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Group behind Medicaid expansion initiative suspends campaign

Photo courtesy of Yes on 76

Photo courtesy of Yes on 76

Just over a week after the first signatures were collected in an effort to expand Medicaid in Mississippi through a ballot initiative, ‘Yes on 76’ is suspending its campaign.

The announcement comes as the result of Friday’s Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that left the state’s initiative process in a state of flux.

“Yes on 76 is reluctantly suspending our campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in the wake of Friday’s State Supreme Court decision — until there is once again a functional ballot measure process in Mississippi,” the group said in a statement.

The ruling, which negated the medical marijuana program approved by Mississippi voters, centered around a section of Mississippi code that dictates that a ballot initiative can only be certified if a portion of the required signatures come from all five of the state’s congressional districts as they existed in 2000. Because the Legislature never acted to amend this section to reflect the loss of that fifth seat, the Supreme Court sided with the language in the Constitution.

Supported by the Mississippi Hospital Association and a collation of doctors, Initiative 76 aimed to expand Medicaid coverage to 200,000 working Mississippians making less than $18,000 a year or families of four earning less than $37,000.

In the days since the opinion was handed down, legislative leadership and other elected officials have called on Governor Tate Reeves to bring lawmakers back to the capitol for a special session to begin the process of reinstating the initiative process. ‘Yes on 76’ joined that call in their statement.

“We fully support the call for a special legislative session to restore the constitutional right of Mississippians to vote directly on issues of importance, including Medicaid expansion, and we will pursue every avenue possible to restore the rights of voters in this state,” they said.

Changing the necessary language would require a 2/3 vote in both chambers and approval by Mississippi voters. The initiative would be placed on the ballot, but at this time, it appears that may not happen until November 2022 unless a special election is set.

The organization behind the initiative urged lawmakers to discuss the expansion of Medicaid, however, Governor Tate Reeves remains adamantly against expansion, citing issues around the cost of the program.

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