitol to address COVID-19 issues. This would be in addition to their scheduled July 12 end. In April, the Legislature was originally scheduled to adjourn for this year. This was before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Mississippi. If two-thirds of the Senate and the House vote to extend the session, the state Constitution permits the Legislature to do so. Speaker Philip Gunn, and Lieutenant Governor would be able to keep the session open indefinitely. Delbert Hosemann can call the Legislature back into session whenever it sees fit. The session would end if the governor called for a special session. Tate Reeves will allow the Legislature to meet to discuss and vote on bills. Leaders say that the session will resume from March 18, when lawmakers voted to suspend it due to health concerns about the coronavirus. Gunn stated in a statement that “When the legislature returns…we plan to pick right up where we left off last March and continue our work on coronavirus aid programs using the CARES Act funding.” The Legislature has been in session since March 18, when it was taking up issues regarding $1.25 billion of federal funds that the state received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. This money was used to pay for costs associated with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Another reason that the Legislature might choose to stay in session is the fact that CARES funds have to be appropriated before the end of the calendar-year or they revert back to the federal government. The State Economist DarrinWebb and the Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson will be speaking to legislators on Tuesday. The coronavirus has had a significant impact on tax collections in both the state and local government. This has led to concern about budget cuts and layoffs. Hosemann stated that Mississippi’s economy was severely affected for two months and some businesses closed completely. “We must understand the economic implications of the shutdown and COVID-19 as much as possible before crafting a new Budget.” Legislative leaders have already written to agencies asking for cost-saving strategies. Hosemann stated that “our ultimate goals will be education, health care and safety of citizens.” The key question is whether legislators can provide a raise for public school teachers. A bill that was passed by the Senate before the coronavirus recess and is pending in Congress would give teachers a pay raise of $1,000 each year, which would cost about $75 million annually. Reeves stated that he would ask legislators for some of the CARES Act funds to be used for a program for training workers for the 270,000 Mississippians who filed for unemployment benefits since the outbreak. Reeves has said that he will ask legislators to appropriate some of the CARES Act funds for a work force training program for the 270,000 Mississippians who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic.