The just-concluded special session - called to pass a budget to fund state services - ended with the Public Service Commission and the Public Utilities Staff unfunded.
Dan Turner, a spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, said the governor will call another special session when House and Senate leaders reach agreement "on what needs to be done" for the two agencies, independent of each other but both will roles in regulating public utilities.
Those were the only two budget bills not passed by midnight Tuesday.
Both agencies were open Wednesday, but were being careful with spending taxpayer money that technically they do not have yet.
"We're not executing any contracts and we're not purchasing any commodities," said Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. "We have also postponed our July 9 meeting."
Since employees are paid monthly or bimonthly, salaries will not be an issue for at least a coupe of weeks.
Last week, it appeared that the new fiscal year might begin with none of state government funded because Barbour and the House and Senate could not agree on a budget.
At that time, Attorney General Jim Hood issued an official opinion on whether state government could continue to operate. In that opinion, Hood said agencies spelled out in the state Constitution could still draw funds from the treasury to carry out constitutional duties.
Hood said his office was updating the opinion to deal with the current issues. The constitution says laws shall be enacted for "the supervision of railroads, express telephone, telegraph, sleeping-car companies and other common carriers in this state, by commission or otherwise..."
The three-member, elected Public Service Commission regulates to varying degrees most utilities, but no longer has any oversight of railroads. Since telephone companies are cited, Hood said the commission - and perhaps the Public Utilities Staff - can continue that function.
"The question before us is what are common carriers," Hood said. "...If common carriers include electricity," the commission could continue most functions and perhaps the Public Utilities Staff could, too.
Barbour discounted much of Hood's linkage of the current issues to the state constitution, but has maintained that agencies responsible for critical functions could continue without a budget, perhaps through executive orders issued by him.
He said some of the functions of the PSC are critical.
In the meantime, Presley asked, "The question is, what do you do if a utility overcharges a rate payer during this time period?"
Robert Waites, executive director of the Public Utilities staff, said a special session needs to be called soon to settle the issue for his 30 employees.
He said his agency is "up and running, but not expending any money on purchases."
The two agencies were not funded because of a disagreement on the number of employees at the Public Service Commission. The House, at the PSC's request, wanted to add three positions - an attorney and two rate analysts. The Senate refused.
The House then blocked passage of the Public Utilities Staff budget.
The Public Utilities Staff does research for the elected three-member commission on ratepayer issues, such as rate increase requests by utilities. But under state law, the Public Utilities Staff is not answerable to the elected commission. Waites is appointed by Barbour.
Presley said the commission is accountable for the decisions it makes affecting rate payers and believes it should have its own experts to give guidance in making those decisions.
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Late Wednesday, Barbour said he had partially vetoed sections of five appropriations bills.
They included an expenditure of $7 million from the rainy day fund for community mental health facilities and a provision supported by the Mississippi State Troopers Association to protect their overtime pay.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or email@example.com.