Legislative alternative to MAEP initiative passed - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Legislative alternative to MAEP initiative passed

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Voters will have more options on November's ballot. Both are results of fights over public education funding.

At the same time Senators debated the legislative alternative, a Hinds Chancery judge held a hearing for the school funding lawsuit filed by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. The judge has not yet handed down a decision in the case.

But the Constitutional amendment issue was on a fast track through both chambers at the Capitol. Lawmakers took just two days to approve an alternative to Initiative 42.

Initiative 42 strikes out the references to the Legislature. The final sentence gives enforcement power to chancery courts of the state. That consequence is one of the concerns some lawmakers have.

"It gives one Hinds County chancery judge the authority to overrule the legislature as it relates to funding, bonds, consolidations of your schools without input of the voters or the legislature," explained Senate Education chairman Senator Gray Tollison.

Supporters of 42 say it's really the legislature's choice.

"If the legislature chooses not to fully fund, not to abide by the constitution, then the recourse is to go to court," said Patsy Brumfield. "Three sentences of the Constitutional amendment. That is the third. Is that the courts will enforce the legislature's responsibility to fund our public schools."

The Legislative alternative says: "The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools." The only new language there is "of an effective system". 

House Education chairman John Moore feared that the original language would be trouble.

"We really don't want to have a runaway train in our court system over school funding," Moore said.

Voters will now see Initiative 42 and Initiative 42-A on November's ballot. 

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