Proposal still alive to bring back ballot initiative but with significant changes

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 8:58 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A proposal to bring back a ballot initiative process is still alive at the State Capitol. But it looks different than what the state had before the Supreme Court struck it down. Still, the author is willing to make changes to keep it moving this session.

“I’m going to say upfront, the vehicle is not perfect,” said Sen. Tyler McCaughn. “It’s not probably where we want to be. But we do have something to work on.”

Previously, the initiative process allowed the public to bring forward changes to the State Constitution. Now, Sen. Tyler McCaughn’s proposal only includes changes to state law.

“I do feel like at the end of the day, you’re probably going to see both in some form, whether it be this year, next year, or in the years to come,” noted McCaughn.

Unless something changes, initiatives won’t go straight to a ballot after collecting signatures. They would instead go to the legislature where they could, by a two-thirds vote, make changes to the proposal before it appears on a ballot. We checked in with people who’ve been involved in signature collection for initiatives in the past to get their reactions to those changes.

“The way it’s written right now will then put a layer of bureaucracy in between that direct democracy and the actual law where the legislature is kind of sticking their nose and one more time to make sure that we didn’t do anything that they don’t like,” said Jonathan Brown, a citizen activist who ran the Initiative 65 campaign. “And I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“That’s just taking the voice away from the people, you know, once again, you know, and so I’m not I’m not for that,” added Dan Carr, Director of the Let Mississippi Vote initiative.

As currently proposed, signatures would have to be collected from 12 percent of the total registered voters as of the state’s last presidential election, at least 100 from every county and 10 from every municipality.

“It’s so cumbersome as to be completely unworkable,” said Brown. “And so that’s going to have to be modified.”

“They’re complicating the process,” described Carr. “It’s going to make it nearly impossible for Mississippians to ever put anything on the ballot.”

McCaughn says he’s committed to working with colleagues to improve the proposal. As a reminder, if the legislature comes to a final agreement on an initiative process, it will have to appear on a ballot.

“Once it’s passed out here, whenever you go, and you amend the Constitution, just like what we’re talking about. It’s got to go for the people to vote on, and so the people will actually get the right at the end of the day, to work on that end to end to decide whether it’s something they’re happy with. If it’s not, they can reject it. We’ll come back to the table and see if we can’t keep working on it.”

To read the proposal, click here for the Senate Concurrent Resolution and here for the corresponding Senate Bill.

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