Attorneys for Gov. Tate Reeves have asked Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove to render a final judgement in a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White.
The motion was filed on September 23.
In another filing made before the court on September 17, Reeves’ attorneys argue that the governor properly used his partial veto power (better known as a line-item veto) when he struck two earmarks worth $8 million in House Bill 1782.
The filing says that the stricken parts of HB 1782 weren’t conditions, but distinct appropriations that can be legally vetoed by the governor.
In their most recent filing on September 18, Andy Taggart, the attorney for the House leaders, wants the court to nullify Reeves’ line-item veto and declare HB 1782 to be law in its entirety.
Reeves said on Facebook that the more he learns about the $2 million for the closed hospital in Senatobia, the more concerned he gets. He also called the $6 million for the MAGnet Community Health Disparity Program a carveout for certain, connected groups.
“But the drafters of our Constitution were specifically worried about deals being cut that led to wasteful spending,” Reeves said. “They were thinking about you — the taxpayers who pay the bills — when they included Section 73 in our Mississippi Constitution.”
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.
Gunn, in a Stennis Institute Zoom meeting, characterized the vetoes as an infringement of the executive branch into the legislative branch.
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The Legislature decided to take no 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.
There is a deadline Thursday for one of the earmarks, because that’s when $2 million in CARES Act funds earmarked for a hospital in Senatobia 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 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 and 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.
More: Legislature overrides Reeves’ veto on education spending bill
Three times — 1898, 1995 and 2004 — lawmakers have filed suit after a governor used his line-item veto powers and all three times the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Legislature.