State senators plan to bundle up on Wednesday morning after they slip and slide into Jackson — Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann informed lawmakers that the heat, which was out at the Capitol on Tuesday, won’t be restored until Wednesday afternoon, “hopefully.”
“Take that into consideration when you dress for tomorrow morning,” Hosemann told senators, who gaveled in Tuesday, took up no real business, voted to relax the Senate’s dress code, then gaveled out a few minutes later with plans to return Wednesday at 10 a.m..
“We appreciate everyone’s patience while we work in the cold for the citizens, literally,” Hosemann said.
The House, meanwhile, met by Zoom online briefly Tuesday for what is certainly a first in the state’s history: Speaker of the House Philip Gunn presided over the lower chamber via video call. The House plans to reconvene Wednesday at 2 p.m.
The unprecedented winter storm that has impacted most of the state has ground work of the Mississippi Legislature to a near halt.
But in terms of the legislative calendar, the winter storm came at a good time. The storm hit after legislators met the deadline of taking up bills that originated in their own chamber. If the storm had hit a week earlier, most likely multiple key pieces of legislation would have died because of the inability of many lawmakers to make it to the state Capitol to take up those bills.
Now legislators have a brief respite in their calendar.
Legislators have until March 2 to pass out of committee bills that had passed the other chamber. Before then, legislators face a key deadline of Feb. 24 to take up revenue and appropriations bills on the floor of the chamber where the bill originated.
This deadline could impact several key pieces of legislation. For instance, Gov. Tate Reeves’ proposal to phase out the income tax must be taken up on the floor of one of the two chambers by Feb. 24 to remain alive.
But later this week, both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are expected to meet. Those are the two committees where tax bills, such as a phase out of the income tax, would originate. The Senate called a Finance Committee meeting for Wednesday.
In addition, the House and Senate Appropriations committees also are expected to meet in the coming days as work on developing a state budget intensifies to meet the Feb. 24 deadline.
But on Monday and Tuesday, there was little activity at the Capitol. The House met completely via Zoom on both Monday and Tuesday. The Senate came in both days, but disposed of motions on bills passed or killed last week on Monday and did little on Tuesday.
On Monday, Gunn, R-Clinton, presided over the House session from the House chamber. Rep. Bill Pigott, R-Tylertown, was the only other House member in the chamber making the trip from his home in southwest Mississippi in the midst of the winter storm. Other members were on Zoom. The Senate on Monday met at the Capitol, with some members having to hitch rides in or home afterward with those with four-wheel-drive vehicles.
On Tuesday, Gunn presided via Zoom, presumably from his Clinton home, in a very informal meeting. He said he would be back in the Capitol to preside when the House convenes Wednesday afternoon. Other members also are expected to be in the chamber, though participating via Zoom still will be an option.
House Ways and Means Chair Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, said he might preside over a meeting of his committee from his home in north Mississippi later this week, especially if another winter blast impacts north Mississippi as is currently forecast.
Gunn said during Monday’s session he had proposed pushing back legislative deadlines by a week to accommodate the winter storm, but Senate leadership had rejected the proposal. Earlier this session, Gunn rejected the proposal by Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, to postpone the session because of the COVID-19 pandemic.