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Legislation to restore Mississippi’s ballot initiative process dies on calendar

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The last piece of legislation that would have restored Mississippi’s ballot initiative process this session has died on the calendar following Thursday’s deadline to invite conference.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 533 proposed that only the legislature can make amendments to the Mississippi constitution, as well as restricting residents from placing issues regarding abortion or PERs on the ballot.

In previous years, Mississippi’s ballot initiative process allowed residents to propose both laws and constitutional amendments before it was stripped by the Mississippi Supreme Court in May 2021.

Since then, lawmakers have attempted to restore the ballot initiative process throughout Mississippi, but disagreements between the two chambers on how many signatures should be required for issues to be placed on the ballot have prevented any legislation from being passed.

Under the House’s amended version of the resolution, voters would need to collect 106,000 signatures, modifying the Senate’s original requirement of 240,000.

Similar debates occurred during the previous session, with the House aligning with stipulations that were in place prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to require at least 12 percent of voters from the most recent gubernatorial election. As for the Senate, lawmakers vouched to raise that number to 12 percent of registered voters from the most recent presidential election.

Representative Fred Shanks, R-Brandon, an outspoken advocate for restoring the process, predicted similar debates would occur before the 2023 legislative session began.

“We were both pretty firm on our respective sides,” Shanks said in late November. “It would have been unattainable to have such a big threshold of signatures. If you increased it that much, the only initiative, at that point, would be a large corporation with money to spend.”

The resolution’s author, Senator Tyler McCaughn, R-Newton, said that he expects similar legislation will reappear in later sessions, adding that he wasn’t opposed to reintroducing the bill in 2024.

“I am not opposed to reintroduction. That is something I will, as soon as the drafting attorneys give us the okay to discuss it with them again,” McCaughn explained. “I think you’re going to see something very similar to what we ended up with filed again.”

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