At this point, the legislature is nearing the end of the 2020 session—one that will certainly be remembered. This is the first time in more than 100 years that the legislature was suspended mid-session. This time, of course, was due to the COVID pandemic.
Because it is late in the session, much of the last week or two was spent deciding whether to concur with any changes that the Senate may have made to House bills. Changes that were not concurred with will go to “conference,” where Senate and House negotiators will meet to hammer out differences. Included in the bills being sent to conference are most of the appropriations bills, which will decide the state’s budget.
Both the House and Senate are making final adjustments on how to spend the CARES Act funds—those sent to the state from the federal government for coronavirus relief. Already $300 million has been used to create a small business grant program. The remainder will go to hospitals and healthcare facilities; to schools for distance learning and expansion of Internet into rural communities; to counties and cities for reimbursement of their COVID-related expenditures; and to the unemployment trust fund, which will help keep unemployment taxes from spiking on businesses. These bills will be finalized and adopted in the last few days of session, likely during the week of June 29.
Precautions are still being taken at the Capitol to ensure the health and safety of both lawmakers and staff. The Mississippi Department of Health offered free COVID-19 screenings early in the week, and all who enter the building are still required to have their temperatures taken.