JACKSON • As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, lawmakers will temporarily suspend the 2020 session of the Mississippi Legislature and will likely allow school districts and local governing authorities to give their employees paid leave during the virus outbreak.
“We are asking you to just put a pause button on where we are and just give us a buffer,” House Speaker Phillip Gunn told other House members.
According to the latest data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, the state now has 21 total presumptive cases of the virus and 389 people have been tested for the virus.
The House passed a resolution and a law that would allow counties, municipalities and school districts the option of granting paid leave to their employees during an emergency situation, such as the virus outbreak.
State Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Natchez, attempted to amend the resolution to grant private employees relief if they were laid off because of an emergency, but was ultimately blocked by Republican legislators.
State Rep. Randy Boyd, a Republican from Mantachie, is a member of the Rules Committee, which is the committee that approved all of the resolutions that were brought before the House. He told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that the House didn’t want to look at extending provisions to private sector workers when the federal government could pass its own relief packages soon.
“We just didn’t want to go blindly into something. I don’t think there’s anybody down here that doesn’t feel for those people,” Boyd said of private sector workers. “Most communities and towns have something to help people in times of need. If we see a great need advancing and see federal money is coming down, we’ll look at it.”
Boyd said lawmakers were taking the threat of the virus seriously and were trying to work together to do what is best for the state.
Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann later said at a press conference that they had worked together on the legislation and backed the proposals on the advice of state health officials. Hosemann stressed that the state would do all it can to continue its normal economic functions.
“In short, our lives will return to normal. These challenges are temporary, but our resolve is permanent,” Hosemann said.
The Senate will now take the legislation up Wednesday morning. If the Senate passes the House proposals, the Senate will likely adjourn Wednesday, and the bill would be sent to Gov. Tate Reeves for approval.