Budget details remain unclear

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The Legislature worked its way through general bills Tuesday with final budget numbers for Fiscal Year 2017 still not available following a flurry of votes on Monday on appropriations and a tax cut.

The state budget will be about $6 billion for next year but details were slow to emerge, leaving most lawmakers, members of the media and the public in the dark about specific spending levels.

Legislative Budget Office Director Debbie Rubisoff said the office was still compiling the appropriations adoptions in order to release a post-session bulletin. Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves,  said Reeves’ office did not yet have a final breakdown of cuts to various departments.

A number of general bills were passed Tuesday after they were discussed in conference committees made up of lawmakers from each house, while a handful of bills were recommitted for further conference discussion.

The biggest move of the day came from the House when a bill that would limit politicians’ use of campaign finance funds was recommitted to conference – a move that more than likely killed the bill altogether given the limited time left in the session.

A total of nine bills were recommitted to conference in the Senate, including a bill that would allow domestic violence as grounds for divorce and a bill that would establish the Capitol Complex District, which would encompass Jackson State University, downtown Jackson and other state buildings, and set aside funding for infrastructure maintenance as well as police and fire protection inside the district.

Both houses adopted numerous conference reports Tuesday, meaning the bills now await the governor’s signature before becoming law.

Notable bills adopted by both houses include:

  • A bill that mandates the state oversee school districts with an “F” rating for two years.
  • A bill that would establish execution team secrecy to protect the identities of all individuals and entities who comprise the execution team, including certain suppliers of lethal injection chemicals.
  • A bill that would require that municipal clerks be appointed rather than elected.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said just before adjourning Tuesday that he expected the House to finish its work on Wednesday. It is unclear if the Senate has plans to finish their work by then or on Thursday.

Lawmakers in either house could file a motion to reconsider a bill, which would require a day’s delay on additional action on the bill and push back the final day of work.