Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Michael Watson have set a date for a special election to fill the Mississippi House of Representatives District 87 seat that was recently vacated with the resignation of former representative Billy Andrews of Purvis.
A Writ of Election issued on April 9 states the election will be held on Nov. 3 with a qualifying deadline set for Sept. 14. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on election day, and anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be entitled to cast a vote.
The election will be presided over by the county election commissioners. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the special election - in other words, 50 percent of the vote plus one vote - a runoff election will be held Nov. 24.
Andrews, who served as a Lamar County judge before being elected to the House, retired effective March 31 after saying Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn was going against state law by blocking him and other members of the Legislature from receiving their state government pensions while serving in the House.
"In spite of an Attorney General's opinion and (Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi) regulations allowing PERS retirees to serve in the Legislature, Philip Gunn has blocked all efforts to comply with the existing law and PERS regulations," Andrews said in his resignation letter. "As a result, my PERS benefits have been suspended and the House of Representatives has refused to pay me less than normal salary and benefits. The end result is that I cannot continue to serve."
Andrews also said he and other House members introduced legislation that would allow any legislator to waive all or part of his or her salary, but Gunn had the Appropriation Committee meet and kill the bill, with all members of the Republican caucus - except one - voting against it.
For several years, PERS regulations prohibited elected officials at the state level from receiving salaries and pensions at the same time, but in November 2018, then-Attorney General Jim Hood issued a nonbinding legal opinion contradicting that rule. Approximately a year later, the PERS board concurred with Hood's opinion, implementing a rule that said state retirees could collect both salaries and pensions while serving in the Legislature.
Gunn recently told the Associated Press he is going by a law that was passed in the early 1950s.
"It's not Philip Gunn enforcing anything or making them do anything," he said. "I'm simply following the law. The law has been in place since 1952."