Governor and Legislative Leaders Compromise On CARES Act Funding

For the last few months, the coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the world and did not hold back when it made its way to Mississippi. 

The first case was reported on March 11 and as of Thursday, May 7th, there are over 8,600 positive confirmed cases across the state and nearly 400 people have lost their lives to the virus.

There is no doubt this virus spreads, and it spreads quickly.  It has taken its toll on all businesses, especially small, family-owned businesses.  Governor Tate Reeves has made many hard decisions and his signed executive orders he believes would keep Mississippians safe. 

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Mississippi received $1.25 billion in CARES Act Funding last week, but state leaders could not agree on who should have the authority and power to spend it. The Governor or Legislature?

Governor Reeves said multiple times that President Trump agreed that the Governor or “Chief Executive” of each state has the authority to disperse and spend the money as seen fit. 

On the other hand, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn believed that the legislature should be the ones who would get the say-so in where the monies would go. 

TIMELINE OF EVENTS:

Last Friday, May 1st, the  House and Senate reconvened to make an amendment on SB 2772, a budget bill that was originally authored by Senator Briggs Hopson. This amendment would have stripped the Governor’s ability to have any say in where the CARES Act money would go, and essentially “take away his seat at the table,” giving all power to the legislature.

 The House brought up the amended bill on the floor, it passed unanimously and was returned to the Senate.

During debate on the Senate floor, Senator Chris McDaniel and Senator Melanie Sojourner stated they were afraid the process was moving too quickly. The amendment passed in the Senate on a vote of 48 “yes’” and 2 “no’s.” Those “no” votes being Sen. McDaniel and Sen. Sojourner.  Senator John Horhn voted “present.” 

SB 2772 was signed by Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Hosemann and sent to the Governor’s desk.  This is when the timer started giving the Governor 5 days to either sign the bill into law or veto it.

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The following Monday, at the Governor’s press conference he was asked if he would veto this amendment.  His response, “Wouldn’t you?” 

By Thursday, with time running out – if nothing was done – the bill would either go into law at midnight or Gov. Reeves could veto it. But at his daily press conference, Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Hosemann joined him and they announced all 3 leaders have reached an agreement. 

Reeves said, “I believe that the three of us and other legislators can work to get this money to the people who need it most.”

All three agreed that small businesses needed the money first.

Hosemann said he wants Mississippians to know they are all here to work on solutions during this coronavirus pandemic. “We will work to allocate these dollars to people as quickly as humanly possible,” Hosemann said. 

The Lt. Governor said that he would ask the Senators to table the amendment and bring it up for discussion giving them more time to come up with a plan to distribute CARES Act Funding. 

At 6:07 PM, Senator Briggs Hopson brought up SB 2772 on a motion to reconsider the amendment.  By doing this, Governor Reeves will not veto this bill and now all can work together to get the monies allocated properly. 

Now, the legislature and Governor will both have input on how the money is allocated.

“The conclusion that we have reached is that the legislature will appropriate the dollars in conjunction with the Governor administrating those dollars,” Speaker Gunn said.

Both the House and the Senate are in session today, May 8th, and discussions will take place to get the funding out as soon as possible. 

Senator Brice Wiggins said that he commends the legislative and executive branches of government coming together.

“Governor Reeves’ framework, together with the Legislature’s oversight and input, should result in a timely plan that addresses our immediate and long-term needs,” said Wiggins. “I commend Lt. Governor Hosemann, Governor Reeves and Speaker Gunn for navigating these difficult areas and working together toward a path forward that will benefit our citizens.”