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Mississippi legislature still mulling over ballot initiative process

Photo by News Mississippi

It’s been over one week since any action has been taken on a piece of legislation that would restore the ballot initiative process in Mississippi.

On February 9, legislators in the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2638, which would revise the state’s current initiative measure process to only allow lawmakers to propose amendments to the Mississippi constitution. In addition, the bill would grant voters the opportunity to propose new laws, amend, or repeal existing laws in an election after a certain number of signatures is acquired.

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.

According to Senate Accountability Chairman John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, legislators do not agree with granting voters the ability to make amendments to the state’s constitution because it prevents lawmakers from being able to modify laws if needed.

“Any ballot initiative does not need to be constitutional. It’s got to be statute only,” Polk said on The Gallo Show.

An accompanying piece of legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 533, proposes that only the legislature can propose amendments to the Mississippi constitution. The legislation, which was passed 43-4 one day before SB 2638 was approved, was received in the House nearly one week ago.

At this time, SB 2638 would require a total of about 240,000 voter signatures before the issue could be put on a ballot. Previously, residents only had to secure 107,000 signatures to have an issue included on a ballot.

“If we’re going to have a ballot initiative process, it needs to be somewhat strenuous to get an issue on the ballot. We don’t need to have a low number of people signatures required to stir Mississippi’s voting process,” Polk said. “So this proposal that we sent out requires 12 percent of the number of electors available and registered on the date of the last presidential election.”

Polk added that the Mississippi State Department of Health is still experiencing problems since the last initiative, which allowed the use of medical marijuana in the state, was improperly placed on the ballot during the prior election cycle.

“The law that we passed, which was gone over time and time again, still we’re having trouble getting it done,” Polk explained. “They’re struggling right now. There is no doubt about it. It’s not them and their ineptness, it’s the idea that it’s a big process, it requires a lot of money to fund additional people to make sure it works.”

If passed in the House, the new ballot initiative process would have to be approved by voters in November. Legislators have until March 8 to take action on either SB 2638 or SCR 533.

To see the full interview, continue watching below.

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