Late on Monday, after a long day of backbiting between the top Republican leaders in the House and Senate, the bill that would fund the Attorney General’s Office budget died after missing the midnight deadline.
The missed deadline will likely mean the bill will need to be considered in a special session, joining the Mississippi Department of Transportation appropriations bill that also died Monday before deadline.
In budget negotiations for the attorney general funding bill, lawmakers slipped in a provision to require the attorney general to deposit any money earned through legal settlements into the treasury within 15 days.
“There was some issue at the attorney general’s (fall 2016) budget hearing,” said Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale and Senate Appropriations chairman, when asked why the provision was added. “He mentioned he had a $21 million at the time, and it showed up in a different amount two months later… He made the representation he had (a different amount).”
Clarke said during Senate debate that the provision was inserted by the House. After some debate, the Senate then voted to approve the bill with the provision included.
During House debate, Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, objected to that provision through a point of order. Baria’s point of order questioned the legality of inserting general bill language into an appropriations bill.
After a long break, Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, ruled in Baria’s favor, touching off a Roberts Rules of Order judo match between the Gunn-led House and Reeves’ Senate.
Just before 9 p.m., in an unprecedented move, the House voted to amend the conference report and remove the objectionable provision by passing a concurrent resolution. Baria withdrew his point of order, putting the ball in the Senate’s court.
Questions of legality of the House’s concurrent resolution were considered by Senate leaders since Senate rules do not include capability to consider such a resolution, several Senate officials said late Monday night.
The attorney general funding bill officially died at midnight, which was the deadline to pass conference reports for appropriations bills.
Both Reeves and Gunn declined to comment to reporters at that time.
“I want to thank the Senate for your hard work today,” Reeves said at midnight shortly before gaveling out. “We passed every conference report, including the conference report for MDOT, the conference report for State Aid Roads and Bridges and the conference report for the AG.”