As the state is faced with critical issues, there have been calls for a special session of the legislature. On the other hand, many have wondered if Governor Tate Reeves sees any of the issues as emergencies that need attention prior to the next regular legislative session in January 2022.
Early last month, there was a crisis of sorts when the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher learning (College Board) called a special meeting in order to deal with several finance matters while there were still enough members to assure that a quorum could be secured. Four members were facing term expirations, with no replacements having been appointed by Government Tate Reeves.
As that emergency surfaced, it came to light that the State Board of Education and the Community College Board were facing the same situation. Days later, Reeves appointed three new members to the college board – Dr. Ormella Cummings of Itawamba County, Teresa Hubbard of Lafayette County, and Gregg Rader of Lowndes County – and re-appointed Hal Parker, whose term had just expired. The attorney general’s office was consulted in order to determine to what extent, if any, they could participate in College Board business prior to gaining senate confirmation. We are awaiting the publication of that attorney general opinion. In the meantime, they abstained on all votes of substance during the May meeting. To the State Board of Education, Reeves has appointed Dr. Wendi Barrett of Harrison County and Matt Miller of Lamar County. To the Community College Board, he appointed Luke Montgomery of Itawamba County, Johnny McRight of Washington County, and Will Simmons of Harrison County. Officials are hopeful that these appointments will suffice until January.
Since it should have been apparent that these board members’ terms were expiring and that new appointees would need Senate confirmation, the question is, “Why was Reeves so late in making the appointments?” Was he asleep at the wheel? Is this an indication that he is in over his head as governor? Some people wondered if he would call a special session of the legislature in order to gain the confirmations of the appointees.
Just as these crises were being temporarily resolved, the state Supreme Court threw out the recently passed medical marijuana law. For a second time, many wondered if Reeves would call a special session of the legislature to fix the technicality on which the law was thrown-out. Nevertheless, in this case there seems to be no rush to call a session to fix the problem. Thirdly, waiting in the wings for the legislative fix dealing with referendums is an initiative to deal with Medicaid expansion. Because these latter issues are progressive initiatives, the question is, “Will Reeves not worry about aiding a fix of the referendum process?” To go even further, the very idea and process of initiatives and referendums are mostly democratic procedures. That being the case, conservatives such as Reeves may even be pleased that Mississippi’s process is outdated, and thus, be in no rush to update it.
We raise these questions because they say a great deal about the competence of Reeves, about his concern for public education, and about other progressive matters.
Governor Reeves’ slowness or inaction on these matters stands in stark contrast to how swiftly he moved to end the extended unemployment benefits being offered in partnership with, and mostly funded by, the federal government. Does this mean that the conservative actions which he takes so swiftly mean that in those cases he merely reacts by following the national Republican leaders and does not have to extend himself, that is, does not have to exhibit any competence or thought?
These questions need to be pressed, helping reveal who we have as governor. In the meantime, citizens need to take advantage of whatever democratic initiatives they have and can secure in order to move Mississippi along despite Governor Tate Reeves.