JACKSON • The Mississippi Legislature will reconvene its 2020 session at 1 p.m. on Thursday to begin crafting legislation to help small businesses deal with the economic impact of COVID-19, according to a press release from House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.

“The backbone of our economy in Mississippi is our small businesses, and now they need our support,” Gunn, R-Clinton, said. “The two chambers will act together to provide relief as quickly as possible this week.”

The return of the lawmakers comes at a time when the Legislature is feuding with Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on who has the authority to spend more than a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The state lawmakers briefly returned to the Capitol on Friday, where they passed a bill that removed Reeves of his power to be the sole official responsible for disbursing $1.25 billion in federal relief funds.

The move drew sharp criticism from Reeves, who has repeatedly said that the lawmakers were “stealing” the money and he should be the person responsible for disbursing federal funds during a time of emergency. Reeves has until Thursday night to veto the proposal, and he has indicated in press briefings that he intends to do so.

Nearly all of the lawmakers from Northeast Mississippi backed the bill to remove the governor’s power and some indicated that if the governor does veto the legislation, they would override it.

While Reeves is contemplating whether he will veto the bill, the state lawmakers will begin implementing measures to allocate some of the funds.

According to the press release, the legislation will outline the parameters for a state agency to administer the funds for the small business program.

“We know Mississippi’s small businesses – our local restaurants, barber shops, hair salons, and retail shops – need help. Our legislators are best prepared to meet their needs because they represent the entirety of the State,” Hosemann said.

Lawmakers were originally set to reconvene on May 18, because of delays from the virus. The Legislature has not convened since March, with the exception of the brief session on Friday.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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