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Hood: Constitution ‘supreme law’

JACKSON — In response to a request from Rep. Cecil Brown, Attorney General Jim Hood has given his official opinion as to the ability of various state agencies and branches of government to operate and expend funds after July 1 if there is no appropriations bill passed in the Legislature.

Hood wrote in part: “The Office of Governor has no authority to unilaterally to declare an emergency and seek to keep all government offices open by executive order. However, the duties mandated by the people to all three branches of government as set forth in our state constitution must be carried out, even if the Legislature is prevented from, fails or refuses to appropriate funds.

“There are four exceptions to the exclusive legislative right of appropriation: 1.) offices and agencies expressly mentioned in the constitution; 2.) agencies responsible for carrying out duties of government expressly mentioned in the constitution; 3.) agencies responsible for administering funds, trusts or bonds for which the Legislature has authorized continuous funding; and 4.) agencies responsible for administering federally mandated program or federal court ordered functions. However, those offices or agencies in 1.) and 2.) may only expend such funds as are necessary to carry out the core functions of that office and in no case may the amount expended exceed the amount appropriated for the previous year for that same payment period.

“While the Legislature may have its ‘supreme prerogative,’ the constitution still remains the supreme law of the land, and its faithful execution may not be stymied by a lack of appropriations.”

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