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Mississippi lawmakers will be asked Tuesday to sign off on Gov. Phil Bryant’s plan to pull additional money from a reserve fund to balance the state’s 2016 budget.
Bryant is asking the Legislature to amend a current state law that caps the governor’s authority to pull from the state’s rainy-day fund at $50 million. Bryant said in a radio interview Monday morning that he will need to pull between $50 and 70 million from the reserve fund to balance the budget for the fiscal year, which ends Thursday.
Regular procedural rules will apply as in any legislative session, said Meg Annison, spokeswoman for House Speaker Philip Gunn.
A single bill will be first introduced in the Senate, legislative officials said Monday. Once Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves gavels the session in at 10 a.m., the bill will move to the Appropriations Committee, where it will be voted on by the body chaired by Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale. If approved, it will move to the Senate floor for a vote.
Once it is approved in the Senate, the bill will go through the same process in the House of Representatives. Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate operate with a Republican majority.
Rep. Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, will be fulfilling his duties as House Appropriations Committee chairman. Frierson is retiring from the Legislature to lead the state tax commission on July 1.
“I wish we didn’t have to but we don’t have any other choice,” Frierson said of returning to Jackson to provide additional funding for fiscal year 2016.
The length of the special session has been at the forefront of comments made by Republican leaders this week. Taxpayers will foot the $68,720 bill for a one-day session, said Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for Reeves. If the special session goes beyond the first day, it will cost the state an additional $47,674.
Bryant has said he wants to “get in and out” in a one-day session. Reeves said Monday he “expects this to be quickly resolved in the special session to minimize costs for taxpayers.”
Democrats – many of whom have been widely critical of the Republicans’ handling of both the current year’s budget and next year’s budget – will have the ability to deploy some delay measures, such as requesting a reading of the bill, as they did numerous times this past regular session.
Any lawmaker can offer amendments to the bill, which requires additional time set aside for questions to be asked by colleagues on the floor. Any member can also hold the bill on a motion to reconsider, which would require legislative leadership to hold the Legislature in session until Wednesday to conduct what is usually a procedural vote to reaffirm the earlier action. Any member also could request points of personal privilege, or time set aside to voice concerns about the legislative process.
House minority leader Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said Democrats will hold a press conference inside the Capitol at 11 a.m. “to discuss Mississippi’s budget problems.”
Some Republican elected officials have been critical of the handling of budget matters during this year’s legislative session, including Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.
“This isn’t going to win me any friends, but I’m sick of it. Someone has to speak out,” Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s not the governor’s fault. He’s simply reacting to the madness of the Legislature. But this type of reckless spending is unacceptable with a Republican-controlled state government. It’s become no different than Washington, D.C. It’s time to ask them the tough questions. Because it’s only going to get worse.”