/Legislators don’t need Gov Reeves to call a special session to return to the Capitol, sources say

Legislators don’t need Gov Reeves to call a special session to return to the Capitol, sources say

The governor can call a special session to allow lawmakers to work. According to multiple legislative sources, Tate Reeves will return to Jackson to address his veto of $2.2 billion in funding for local school districts. Under the terms of the resolution that extended the session to Oct. 10, the legislators could reconvene by themselves. When asked about the possibility of returning on their own, Jason White (R-West), House Pro Tem, said that if he (Reeves), decides to not call us back, then we would have to look at all options.” “The education budget has a significant impact. Education folks are rightly concerned. They want some closure to their budget.” Reeves stated that he will wait to call legislators back to special session to address the education veto, the lack of funding for Gulf Coast-based Department of Marine Resources and other issues until the COVID-19 epidemic among legislators is stopped. Around 30 lawmakers tested positive for coronavirus. This includes both Philip Gunn, the House’s presidant, and Delbert Hosemann, the Senate’s presidant. The majority of them tested positive for the coronavirus in July. Legislative leaders recently stated that most of their members are now well and ready to return to Washington in August to discuss the budget for education, the budget for marine resources and other issues. Reeves is not committing to when he will call them back. Reeves stated that he is looking to call them back when it is safe for all. After lawmakers have adjourned the regular session for the year, the state constitution grants the governor sole authority to reconvene the Legislature in special sessions. Normal regular sessions end in March, April, or May. This year is unusual because of the pandemic. Legislators passed a June resolution that required a two-thirds majority to grant them the power to convene again up to Oct. 10, to address coronavirus concerns. The resolution stipulated that legislators could not return to the legislature if federal regulations were changed regarding how $1.25 billion could be spent by the state to fight the coronavirus. Many leaders claim that regulations have changed and that legislators now have the right to reconvene. They could then address vetoes and other issues by a two-thirds vote. The resolution does not allow them to return for six more days. However, this could also be changed once they have returned to session. It doesn’t matter if Reeves calls legislators back in special sessions or if they return on their own, the veto of education budget has caused more conflict and distrust between the governor and lawmakers. This session, the first under Reeves’ governorship, saw the legislative and executive branches clash on many issues. These include who should be able to spend $1.25 Billion in federal funds, and whether the Legislature should take down the state flag that includes the Confederate battle emblem. Reeves agreed to both issues. Reeves claimed that he vetoed education budget because legislators refused funding the School Recognition Program. This program provides merit bonuses for teachers and other certified staff who work in the most successful and improving schools districts. White stated that the governor didn’t have to veto this bill. House Education Chair Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach) sent Reeves an email promising that Senate and House leaders would write to the Department of Education asking them to fund the program. The department would then be reimbursed for any expenses in the new regular session 2021. Reeves stated that he couldn’t wait to receive a letter on Gallo radio. Reeves said that he must do what is best for these teachers. It is clear that it wasn’t a mistake.” Reeves asked how it could have been an “overlook” to not fund the program in the original legislation. However, it was removed by the legislative leadership in the last days of session. Hosemann, Mississippi Today’s lieutenant governor, said this week that there was an error. “I appreciate that the governor caught it, but vetoing some of the budget was not the right thing to do.” The legislature claims the funding was removed because they believed state testing would not have occurred this school year due to COVID-19. This would make it impossible to fund the program. Program funds are distributed based on schools’ accountability ratings. Since state testing didn’t take place, there was no way to determine who would get the funds. Bennett and other legislators claimed that they were informed that the funds would be distributed to teachers based upon accountability results for the 2018-19 schoolyear. This means there was a way to determine who was eligible and an earlier promise to give the funds to teachers at the best schools and schools in need. The School Recognition Program results were based on data from June two years ago. Because of this, lawmakers had to make difficult budget decisions due to the pandemic. They decided to transfer $28 million in Teacher Recognition Program funds into the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. MAEP is responsible for most of the state’s support for schools’ basic operations, including teacher salaries and utility costs. Reeves has an opinion from former Attorney General Jim Hood that gives him authority to give funds to school districts. The Constitution requires a Mississippi public school system. Hood argued that the mandate must be fulfilled with or without legislative appropriation. However, educators expressed concern about their budget uncertainty. According to various reports, payments began arriving from the state for school districts this week. When the Legislature returns, they will also have to decide whether or not to override the veto of the bill that provides the state Parole Board more options for releasing inmates. They will also need to decide whether or not to override the partial veto of the bill that disburses federal funds to health care providers to fight COVID-19. The constitutionality of the partial veto on the health care bill remains to be questioned. Although the state constitution grants governors the power to partially veto appropriations bills through the legislature, past decisions by the Mississippi Supreme Court have put restrictions on this authority. The Legislature left July 1, with the intention of returning because they couldn’t agree on a budget to fund Marine Resources, which provides law enforcement and regulatory services in the Gulf of Mexico.