During his daily COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Tate Reeves castigated the Mississippi Legislature for blocking his ability to spend the $1.25 billion in federal pandemic relief money.
Reeves also challenged the legitimacy of the recently passed bill by citing several statutes in the Mississippi Constitution.
The bill, stripping the Governor of the power to disburse funding from the CARES Act, overwhelmingly passed in both chambers last Friday.
The bill was brought to the floor in the house and was unanimously passed with a 112-0 vote and immediately released to the Senate for concurrence or nonconcurrence.
The bill was argued in the Senate. Senator Chris McDaniel brought up his concern that the bill was moving through the process too fast. Senator John Horhn was concerned on where all the funding would be going.
Senator Melanie Sojourner also questioned if they were moving to fast on making the decision of changing the authority. She claimed to have several Emergency Management Directors call her not wanting it to be taken from the Governor.
While the bill passed unanimously in the House, it was passed in the Senate as well but with 2 no votes. These votes were Senator McDaniel and Senator Sojourner. Senator Horhn voted “present.”
At the root of the disagreement between Governor Reeves and legislative leadership – Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann – is a state statute regarding who has the power to distribute federal funds during an emergency. The Governor says that responsibility lies within the executive branch, while the Legislature says the constitution hands that power to the House and Senate.
Governor Reeves has repeatedly stated that precedent is on his side as the same statute was followed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the ‘American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009’, and most recently, the ‘Restore Act’ following the BP oil spill.
Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Hosemann each argued on Friday that the Legislature should be the one to appropriate the funds as the voice of Mississippi taxpayers.