“What do you think?” wrote Governor Tate Reeves on Facebook regarding the current lawsuit he is involved in with Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, as well as other members.
The lawsuit was filed by Gunn against some of the Governor’s line item vetoes during the 2020 Legislative session. Reeves vetoed the Department of Education budget over concerns with the removal of the School Recognition Program and a partial veto of HB 1782. This is an appropriation bill related to CARES Act federal dollars for healthcare.
The issues Reeves’ cited in the appropriation bill encircle $2 million of COVID-19 related dollars given to the North Oak Regional Medical Center, a facility which was closed before the pandemic began. The other was a $6 million appropriation to Mississippi Access Group Network (MAGnet), which was an effort targeted at high poverty rural communities.
The Legislature ultimately returned days later in August to override the Governor’s veto of the Education Budget.
Reeves took to the social media platform to explain his reasoning behind the veto and why he believes it was well within the law for him to do so. The post comes just a day after Speaker Gunn spoke to the Capitol Press on the same matter.
“The Governor may veto parts of any appropriation bill, and approve parts of the same, and the portions approved shall be law,” Reeves quoted the Mississippi Constitution.
“I see one way to interpret Section 73 of the Mississippi Constitution. I can’t imagine the lawyers who advised the Speaker to sue me interpreting that sentence any other way. I can’t imagine the state Supreme Court (where this will ultimately end up) interpreting that sentence in our Constitution any other way,” said Reeves.
On Monday, Gunn told reporters that it was decided the case would be handled by briefs, requiring no oral arguments. He also indicated that his side has already submitted theirs and that the Governor would have roughly 10 days to do the same.
Gunn said the need for the lawsuit was setting a precedence.
“What we have here is an infringement of the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch and it has nothing to do with the parties here. It is just, can a Governor do what these vetoes tried to do,” asked Gunn.
Reeves said the motivation for this lawsuit came from “legislators trying to funnel money to friends with zero accountability,” an action he questioned in the post. To Reeves, he said it boils down to whether or not the governor should have some ability to stop “outrageous and ridiculous” spending deals.
He believes the Constitution allows him the right to make those line item vetoes and prevent certain appropriations from happening.