Special Sessions Pretty Common

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Both the Mississippi House and Senate agreed to shorten the 2008 legislative session. But since they never found a way to fund Medicaid fully, a special session will need to be called.

In recent years, special sessions have become more of the norm at the Capitol. In 2007, it was passing millions of dollars worth of incentives for the Paccar Plant in Columbus. In 2006, there were two special sessions, one for tax cuts on modular housing following Katrina and a second to pass legislation for a development in DeSoto County.

Counting one planned for this summer, that makes 20 special sessions in eight years. In 2005, five separate special sessions were called, including one over a weekend during the regular session.

But depending on who you talk to, this year's special session could have been avoided.

"I don't know why those who were negotiating and in charge of that particular legislation allow it to fall by the wayside, but now we have to go back," said state Rep. Phillip Gunn.

Gunn said he does believe a resolution will be reached in relative short order if meetings take place before a special session is called.

"It'd be the most efficient thing to do if we could get those people involved in the process to work out the detail, come to an agreement, so that when the rest of us are called back it only takes an hour or two," Gunn said.

Rep. Cecil Brown agrees, but he'd like to see more time spent in special session on a issue of such importance.

"I want to remind everybody we're talking about at least $90 million in taxpayer money, in one form or another, plus about three times that money from the federal government here," said Brown. "And we're talking about 700,000 people that are covered by Medicaid."

A special legislative session costs almost $60,000 for the first day and nearly $40,000 each additional day afterward.

"As far as just comparing numbers, it is probably cheaper to have this special session than to go for another 17 days in the legislature," said Gunn.

Barbour also has the option to set the parameters of the special session.

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