STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Mississippi legislators assert control over virus money

MGN Online

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are asserting control in a power struggle with the governor.

Posted: May 1, 2020 9:22 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Friday and asserted their control in a power struggle with the governor over who has the authority to spend $1.25 billion the state is receiving from the federal government for coronavirus relief.
Republicans who lead the House and Senate say the Mississippi Constitution gives spending authority to the Legislature. But, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves says a state law enacted 40 years ago gives the governor some spending power during emergencies.
“The system of government that we have is not a one-man-makes-the-decisions system,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said at a news conference Friday. Gunn was joined by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The House and Senate each met briefly and voted by wide bipartisan margins to pass the same bill. It puts most of the federal relief money into a fund that the Legislature controls. The governor would not lose all power: He would still need to agree to spending plans that lawmakers set, as he does with other parts of the state budget.
Reeves would not immediately say whether he will veto the proposal. But during his own news conference, the governor angrily said that legislators were tying the hands of people responding to the pandemic, including the state health officer and the state emergency management director.
“You care more about power than people,” Reeves said of lawmakers.
Hosemann said the dispute over spending power is urgent because the governor’s office was already seeking proposals from private consultants to manage the relief funds, and the group chosen would be paid a portion of the money.
Reeves on Friday said spending the money on consultants would be a good investment. He said if federal relief money is mishandled, Mississippi might have to send some of the money back to the federal government. He said a third-party administrator could talk to the U.S. Treasury Department about legal or accounting questions.
“Some of us are relatively busy right now trying to do other things,” Reeves said.
The legislative session had been on hold since mid-March because of the pandemic. As people entered the Capitol on Friday, their temperatures were taken and they were asked questions about whether they had been exposed to the coronavirus or experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath.
The money at the center of the dispute is separate from the payment of unemployment benefits — an issue that has left thousands of people frustrated.
“You know what the real problem is? People can’t get their unemployment benefits,” Hosemann said.
Mississippi, like other states, has seen a dramatic increase in unemployment claims in recent weeks because of the pandemic. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security has expanded its hours and has brought in more people to handle applications for benefits, but people have experienced long delays and other difficulties in being able to apply.
Hosemann and Gunn had announced earlier this week that the Legislature would return to the Capitol on May 18, but plans changed because of the money fight. On Wednesday, they sent a letter to the acting director of the state Department of Finance and Administration telling her to put the $1.25 billion on hold.
Mississippi is not alone in clashes among top elected officials. In neighboring Louisiana, Republican state lawmakers are considering putting limits on Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’s emergency decision-making powers amid frustration over his extension of a stay-at-home order in one of the states hardest hit by the virus.
The Mississippi Health Department said Friday that the state had at least 7,212 confirmed cases and 281 deaths from the coronavirus as of Thursday evening. That was an increase of 397 cases and 20 deaths from the previous day. Mississippi’s population is about 3 million.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
The Health Department said Friday at least 71,548 coronavirus tests had been done in Mississippi. The department said at least 825 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
The governor’s “safer at home” order started Monday, replacing a stricter stay-at-home order that was in place for more than three weeks. The new order remains in effect until the morning of May 11.
Reeves eased business restrictions under the current order, allowing some to reopen with limits on how many customers may be present. In addition to letting more businesses reopen, it allows physicians to start offering some services that had been limited in recent weeks. Restaurants are still restricted to carry-out or delivery. Barber shops, salons, tattoo parlors and entertainment venues such as movie theaters remain closed. Gatherings of 10 or more people are still banned.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 503322

Reported Deaths: 10057
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34400541
DeSoto32318411
Hinds32074631
Jackson24551386
Rankin22103391
Lee15657235
Madison14662281
Jones13894243
Forrest13506253
Lauderdale12037318
Lowndes11091192
Lamar10531138
Pearl River9557238
Lafayette8581140
Hancock7751130
Washington7458161
Oktibbeha7152133
Monroe6796178
Warren6752176
Pontotoc6736104
Neshoba6656206
Panola6572131
Marshall6494135
Bolivar6331150
Union607794
Pike5849154
Alcorn5691102
Lincoln5468135
George502979
Scott474198
Tippah472481
Prentiss471582
Leflore4676144
Itawamba4651105
Tate4632111
Adams4617120
Copiah450092
Simpson4458116
Yazoo445388
Wayne440772
Covington429894
Sunflower4246105
Marion4236108
Coahoma4178108
Leake409888
Newton383179
Grenada3731108
Tishomingo361592
Stone360664
Jasper336565
Attala335290
Winston315391
Clay309077
Chickasaw302367
Clarke295894
Calhoun279947
Holmes268788
Smith266550
Yalobusha237247
Tallahatchie228752
Greene220649
Walthall219364
Lawrence213640
Perry206456
Amite206056
Webster203446
Noxubee186940
Montgomery179757
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169639
Tunica160139
Benton149439
Kemper142141
Choctaw134627
Claiborne132838
Humphreys129738
Franklin120728
Quitman106828
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson95934
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 821255

Reported Deaths: 15424
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1149051930
Mobile726651340
Madison52400699
Shelby37685350
Baldwin37285552
Tuscaloosa35147613
Montgomery34130740
Lee23556246
Calhoun22255490
Morgan21037378
Etowah19844500
Marshall18390304
Houston17406412
St. Clair16091339
Cullman15493293
Limestone15402199
Elmore15292286
Lauderdale14366295
Talladega13870283
DeKalb12670261
Walker11255370
Blount10227176
Autauga10061148
Jackson9909185
Coffee9215191
Dale8912186
Colbert8907201
Tallapoosa7103198
Escambia6782134
Covington6724183
Chilton6658162
Russell637659
Franklin5992105
Chambers5615142
Marion5016127
Dallas5013202
Pike4799106
Clarke477284
Geneva4577127
Winston4538103
Lawrence4352117
Bibb425686
Barbour358376
Marengo338390
Monroe332064
Randolph330264
Butler328596
Pickens317384
Henry313166
Hale311988
Cherokee303260
Fayette294580
Washington251651
Cleburne247960
Clay245568
Crenshaw245475
Macon235563
Lamar225747
Conecuh186654
Coosa180940
Lowndes175764
Wilcox169139
Bullock151844
Perry139240
Sumter133338
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Columbus
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Oxford
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Starkville
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
High pressure leaves our area overnight and allows room for some low pressure and a cold front to move into our area on Wednesday. This will bring some good chances for some rain and isolated thunderstorms into our area during later portions of our Wednesday.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather