LETTER/Veto override wasn’t liberal, as Journal asserted
To the editor:
As a regular reader of the Madison County Journal, I have always enjoyed the Editorial Board’s perspective. However, I found an editorial published in August disappointing. No one from the newspaper contacted legislative leadership concerning the accomplishments this session. Now that we are sine die, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of these accomplishments.
First, it’s unclear how anyone could deem this this legislature “liberal.” Among other laws, Republican lawmakers championed the “Life Equality Act,” prohibiting abortion on the basis of sex, race, or genetic abnormality. They reduced the size of government, eliminating two state commissions, and balanced the budget. They made it easier for veterans to legally obtain a concealed carry permit and allowed an extension for hunting season. They protected healthcare workers and businesses from the frivolous lawsuits they may face as a result of COVID and ensured they would not have to pay more for unemployment insurance because of the uptick in claims. The list goes on.
As for the education budget, it initially passed the Legislature 110-2 in the House and 50-0 in the Senate. The original budget was a result of an assumption no bonuses to teachers were due because there was no K-12 testing this year. It seemed appropriate to dedicate money set aside for the program to MAEP—which funds teacher salaries and all school operations, rather than divert those funds away from schools. When legislative leadership was finally informed the bonuses were based on scores from two years ago, they immediately informed the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education they intended to provide funding.
This is similar to a situation occurring last year under the former Lieutenant Governor’s purview where inaccurate information resulted in a $19 million gap in funding for the 2019 teacher pay raise. This Legislature approved the deficit in January and teachers were paid. We committed to the same this past January.
In short, the education budget veto was unnecessary, causing significant issues for school districts required by law to adopt a budget by August 15 and holding up necessaries like the money teachers need for classroom supplies. The Legislature voted to override the veto by a vote of 109-6 in the House and 41-1 in the Senate, and the funds were pulled from a contingency fund so as not to reduce education funding.
Most importantly, the Legislature followed the Mississippi Constitution. The Legislature appropriates state funds, including the Coronavirus Relief Funds. Now, it’s up to the executive agencies, many of which answer to the Governor, to make sure those funds are distributed quickly and legally—according to state and federal law.
A “liberal” legislative session? Definitely not. A conservative constitutional one? Undoubtedly yes.
Delbert Hosemann is Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi