Bill to allow recall of elected city leaders fails on narrow House vote

Rep. Shanda Yates
Rep. Shanda Yates(State of Mississippi)
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:35 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill that some say was authored to make it easier to remove Jackson’s mayor from office has failed on a House floor vote.

Thursday, the House voted 53-60 to kill H.B. 370, which would authorize the removal of city officials using the same method used to remove county elected leaders.

The bill was authored by Rep. Shanda Yates and would have amended state statute to give citizens the ability to petition the governor to remove elected municipal leaders, which currently cannot be done under state statute.

Under the measure, 30 percent of voters in the municipality would have had to sign the petition, which would then be submitted to the governor. The governor would then be required to convene a removal council made up of chancery judges to determine if there is a basis for the removal. If judges determine there is a basis, a recall election would be set.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds said recalls should be in the hands of the people, not a special council.

“The Sanhedrin was a special council. They were not elected by the populace,” he said. “This is too serious to be taken lightly.”

Rep. Ed Blackmon said the state has had the power to enact a recall for years but has failed to do so.

He also called into question the idea of a removal council, which would give the governor the ability to remove elected leaders they don’t like.

“What kind of governor are we going to have in Mississippi? It’s going to be a white Republican who will have the power to convene a body of three chancery judges from anywhere in the state to listen to the gripes and moans about what the official hadn’t been doing or should have done. And then that group of judges can decide, ‘we agree that’s not how I would have done it. So, therefore, the person is out,’” he said.

“It’s convoluted. It’s nonsensical. It doesn’t make any sense at all unless you want to be vindictive and cause problems for the person you don’t like that’s in office.”

Many thought the bill was aimed specifically at Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

Yates, who represents Northeast Jackson, says the bill was not targeting any leader, and that she drew it up after hearing from several of her constituents.

Yates reiterated that the removal committee would only determine that there’s a basis to remove a person from office and that an election would have to be held.

“None of the people that spoke to you this morning have apparently read the actual bill,” she said. “If anybody would have bothered to read the piece of legislation that is before you, we could have saved an hour this morning.”

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