TUPELO • After feuding with Gov. Tate Reeves for over a week about who has the authority to disburse over a billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds, state legislative leaders on Thursday pledged to invite the Republican governor’s input over how best to spend the funds.
Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) briefly joined Reeves at his daily press briefing on Thursday afternoon, announcing that the three state leaders reached an agreement to work together to spend the funds.
“It is critically important that we, as a state, come together during these challenging times,” Reeves said.
Gunn announced that the Legislature would appropriate the federal dollars with input from Reeves and the governor will administer the funds to various state agencies.
On May 1, the Legislature in a near unanimous vote passed a bill that removed Reeves of his ability to be the sole person responsible for spending $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Nearly all lawmakers from Northeast Mississippi voted in favor of the bill.
The bill drew sharp criticism from Reeves, who accused the state lawmakers of trying to “steal” the money. Reeves even indicated he would veto the bill, which would have created a scenario in which Republican state lawmakers would be forced to make a decision about whether to override a veto from a governor within their own party.
Hosemann announced at the press conference that the bill that was passed on May 1 would be held on a procedural motion while the Legislature formulates a plan to spend the money. The procedural motion will keep the bill from going to the governor to sign or veto.
“We are going to work to allocate these dollars to people as quickly as humanly possible,” Hosemann said.
The agreement between legislative leaders and the governor will keep appropriation authority within the legislature, in line with what Gunn and Hosemann have wanted, but will allow Reeves to voice input into the process.
Reeves cited a desire for speed as a motivation to strike a bargain. He said his ultimate goal was to get relief as quickly as possible to Mississippians, and he acknowledged a potential court battle with the legislature would delay that goal.