Final briefs in a lawsuit brought by House leaders in a lawsuit over $8 million in earmarks vetoed by Gov. Tate Reeves will be due by November 6, according to a filing with the state Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph and Associate Justices David Ishee and James Maxwell will review the decision by Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove in a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White after Gov. Tate Reeves appealed her decision.
Briefs from the governor will be due by October 23 and the House leaders on October 30, with the governor’s attorneys wrapping up arguments with a brief due by November 6.
Groves’ decision rejected the governor’s arguments and nullified the governor’s line item vetoes of $2 million for a closed hospital in Senatobia and $6 million for the MAGnet Community Health Disparity Program in House Bill 1782. The vetoes are still in effect for the time being since the matter is under appeal.
In the decision, Grove said that the two earmarks were not separate, distinct appropriations since the legislation tasked the Mississippi Department of Health with spending the federal CARES Act money on the two projects, along with several others.
She said the governor’s partial veto constituted “creative legislative power outside the purview of his executive authority.”
In the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, it says that the governor may veto parts of appropriation bill and approve parts of the same, and the portions shall be law.
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The Legislature declined to take action on Reeves’ line item vetoes in when lawmakers returned to the Capitol in mid-August to overturn Reeves’ partial veto on HB 1700, the K-12 education funding bill.
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 MAGnet to “address the disproportionate impact on the minority community of coronavirus infections and deaths from COVID-19.”
Reeves said in his veto message for the two earmarks that he wasn’t comfortable with funding a project, MAGnet, that was unfamiliar to him. The project is run by the Greater Meridian Health Clinic and serves 16 rural counties that include Coahoma, Covington, Holmes, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leflore, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Quitman, Tunica, Warren, and Winston, Copiah and Lamar counties
He also cited the fact the North Oak Regional Medical Center hasn’t treated COVID-19 patients.
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Gunn and White filed an amended complaint on August 14 after the Legislature overrode Reeves’ partial veto on HB 1700. The original complaint made reference to the governor’s partial veto of HB 1700 as part of the argument against the line item vetoes.