The House also voted to give $8.2 million to community mental health centers — an issue that was not on the special session agenda controlled by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.
Barbour last week vetoed $7 million in spending for the 15 community mental health centers, which provide outpatient services. He said he did it because lawmakers had taken too much money out of the state's financial reserves.
Health advocates have warned that people who are mentally ill could be put into county jails to await space in state treatment facilities.
"That's an abomination against God is what that is," said House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.
Only the governor can call a special session, and he is supposed to tell lawmakers which issues they may consider. Barbour did not put funding for community mental health centers on the agenda for the session that started Friday. House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, ruled that the House could consider mental health funding because it is part of the overall $6 billion budget.
It was not immediately clear whether the Republican-led Senate would consider the mental health funding or whether it would accept the new jobs for the Public Service Commission. Barbour has said he opposes expanding the state payroll because of the tight economy.
Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, said the three elected members of the Public Service Commission deserve to have enough staff members to help them do their jobs properly as they decide whether to let utility companies increase — or decrease — rates.
"They want to make a right and just decision. But they want to have the material in front of them, the right advice in front of them, to make that decision," said Sullivan, who's vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Legislators were meeting in their second special session in two weeks to try to finish the state budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.
The Public Service Commission and the related Public Utilities Staff were the only parts of Mississippi government left unfunded during a three-day special session that ended at midnight June 30. Spending plans for the two agencies died because of the dispute about staffing for the PSC.
Most employees from the PSC and the Public Utilities Staff were sent home until budgets are resolved.
The director of the Public Utilities Staff is appointed by the governor. The agency monitors utility companies' finances and evaluates the companies' requests for rate changes, then sends its findings to the three elected members of the Public Service Commission.
Commissioners Lynn Posey and Brandon Presley, who are Democrats, and Leonard Bentz, who is a Republican, are relatively new to their jobs. They say they need more employees to help them analyze information received from the Public Utilities Staff.
The PSC currently has only one attorney. Commissioners have said that in most other states, utility regulators have more than one person to offer legal guidance.
If Barbour vetoes the PSC budget bill, it would take a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to overturn his veto. The House passed the bill by less than a two-thirds margin.
The bills are House Bills 1, 2 and 3.