/No action yet on Mississippi ballot initiative fix, but that’s about to change

No action yet on Mississippi ballot initiative fix, but that’s about to change

The Republican speaker requested the special session to be held specifically to reenact this initiative process. In his statement, he did not mention medical marijuana. Gunn stated that “We 100% believe” in the ability of citizens to use the initiative process for their opinions on public policy on May 17, 2021. “If the Legislature fails to act on a matter that the people of Mississippi desire, then the people will need a mechanism for changing the law.” “I support the governor calling for us to a special meeting to protect this fundamental right of the people.” Reeves didn’t call a special conference. The Legislature did not pass a medical marijuana bill until the end of the regular session this week. Now, it is only a matter of time before the law of the State can be signed by the governor. Nearly a month into the session, the legislators from each chamber have also voted on teacher salary, critical race theory and vaccine mandates. Equal pay was also a key issue. It has been nothing but crickets since the reintroduction of the initiative that allows people to bypass the legislature and gather signatures to put an issue on the ballot. Fred Shanks (R-Brandon), Constitution Chair, said that this is about to change. He stated that he is working on a proposal for restoring the initiative process. He plans to bring the proposal up in his Constitution Committee over the next week. There seems to be less urgency in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is the Senate’s President. He says that he supports the restoration of the initiative process. He has referred legislation to the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee and Constitution Committee. Although it is common to double refer legislation, it is much more difficult to move bills through legislative process when they are in two different committees. Retired Senate Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Chairman John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, has kept his cards close to his chest in terms of reinstating this initiative. Polk stated that he believes the initiative should be done in Mississippi’s best interest. “I’m looking at the bills to determine if they are doing the best for Mississippi,” Polk said. While Polk doesn’t offer much detail, it seems that most legislators, Gunn and Hosemann have decided any voter initiative should be used to amend, or create, state law, not the Mississippi Constitution. If successful, initiative sponsors were able to submit their proposals to the Mississippi Constitution through the process that was established in the early 1990s. Most likely, the new proposal will allow Mississippians amend general law. Because it is easier to amend general law than the Constitution, legislative leaders support the use of the initiative for general. To amend the Mississippi Constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote from both chambers of Congress and the majority approval of voters on a state ballot. The Constitution could also be amended via initiative, if the necessary number of signatures were collected to place the issue on the ballot before the Supreme Court decision. Shanks’s proposal to the Constitution Committee would allow initiative sponsor to collect signatures (12% of the total from last governor’s elections) in order to put an issue on the ballot for general law change. The general law cannot be modified by the Legislature after it has been approved by voters. This is unless the Legislature votes in an emergency situation. It usually takes a simple majority vote of both chambers to amend general law. Remember that the Legislature must pass the initiative if it is to be reintroduced. This will require approval from the voters and a two-thirds vote in both chambers. There will be healthy doubts about whether the legislators will reinstate citizens’ rights to put issues on the ballot. According to Caroline Avakian (director of strategic communications at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center), a national pro initiative nonprofit, the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling was the first time that a state’s judiciary has revoked an entire initiative process. In the 1920s, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned an earlier initiative process that had been approved by state voters. The Legislature didn’t give this right back to the voters until the 1990s after that decision. The ballot initiative supporters hope it won’t take 70 more years to restore the process.