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Mississippi legislators starting their new 4-year term

January 6, 2020 GMT
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, right, confers with Republican Secretary of State-elect Michael Watson, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The start of the four-month long 2020 session of the state legislature begins at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 7. Watson, a former legislator, will be among several statewide elected officials that will be sworn into office on Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, right, confers with Republican Secretary of State-elect Michael Watson, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. The start of the four-month long 2020 session of the state legislature begins at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 7. Watson, a former legislator, will be among several statewide elected officials that will be sworn into office on Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers will be sworn in Tuesday to begin their four-year term with Republicans maintaining control of both the House and the Senate.

The opening day will be filled with formalities.

Members of the House of Representatives will elect Republican Philip Gunn to serve a third consecutive term as speaker. They also will choose a new speaker pro tempore, the second-ranking leader of the 122-member House.

Republican Rep. Jason White of West is expected to easily win the vote to become pro tem. He will succeed Republican Greg Snowden, who held the post two terms and was defeated in the party primary in August.

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Republican Tate Reeves is completing his second term as lieutenant governor, and he will preside over the 52-member Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday. The next lieutenant governor, Republican Delbert Hosemann, will be inaugurated Thursday, along with most other statewide elected officials. Reeves’ inauguration as governor is Jan. 14.

Senators on Tuesday will elect a new Senate president pro tempore because Republican Gray Tollison, who held that job in 2019, did not seek reelection to the Senate. His successor as second-in-command of the Senate is expected to be longtime Republican Sen. Dean Kirby of Pearl.

Among the new lawmakers taking office is Democratic Sen. Sarita Simmons of Cleveland, who was elected to fill the seat long held by her father, Willie Simmons. He is being sworn in Tuesday as one of three state transportation commissioners.

Republican Sen. Melanie Sojourner of Natchez is returning to the seat she previously held. Sojourner defeated longtime Democratic Sen. Bob Dearing in the 2011 election, then Dearing defeated her in 2015. He didn’t seek reelection in 2019.

Legislative sessions are scheduled to last four months during the first year of a term and three months during other years. However, Gunn has said he hopes legislators can shave at least a couple of weeks off the four-month session.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.