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House passes ballot initiative bill that poses restrictions, higher signature count

In the latest move to restore Mississippi’s ballot initiative process, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to allow residents to once again be able to propose law changes but not without a few legislative caveats.

House Concurrent Resolution 11, authored by Rep. Price Wallace (R-Mendenhall), would require a minimum of eight percent of total qualified voters – or 166,000 based on the 2023 election – to sign for an issue to be placed on the ballot. The stipulations presented, though, are that the people would not be able to make changes to the state constitution, abortion laws, PERs, or local laws. Additionally, they would have to present how much it would cost if an initiative requires state spending. The resolution would also allow the legislature to introduce an amendment to a proposed initiative that would simultaneously appear on the ballot.

While Republicans carried the 80-39 final vote, Democrats vehemently opposed the bill due to the restrictions set forth. House Minority Leader Robert Johnson (D-Johnson), who introduced a different bill to restore the process to its original form, called Wallace’s legislation a workaround for lawmakers.

“Here it is right here,” Johnson said, holding up his own version of a ballot initiative process bill – one that currently sits in limbo. “You know what happened to that bill? No, because I don’t either. It’s not before us. It’s not in any committee. I don’t know where it is.”

“But now we have a bill here today that allegedly restores the right of the initiative process to the people, and in that bill, it does everything but restore that right. It prohibits what you can talk about. It increases the signatures, and it says if the legislature doesn’t like what you voted for…they can overturn it.”

Rep. Fred Shanks (R-Brandon), who chairs the Constitution Committee which HCR 11 went through, disagreed with Johnson. Shanks, instead, called the resolution a “vehicle that we are just trying to get to the Senate,” where further amendments could be made.

Democrats opposed that mindset, arguing that the House should not merely send a makeshift bill to their

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