Legislature Temporarily Returns Home Due to COVID-19 Threat

On Tuesday, March 17, the Mississippi House of Representatives suspended the legislative session until April 1 at 2 p.m., or a date mutually agreed upon by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann if necessary. This suspension is out abundance of caution for the members and staff
due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the House could adjourn, several items needed to be taken up in relation to the suspension.

Because the general bill deadline has already passed, a resolution was needed to suspend the rules and allow for a general bill to be introduced. Senate Concurrent Resolution 561 called for a suspension of the rules and for the introduction of a bill to authorize leave with pay for local government and local school district employees. There is a statute that allows for state employees to receive benefits during certain circumstances, but the statute did not permit the same for local government employees. 

House Bill 1647 was then introduced authorizing local governmental entities and school districts to grant administrative leave with pay during certain emergencies. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 118- 2 and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

The second resolution taken up was House Concurrent Resolution 65. The resolution extends the session by 30 days, allows for reconvening on April 1 or upon determination by the House and Senate and adjusts the session deadlines to conform with the extended schedule. HC 65 passed by a vote of 82-
38 and is expected to be taken up by the Senate on Wednesday morning.

“Obviously we are trying to monitor the situation. We don’t want to see a spike in the number of cases,” said Speaker Philip Gunn in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “We want to make sure we not only set a good example for the citizens of the state, but also protect those that work here and those who are dispersed to various parts of the state.”