Ballot initiative proposal survives latest deadline but with changes, including restrictions on topics

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 6:52 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If the legislative leaders get their way, you’ll get an initiative process, but it won’t look anything like the one we had before the Supreme Court struck it down.

You could only change state laws rather than the constitution. And they may take some topics off the table.

You may need to collect more signatures if an initiative process returns.

“Last year, we were sticking to our guns at it was about 105-6 thousand signatures, and that’s where it all kind of fell apart,” explained Rep. Fred Shanks.

The Senate wanted more.

“The number of signatures has always bothered me,” noted Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, who supports a higher signature threshold.

And the House is playing ball, for now, keeping the higher number of John Hancocks at more than 240-thousand.

“We’re trying to find an agreement with them as to just exactly where that threshold should be,” said Speaker Philip Gunn.

Those who’ve done signature collection for previous initiatives point out that you’d have to get much more than the stated number because not every signature gets verified.

“Just setting the bar so high that it’s dang near impossible for an average Mississippian voter to affect the process that doesn’t accomplish the task,” said Initiative 65 organizer Jonathan Brown. “They they have not restored our right to an initiative with this version of the amendment.”

The most significant change in the House version that passed out of committee Tuesday is a restriction on what topics can’t be filed as potential referendum.

“To include a statement that the referendum process cannot be used for undo abortion,” described Gunn. “And that’s something I think it’s vitally important to this bill.”

“It just demonstrates that the legislature is very reticent to give up any power whatsoever,” added Jonathan Brown. “And so even in this latest amendment, they’re singling out issues that they don’t want the people to be able to touch. And so I think that goes against the spirit of, of, you know, the whole initiative process.”

But you’d get the final say on whether the legislative proposal is one you’re willing to accept.

“If we can get that moved out and get it off our floor, and to the governor’s office, the people of Mississippi can see this on the ballot in November, and then they can vote on it,” said Sen. Tyler McCaughn.

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