JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - COVID-19 created a drawn-out legislative session this year. But lawmakers are due back to the State Capitol for the 2021 session in just one week and there are still a lot of question marks surrounding it.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s first priority for the 2021 session?
“You’ll see a teacher pay raise coming from the Senate again this year,” said Hosemann. “It got Covid-ed last year.”
He notes that he expects the same proposal of a $1,000 raise with the hope they can look at more in the future. A point there does not seem to be agreement on among legislative leaders? Phasing out the state income tax. The Governor and Speaker are on board. Hosemann is being cautious.
“You’ll see us study and look at this but as I see it right now, it’s very difficult to fill that hole… a $2 billion hole or even a quarter of a billion-dollar hole,” explained Hosemann.
Sen. Joey Fillingane expects there will be a COVID lens on everything this upcoming session.
“We are in a position where we have to take the reality, not what we would aspire and hope things would be like,” explained Fillingane. “We have to take them as they occur and the reality is the coronavirus has impacted us all, all across all sectors of our state economy.”
And the current situation in hospitals will further Democrats’ push for Medicaid expansion.
“Mississippi is losing 1 billion, $1 billion per year but not expanding Medicaid. It’s forcing our small hospitals to close emergency rooms and actually closed. So healthcare is at risk in Mississippi.”
The timeline is still up in the air with Hosemann wanting the majority of the session pushed back due to concerns about COVID-19.
“What we needed to do we would try to get done in that first week or 10 days and then we would adjourn back down to March 5,” said Hosemann of his proposal.
And at least one House member hoping to have some added safety measures, even if they only return for a few days in January.
“My concern is coming in off the street,” said Rep. Bo Brown. “And making sure that we don’t have anybody exposed day one.”
Rep. Bo Brown delivered a letter to the Speaker today requesting that COVID testing be provided and required before they reconvene. The Lt. Governor and Speaker were set to meet about the timeline this afternoon. No word yet on whether they came to any agreement.