Legislature ends 2018 regular session

Published 9:51 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers concluded their 2018 regular session Wednesday after killing one last proposal on transportation funding, highlighting their inability to agree on that issue.
The House and the Senate adjourned the three-month session, the third of the four-year term. The 2019 session will take place in the run-up to statewide elections in which all 122 representatives and all 52 senators will be on the ballot, as well as the governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide officials.
The headline achievement for the 2018 session could be a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, but a federal judge temporarily blocked that law hours after it took effect, and there has yet to be a full hearing on whether it’s constitutional.
Lawmakers renewed rules for the state’s Medicaid program after a long wrangle that featured competing health care lobbies, ultimately declining an effort by a group of hospitals to overturn contracts by the state Medicaid agency with several managed care insurers.
On other major issues, lawmakers either rejected or were unable to agree on major overhauls. Senators rejected a plan to rewrite the state’s school funding formula, while House and Senate negotiators couldn’t agree on plans to provide a substantial increase for transportation funding. Wednesday, the Senate killed a House plan to send money to roads any time state revenue grew by more than 2 percent. Even House Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Busby said he was not particularly enthusiastic about that plan, saying he thought it would be ineffective because state revenue is not growing rapidly.
House Speaker Philip Gunn said his top three priorities at the start of the session were rewriting the state’s school funding formula, increasing funding for roads and bridges and re-enacting the law including rules governing Medicaid payments and benefits.
“I will tell you that we in the House delivered on all three of those goals,” the Clinton Republican said.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he was disappointed by the failure of the school funding program. He said House and Senate negotiators neared an agreement on transportation money, but blamed the House for insisting on too many individual projects sought by specific members. The Republican Reeves portrayed that rejection as part of his effort to prevent overspending.
“I was elected to be the taxpayers’ watchdog,” he said.
Lawmakers also were unable to agree on how to spend $700 million in economic damages that oil company BP PLC is paying to the state over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. For now, the money will continue to pile up in Mississippi’s rainy day fund.
Legislators enacted a $6.1 billion budget for the year that begins July 1. It provides a little more for some agencies, with revenue growing after several years of flat collections. They agreed to borrow more than $250 million for state projects after borrowing little money last year.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox