Gov. Phil Bryant calls special legislative session

Gov. Phil Bryant has called lawmakers back into special session for June 5.

"In the interest of providing proper notice to taxpayers and to members of the Legislature, I am announcing that the special session to complete the budget for fiscal year 2018 will be June 5," Bryant said in a Facebook post. "Although the legislative process will determine the length of the session, I anticipate lawmakers will finish their work as quickly as possible to minimize costs to taxpayers."

Bryant did not provide further details on the session. Spokesman Clay Chandler said Bryant has not issued the formal "call" for the session.

"Gov. Bryant will issue one and decide what — if anything  — beyond the agency budgets will be included as we get closer to June 5," Chandler said.

Lawmakers ended their 2017 regular session on March 29 with unfinished business, for which Bryant was expected to call them back into special session before the new budget year begins July 1.

A standoff between the GOP leaders of the House and Senate over road and bridge funding and internet sales taxes killed the annual Mississippi Department of Transportation and State Aid roads budgets. An 11th-hour snag over what Attorney General Jim Hood called "juvenile games" by the Legislature with his budget also left the AG budget in limbo.

State business and transportation leaders have pushed unsuccessfully for two years for more funding for road and bridge work and mounted an organized campaign this session, complete with "Roads matter" radio and TV ads.

The House’s unsuccessful push to earmark future voluntarily remitted internet sales taxes for roads and bridges had Republican House and Senate leaders at odds, each accusing the other of failure to communicate or negotiate in good faith and with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves accusing House leaders of lying during floor debate.

The debate derailed passage of the MDOT and State Aid budgets, as well as an annual “bond bill,” borrowing for capital projects at universities and elsewhere.

Reeves spokeswoman Laura Hipp had little comment on the governor's session announcement or whether leaders are close to an agreement on additional road funding or an education formula rewrite.

"The only agreement I am aware of is the budget agreement the House conferees signed during the regular session," Hipp said, in a dig at House leaders for initially agreeing to an MDOT budget, then pulling it back to push for more funding from internet sales taxes being collected voluntarily from some online sellers.

House Speaker Philip Gunn's office did not immediately responded to requests for comments and questions.

Republican legislative leaders had also vowed to rewrite the state's adequate education funding formula in the 2017 session and had hired a consultant last year to help. A proposal never materialized during the regular session, and there was speculation Bryant might call them into special session at some point for the education rewrite. But Bryant has said he would only call such a session if lawmakers had a tacit agreement on the formula rewrite and enough votes to pass it. To date, it appears that hasn't happened.

Link to original article from Clarion Ledger:

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/25/bryant-legislative-session/100902090/

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