On January 7, 2020, the Mississippi State Legislature began the first session of the new four-year term. Per the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, the first session of every term is scheduled to last 125 days, as opposed to 90 days. This is done to accommodate inaugurations, new committee chairmanships and procedural matters like choosing parking spaces and offices.
House members took the oath of office on the first day before the election of Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tempore. As part of the House Rules, both of these positions and the House Clerk are elected by the members and are sworn into office the first day of session. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn was elected to his third term as Speaker. Jason White was elected as the Pro Tempore after previously serving as Chairman of the Rules committee. Andrew Ketchings was also re-elected as House Clerk for the third time.
Although it is early in the session, the House has already taken up one bill. On Wednesday, January 8, House Bill 1 passed with a vote of 121-1 and has since passed the Senate floor. The bill would fully fund last year’s teacher pay raise after a miscalculation in the number of teachers led to a deficit. By appropriating an extra $18.4 million of the General Fund, teachers will now receive the $1,500 pay raise as promised last session.
On Thursday, January 9, six of the statewide elected officials were sworn into office by Chief Justice Michael Randolph before a joint session of the House and the Senate. The joint session also re-elected Steven Parks as state librarian.
Speaker Philip Gunn announced leadership of two important House committees. Representative John Read (R – Jackson) will return as the Chairman of Appropriations, while Representative Trey Lamar (R – Tate) is the new Chairman of Ways and Means. Representative Karl Oliver (R – Montgomery) was named the new Vice Chairman of Appropriations, and Representative Jody Steverson (R – Tippah) will be the new Vice Chairman of Ways and Means.
House members also had to elect fellow representatives to serve on the both the Management and Rules committees. All members split into the four Mississippi Congressional districts and nominate members to serve on these committees. Both committees are comprised of two members from each of the four Congressional districts, as well as the Speaker and the Pro Tempore.
On Tuesday, January 14, the inauguration ceremony of Governor Tate Reeves was held in the House Chamber due to the inclement weather outside. A packed chamber filled with legislators, statewide officials, Mississippi Supreme Court justices and other important personnel watched as he took the oath of office.
The Capitol was overflowing with guests the last two weeks because several swearing-in ceremonies were held. Visitors are always welcome to come to the Capitol to visit with their legislators and witness the legislative process.