Throughout his political career, including eight years as lieutenant governor, Gov. Tate Reeves has seldom pitched any of his own major policy initiatives — but he’s always quick to shoot down others’ ideas, nitpick them or try to co-opt them and take credit.
And his modus operandi on others’ proposals is to not communicate any issues he has beforehand, but spring them as a last-minute gotcha. Even his fellow Republican leaders have learned they’re more likely to find out what he thinks of their plans through his press conferences or social medial posts than from a phone call or meeting beforehand.
He’s done it again, this time with the Legislature’s medical marijuana proposal.
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There’s been debate among his fellows of whether Reeves’ M.O. of last-minute decrees is more political strategy or procrastination. Exhibit A: He can’t seem to make his required political appointments to various boards by deadline to save his life.
And many a House chairman spent hours cooling their heels and sweating late-night budget deadlines during Reeves’ Senate tenure. They were waiting to see what last-minute havoc he would wreak on budgets that had otherwise been long agreed to. They soon learned that just because Reeves’ Senate chairmen or staffers agreed to something didn’t mean he would when he finally got around to looking at it.
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Reeves, true to form, has thrown some last-minute wrenches into months of work on a medical marijuana program by Senate and House leaders. This is despite Reeves proclaiming for months that he would call lawmakers into special session to pass a medical marijuana bill once they had an agreement.
They reached an agreement. He doesn’t like it. Now what? He hasn’t said.
As a former handlebar-mustachioed House Ways and Means Chairman once said late one budget deadline night: “Tate works in mysterious ways.”
Reeves gave lawmakers a last-minute laundry list of things he didn’t like in the bill. Lawmakers said they conceded on many of the items. But one major sticking point is that Reeves thinks the proposal would give patients too much smokable pot. Legislative leaders counter that they are using a well-researched, industry-standard dosage amount and Reeves is being unreasonable.
They note that the Initiative 65 cannabis program voters approved — but the state Supreme Court shot down — would have allowed patients to have more marijuana flower than the legislative proposal.
Reeves also indicated at a press conference last week that he wants lawmakers to further reduce the amount of THC in Mississippi medical marijuana, something lawmakers said he hadn’t communicated to them. They noted Mississippi’s proposed program is already conservative and already has THC limits, which would make it the only medical cannabis program in the country to have such limits.
Prior to his last-minute edicts about the legislative proposal, Reeves’ only stated policy on medical marijuana was that he was against it (he once referred to supporters as “stoners.”) But he later said that since voters overwhelmingly approved it, he would call the Legislature into special session once they had an agreement, to abide by “the will of the voters.”
Reeves has sole authority to call lawmakers into a special session. He has pretty much zilch authority over what the Legislature passes, other than he can veto it after the fact. For that matter, even with an agreement among legislative leaders, the proposed bill can still be changed (or killed) in the legislative process. That’s just… the legislative process.
A Greenwood Commonwealth editorial last week stated: “Tate Reeves may be forgetting in which branch of government he now works. When it comes to medical marijuana, he’s been acting more like the lieutenant governor he used to be than the governor he is now.”
There is great public pressure for the state to reinstate voters’ will and create a medical marijuana program and a lot of those voters appear to be getting irritated as months drag on. Lawmakers certainly haven’t moved with lightning speed on it, but they have put in the work and reached what appears to be a workable consensus.
Is Reeves really prepared to shoulder the blame for further delays — or failure to have a special session at all — because he wants to call the shots on intricacies and issues that are not really up to him?
A Mississippi governor can have great sway and input on legislation, and many in the past have. But that’s typically been through close communication and cooperation with legislative leaders. And it usually requires working with them early in the process. Or, others have influenced legislation with their skills in communication and persuasion. They’ve gotten the public onboard and lobbying for policy, or “worked the floors” and persuaded rank-and-file lawmakers to back their proposals.
But that’s not Reeves’ M.O. He disposes and opposes more than he proposes.
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