(AP Photo/Emily Wagster Pettus)
Speaker Phillip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann made the decision to convene the Mississippi Mississippi Legislature today, Friday, May 1, 2020, to decide whether the legislature or governor have the authority to spend Mississippi’s portion of the federal CARES Act, totaling around $1.25 billion.
There has been a great deal of concern amongst different factions of Mississippi government about this issue. Gov. Tate Reeves has made it clear he feels it is in the best interest of Mississippians for him to have discretion over the funds so it quickly gets to the people and places that need it. The legislature has argued that the purse strings of state government rests with them, and only they have the power to appropriate funds. The House and Senate passed SB 2772, which places the spending authority for the CARES Act with the legislature, but gives Reeves $100 million to spend for COVID-19 response until the legislature reconvenes.
This quick decision made by Gunn and Hosemann comes after their announcement that the legislature will reconvene on May 18 to begin working where they left off in March. Once the legislature takes care of general bills already sent from opposite bodies, the House and Senate will work on the budget. According to Gunn and Hosemann, the legislature plans to wait until June to ensure appropriators have the most up-to-date revenue numbers from the state.
As of May 1, 2020, Mississippi reported 7,212 total cases of COVID-19 and 281 deaths from the virus. Mississippi has been a front-runner in testing for the virus with more than 71,548 people being tested.
Reeves has been giving daily briefings, which can be found here. Hosemann has been giving weekly Facebook Live updates every Friday that can be found here. Gunn has also been giving daily Facebook Live updates that can be found here. Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson gave an update on the Mississippi agriculture industry during Reeves’ Thursday press conference, which can be found here.