The Mississippi Legislature returned to the Capitol for what was expected to be the final two days of the 2020 Legislative session. While they did adjourn, sine die for October 10, there was an attempt to add one more days amidst the work to reappropriate CARES Act dollars.
Lawmakers previously passed HCR 69, which allowed them to add six additional work-days after the calendar was completed to return to Jackson as long as they were working on issues related to COVID-19. Under that resolution they would then sine die on October 10, 2020.
Thursday, the House offered an additional resolution in HCR 86. This legislation would amend HCR 69 and allow for one more day, a seventh day, to meet before sine die. This would allow members to come back in the event there was a veto made by Governor Tate Reeves. The resolution would still require a sine die on October 10.
The Senate did not agree with the House’s attempt to again extend the legislative session. They instead offered their own amendment to HCR 86 that would allow them to adjourn on Friday and sine die as scheduled on the 10th.
When explaining the Senate’s position on the matter, Senator John Polk said that they had no reason to believe the Governor would veto anything currently on the agenda of the Legislature. He indicated that Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and the Governor’s office had been in conversation over the bills on the table and there was no disagreement, making the need for a seventh day unnecessary.
The Senate’s amendment was technical, since appropriations bills are typically not allowed to be brought up within five days of sine die.
The amendment to HCR 86 passed in the Senate and was immediately transmitted to the House.
With very little fuss, the House concurred on the resolution, allowing the Legislature to adjourn on Friday, October 2.
Before heading home several pieces of legislation were approved by members that will redistribute CARES Act funding to be utilized before the December 31 deadline.
SB 3055, the Mississippi ICU Infrastructure Act.
SB 3056 the Uniform Controlled Substance Act which would automatically schedule any federally scheduled COVID-19 drug for Mississippi.
SB 3057 which is the Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act, which authorized grant monies in order to be expended on prepaid services.
SB 3058 the Mississippi Agriculture Stabilization Act.
SB 3059 is an appropriations bill for the Veterans Affairs Board through the CARES Act.
SB 3060 is also an appropriations bill for the ICU Infrastructure Fund for COVID-19 relief.
SB 3061 is an appropriations bill for the Poultry Farmer Grant Program Fund for COVID-19.
SB 3063 an appropriation bill to revise the funds addressing the public health emergency due to COVID-19.
HB 1808 is an appropriations bill to revise the money given to MEMA from CARES Act funds and allow the purchase of a building with those dollars.
HB 1811 removes the provisions that address the disposition of any unexpected CARES Act funds.
HB 1812 is an appropriations bill for the Wireless Communication Commission for upgrades to the network.
HB 1813 Appropriation to the Mississippi Health Department for reimbursing MS specialty hospitals for expenditures incurred due to COVID-19.
HB 1814 would provide for certain transfers and change the date for transfers to the Unemployment Compensation fund.
Absentee Voting Legislation
Both chambers made a slight attempt to address absentee voting in the state before the November general election.
In the Senate, Senator David Blount filled SB 3062, entitled the Absentee Voter Law which would authorize 2020 electors to vote either in-person absentee or remove the notary republic requirements for mail-in voting.
The bill would allow any qualified voter who is concerned for their health due to COVID-19, to request an absentee ballot application for the November 3rd general election and vote in person at their county Circuit Clerk’s office.
While the bill was filed, but it was not moved out of the Rules Committee, effectively killing the bill.
A separate bill in the House, authored by Rep. Jansen Owen and co-authored by Rep. Kent McCarty and Rep. Shonda Yates, also addressed absentee voting for the general election.
While the bill was filed by Owen on Wednesday, it would seem it was never introduced in the House. The bill would have allowed for “no reason in-person absentee voting.” Currently, absentee voting requires an excuse or reason in order to do so. This bill would have allowed for anyone to have the ability to cast a ballot with their Circuit Clerk beginning on October 5.
“No citizen should feel as if they have to choose between casting their ballot and staying safe from the coronavirus. This bill provides a safe and secure alternative to Mississippi voters,” said Rep. Owen.
These actions conclude the 2020 Mississippi Legislative session.