A decision in a lawsuit brought by House leaders over a pair of line-item vetoes of $8 million in earmarks by Gov. Tate Reeves could be coming as soon as September 28.
Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Groves issued an order on September 10, setting the date for a hearing that will be held remotely. The plaintiffs will have to brief the court on the relief they seek Friday and Reeves’ attorneys have a deadline of September 23 to explain the governor’s objections.
The original lawsuit was filed by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White on August 6 and an amended complaint was filed on August 14.
The governor’s attorneys are arguing that because the Legislature decided to take no action on Reeves’ line item vetoes in House Bill 1782, that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The brief says that they seek a judicial override of a veto that they took no action.
Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on August 10 to overturn Reeves’ partial veto on HB 1700, the K-12 education funding bill.
One of the more artful passages in the motion said that “cleared of hamster wheels, hyperbole and strawmen, plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof to establish subject matter jurisdiction.”
Gunn and White contend that overriding the vetoes would be approving the governor’s unconstitutional action and that lawmakers took no action because they found the governor’s actions to be of no legal effect, which differs from allowing a veto to stand.
Attorneys for the House leaders argue that if the court doesn’t reach a decision before October 1, one of the earmarks passed in House Bill 1782 will expire.
The Legislature appropriated $2 million in CARES Act funds earmarked for a hospital in Senatobia and these funds will revert to the state Department of Health to be distributed to hospitals statewide to cover COVID-19 related expenses. The North Oak Regional Medical Center in Senatobia has been closed for the last two years under a court-ordered receivership.
The other line-item veto concerned $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.”
The governor said in his veto message for the two earmarks that he wasn’t comfortable with funding a project, MAGnet, that was unfamiliar to him and cited that the North Oak Regional Medical Center hasn’t treated COVID-19 patients.