A powerful tool
June 9, 2004
The special legislative session called by Gov. Haley Barbour to deal with civil justice reform and other subjects certainly ended with a bang. Barbour found a little-known provision of the Mississippi constitution that allows a governor to end a special session when the House and Senate cannot agree on an adjournment date, and used it to send lawmakers home. At first rejected by a Hinds County court, Barbour's move was upheld by the Supreme Court and the high court's decision is the law unless something changes in the future.
What the decision means for most of us is that the almost $50,000 a day in special session costs will come to an end, for now.
While lawmakers ultimately dealt effectively with civil justice reform capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice and civil lawsuits the Department of Human Services issue remains unresolved. Legislators didn't get around to funding the agency for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.
A related issue puts more than 60,000 Medicaid recipients at risk of losing benefits; some of Mississippi's neediest citizens, particularly relative to prescription drugs, are affected.
Unless Barbour intends to eliminate the Department of Human Services, presumably to replace it later with something else, he's likely going to have to summon lawmakers back to Jackson at some point this month. In the meantime, he's found a powerful new tool to use with recalcitrant legislators, one hardly anyone knew existed: our own constitution.