The last two Republican governors before Gov. Tate Reeves took office used their line item veto power five times, according to analysis of legislative records dating back to 2004 and none of those vetoes were overturned by the Legislature.
Reeves has already used his line-item power twice in his first legislative session as governor and drawn a veto override and a lawsuit by House leaders. That's the same amount as then-Gov. Haley Barbour in his eight years in office. Gov. Phil Bryant used his line-item veto pen three times in his eight years, all in 2017.
Section 73 of the Mississippi Constitution gives the governor the right to veto parts of any appropriation bill and approve parts of the same, with the remaining portions becoming law.
In 2007, Barbour had to use his line-item veto power in two bills that concerned the same appropriation. He excised $5.5 million in House Bill 1681, which was an appropriation bill for the office of the state attorney general. The vetoed line item concerned the transfer of Temporary Assistance to Needy Family funds from the state Department of Human Services to the attorney general’s office to help fund the Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA.
Barbour also had to cut from HB 1689, which was the appropriation bill for the DHS, a section that concerned the transfer of funds from DHS to the AG's office.
In 2017, Bryant’s line-item veto pen received a strong workout, with three vetoes.
He eliminated $80,000 from HB 1502, which was the appropriation bill for K-12 education. The earmark was designated for Glimpse K12 Inc., an Alabama based for-profit corporation. He said while this vendor might offer a worthwhile product, adding more earmarks was not an appropriate use of limited resources. He quipped in his veto message that “belt-tightening doesn’t mean you buy a new belt.”
Bryant issued a partial veto in Senate Bill 3015 for a $50,000 earmark for the Mississippi State Cooperative Extension Service for an information campaign on wild hogs. He said the extension service didn't request the money and and had prepared several options for a public information campaign that didn't involve spending.
That same session, Bryant also vetoed a section of SB 2956, which was the appropriations bill for state student aid. The line he crossed out would’ve exempted state tuition assistance to needy students at private universities at the state from being reduced in the event that the allocated funds were insufficient to fully fund all grants. He said in his veto message that lawmakers were attempting to graft substantive legislation onto an appropriations bill.
Reeves partially vetoed two bills in his first session, drawing an override on his veto of the K-12 appropriation bill after the Legislature sliced $26 million from a program designed to reward teachers with raises at highly-rated schools.
It was the first time the Legislature had overrode a veto on a bill since 2002, but lawmakers ended up appropriating $28 million for the program in House Bill 1806.
The other line-item veto drew a lawsuit from House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White, R-West, seeking an overturn of his veto on two earmarks in HB 1782. A hearing in the lawsuit could be happening as soon as September 9.
More: Judge orders hearing in lawsuit filed over governor’s partial vetoes
This bill appropriates more than $222 million in CARES Act funds for the state Department of Health, including $2 million for a hospital that’s been closed for two years in Senatobia and $6 million for the MAGnet Community Health Disparity Program, which was intended “address the disproportionate impact on the minority community of coronavirus infections and deaths from COVID-19.”.