Delbert Hosemann describes himself as a “conservative Republican,” but much of what he said campaigning and on the victory stand gives hope to state Democrats that their goals were not completely extinguished in the GOP sweep of the statewide elections.
Hosemann had all the right Republican connections to win the lieutenant governor’s election. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and groups against abortion, among others.
“We have great things going on in Mississippi public education and we need to make sure we fund those properly and give them the respect they deserve so all of us can prosper,” Hosemann said late on election night. He has pushed for bringing teachers’ salaries to or beyond the regional averages and to provide more pre-kindergarten and vocational-education — all Democratic objectives, too.
While campaigning, Hosemann said he would join discussions to expand Medicaid to add 300,000 more Mississippians to the rolls. After his victory he said, “We’ve got to realize, we have to make healthy decisions … and we still have to provide coverage and accessible, affordable healthcare.”
It is well known among those who daily observe state government and the political scene that Hosemann and Governor-elect Tate Reeves do not see eye-to-eye on numerous issues facing the taxpayers.
With Mississippi continuing to operate under a “weak governor” system, there is sure to be friction between Reeves and Hosemann almost from the start of the four-year term in January.
Anyone paying attention knows that in this state, the Legislature rules the roost. I saw that with my own eyes while being employed by the state House of Representatives for 14 years.
The revered and esteemed Tim Ford, who was Speaker of the House from 1988 to 2004, had to be consulted on almost anything done at the Capitol during that period by Govs. Ray Mabus, Kirk Fordice and Ronnie Musgrove.
As lieutenant governor, Hosemann, a three-term secretary of state, will run the Senate and appoint all committees and their chairpersons — the same power wielded by Ford and three-term Lt. Gov. Brad Dye (1980-1992), among others who held those offices.
Numerous efforts have been made, even in recent years, to increase the power of Mississippi’s governor and negate much of it held by the House speaker and the lieutenant governor. The state’s 1890 Constitution provided that the bulk of power concerning state government in general was to be held by the those holding the two lesser offices.
A key provision does not allow a governor to appoint members of the many boards and commissions that dot the government arrangement. A Mississippi governor also does not have a cabinet, as some states allow.
There have been several efforts to hold a constitutional convention to change that power structure, all without success. The House of Representatives has been the strongest anti-convention force. Nobody expects current House Speaker Philip Gunn to acquiesce on such efforts in the new term.
The Council of State Governments, an organization representing legislatures across the nation, has pointed out that Mississippi’s governor is among the weakest in America, along with Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas.
One power Mississippi’s governor does hold alone is whether to expand the Medicaid healthcare program. Gov. Phil Bryant turned down that proposal and Reeves has indicated he’s against it as well. Mississippi could receive upwards of $1 billion under expansion, while matching only a fifth of that. It remains one of 14 states standing against expansion.
Hosemann will be under extreme pressure by myriad healthcare groups to help convince Reeves that it’s the right thing to do — starting on inauguration day, Jan. 14, 2020.
Mac Gordon is a native and part-time resident of McComb. He is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at macmarygordon @gmail.com.