Disagreements continue between the upper branches of Mississippi government, Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.
Just this week, the State Flag Commission met for the first time without Governor Reeves’ three appointees even though the flag bill required that all selections be made no later than July 15, 2020. When asked why he has not made those decisions yet, he said there were other things taking priority, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will make those appointments whenever we decide too,” said Reeves.
The Governor also challenged the authority of the Legislature to call an executive committee meeting or make appointments to those groups.
“We’ve had a time period over the last seven months where some in the Legislature that have tried very very hard to expand their power and their control and they’ve done a lot of good things during this legislative session and some not so good things,” said Reeves during a daily press conference, “but the reality is that we are going to make those appointments just as soon as we can, as soon as we’re able to, but I do worry about the constitutionality of certain legislative leaders making appointments to executive agency positions because it’s unconstitutional.”
Lt. Governor Hosemann told listeners on Supertalk he simply cannot understand why the Governor is not making his appointments.
Hosemann did praise Reeves on his work dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic but said there are other parts of the state that have to keep running. He said the appointments are helpful in ensuring that the flag presented to the people to vote on is the best option.
“I’m disappointed,” Hosemann told host Paul Gallo. “This really needs to go well, Paul. Our people need to vote on that. They need a flag that we can all go forward in the future with.”
The flag commission isn’t the only point of contention to date. Lawmakers are also concerned over Reeves’ decision to veto the entire education budget.
The veto was made after Legislators adjourned, meaning it can only be addressed by a call of the Governor for a special session. The problem therein lies the outbreak of COVID-19 among legislators the weekend after they left the Capitol.
Reeves has indicated that he will call them back when he feels it is safe to do so.
“We’ll handle logistics,” said Hosemann. “What the problem is we had a veto of the MAEP budget, we shouldn’t have done that.”
Hosemann said the dispute over the education budget centers around teacher pay dollars that were mistakenly calculated by the Mississippi Department of Education.
Last year a mistake was made by MDE which lawmakers had to correct when they convened in January. The dollars were then put back into teacher salaries. Hosemann said the same thing happened this year, to which lawmakers decided to put that money back in at the beginning of 2021, ensuring that teachers still get paid.
The Lt. Governor said instead of doing what was done last year when the same mistake was made the entire budget was vetoed.
“Now our teachers are going back but they don’t have any authorization by the state of Mississippi to get paid,” said Hosemann. “They’re only going to get paid if the Governor decides to send a check to the schools. That’s not the way to run a railroad.”
Hosemann said Governor Reeves was right in catching the errors, but he says where they differ is that there was an understanding among the Legislature that they would address the concern come January and ensure the dollars were moved instead of striking the entire budget.
He said particular challenges like distance learning make it a particularly unfortunate year to have such a disaster with the education budget.
When asked whether or not he would call a special session next week, Governor Reeves told press “no” during Thursday’s afternoon press conference. However, Hosemann said on The Gallo Show Friday morning that the House and Senate would be prepared to come back as early as next week if possible.