Vote Tuesday!

Don’t forget to vote in the 2015 General Election Tuesday, November 3rd. This important election will not only determine all state-wide, regional, and county-wide offices, but also whether the state constitution is amended with respect to education.

Make you voice heard and vote!

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Study Initiative 42 and 42A Before Nov. 3rd Election

Initiative 42 and the Legislative Alternative 42A are a ballot initiatives to change Mississippi’s Constitution with respect to public education. The ballot is long and detailed so every voter must study this issue before voting November 3rd. The specific changes to the State Constitution can be studied here.

The anticipated results or consequences vary widely.  Proponents say Initiative 42 will require the Legislature to fully fund MAEP (the State’s funding formula for public schools) and phase it in over a number of years based upon state tax revenues.  Opponents say Initiative 42 will seriously impact the state budget, reduce other state services including public universities and community colleges, and could tie-up all kinds of education issues in the courts.

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Gov. Bryant approves ballot language for state constitutional amendment

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2015 Constitutional Amendment Ballot Language [Click to view larger]

The biggest issue on the November ballot is the proposed state constitutional amendment for public school funding. With competing alternatives on the ballot, Initiative 42 and Initiative 42A, voters will make two choices: whether to amend the state constitution at all and, if approved, whether to amend with the language of Initiative 42 or Initiative 42A.

Every voter with vote on BOTH issues regardless of whether they vote “Yes” or “No” to amend the constitution. In the language of the ballot, voters will first choose “for approval of either initiative” or “against both initiative[s].” In the event “approval of either initiative” receives a majority of the vote, all voters must vote on the second issue “for Initiative Measure No. 42” or “for Alternative Measure No. 42 A.”

Geoff Pender filed the following report in The Clarion-Ledger to describe the ballot approval process and the constitutional amendment choices:

Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday approved the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election, including two dueling constitutional amendments on school funding.

Voters will have to pay attention to their ballots in November – it gets a little tricky around the education funding initiatives.

“It is a complicated ballot, because we have two votes (on the initiatives),” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “I trust voters will read both of those explanations on the ballot and make an informed decision.”

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Judge changes title of MAEP ballot alternative

In response to a lawsuit that the legislature’s alternative to the Initiative 42 ballot measure was confusing, Hinds county Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd selected the new title for Initiative 42-A from a list provided by the opponents of 42-A: “Should the Legislature establish and support effective public schools, but not provide a mechanism to enforce that right?”

The new title for 42-A effectively changes the intent of the alternative by stipulating public education as a right (not unlike 42). As summarized by House Democratic Leader Rep. Bobby Moak in support of renaming the alternative, “It was only about the title, because the title is [what] will appear on the ballot when voters go to vote in November.”

The original Initiative 42-A Ballot Title simply asked, “Shall the Legislature be required to provide for the establishment and support of an effective system of free public schools?” The ballot summary for Initiative 42-A remains unchanged: “This constitutional amendment is proposed as a legislative alternative measure to Initiative Measure No. 42 and would require the Legislature to provide, by general law, for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.”

The Initiative 42 Ballot Title asks, “Should the State be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” But hidden in the ballot summary which will not be on the ballot, Initiative 42 establishes public education as a fundamental right and grants authority to the chancery courts to determine and enforce adequate funding.

Currently, the state legislature determines how much to fund public schools along with other budget priorities.

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Push for legalized marijuana in Mississippi has begun

If Mississippi for Cannabis can obtain 107,216 signatures by October, the legalization of marijuana would be placed on the 2016 ballot in Mississippi. The Mississippi for Cannabis registered the initiative with the Secretary of State as Initiative 48. If Initiative 48 reaches the ballot and is passed, it would amend the state constitution to regulate the drug like alcohol, the Governor would also be required to pardon all “persons convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes,” and the first 3 years of tax revenues would be earmarked for education.

The following specific language would be added to the state constitution:

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MAEP Initiative 42 on 2015 Ballot

By gathering enough signatures, MAEP proponents have placed Initiative 42 on the 2015 General Election ballot. Per the Secretary of State press release, “Initiative #42 seeks to amend the State Constitution to require the full funding of education and grant the Chancery Court of Hinds County the power to enforce the full funding of education with appropriate injunctive relief.”

Currently, the Mississippi State Constitution entrusts education funding to the State Legislature.  Section 201, states “The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.”

The 2015 ballot will simply read, “Should the state be required to provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?”

However, Initiative 42 will amend Section 201 of State Constitution to read as follows: “To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”

MAEP is a formula adopted by the State Legislature (MS Code § 37-151-7) in 1997 to define funding levels for public education in Mississippi. Of the $6 Billion 2014 state budget, education received about $2.4 Billion.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding and has been fully funded twice since it’s adoption.

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Right to Hunt & Fish on November Ballot

In addition to the elected officials that are on the ballot Nov. 4th, there is one statewide ballot measure proposing a constitutional amendment to preserve hunting and fishing as rights in the State of Mississippi.

The language on the ballot will read as follows:

This proposed constitutional amendment establishes hunting, fishing and the harvesting of wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, as a constitutional right subject only to such regulations and restrictions that promote wildlife conservation and management as the Legislature may prescribe by general law.

Yes ___
No ___

Very little opposition has been raised to the initiative (17 other states have similar amendments) but PETA and the National Council of State Legislatures believe hunting is on the decline although Mississippi is not one of those states.  The amendment will not affect the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks from licensing and regulating but is expected to preserve outdoor space for hunting and fishing.

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