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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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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Background Info for Candidates for Gulf Coast Chancery Courts

The Neshoba Democrat posted the following background information on Chancery Court judges and their opponents in the upcoming general election on November 4th:

Eight Chancery Court District (Hancock, Harrison, and Stone Counties):

In Place 2, incumbent Jennifer Schloegel, daughter of former Gulfport mayor George Schloegel, is seeking a second term. She defeated four opponents in 2010 with 51 percent to avoid a run-off. She faces a challenge by civil litigation attorney Stephen Benvenutti of Bay St. Louis. Schloegel made headlines this year presiding over the open records lawsuit against Auditor Stacey Pickering by the Sun Herald seeking documents from the Department of Marine Resources that state and federal officials were using as part of their investigations.

In Place 3, incumbent Sandy Steckler, a former state senator, faces a challenge from former Biloxi city attorney Ronnie Cochran.  Steckler was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Sixteenth Chancery Court District (Jackson, George, and Greene Counties):

In Place 1, incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. is being opposed by Jackson County Board of Supervisors Attorney Paula S. Yancey.  Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and $2,500 fine for Harris for violating the due process rights of three people he charged with contempt.  Yancey has served as Jackson County’s Board Attorney and formerly as county administrator.

Place 3 incumbent Chuck Bordis, IV is being challenged by Michael Fondren and Gary Roberts. Bordis was appointed by Governor Haley Barbour in 2009 after his predecessor, Randy Pierce, won election to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Bordis was unopposed in 2010. Fondren is an attorney in Pascagoula and Roberts is a Gautier city judge whose now ex-wife was involved in a scandal which resulted in the resignation of American Red Cross President Mark Everson.

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Mississippi’s 2014 General Election Set

Prepare now for the 2014 General Election.  As a mid-term election, voter turn-out is generally lower meaning every vote is even more important.

The following are the candidates for the various offices affecting Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.  All links are to the candidates’ campaign websites, if available.  Additional information on each candidate can be found by searching The Blessings of Liberty.

U.S. Senate:

U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District:

Several judicial positions are up for election this cycle as well.  Below are the listings for the coastal counties with Circuit Court judgeships on the ballot:

District 2 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone):

  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 1:  Lisa P. Dodson (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 2:
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 3:  Larry Bourgeois (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 4:  Roger T. Clark (unopposed)

District 19 (George, Greene, Jackson):

  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 1:  Robert P. “Bob” Krebs (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 2:  Kathy King Jackson (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 3:  Dale Harkey (unopposed)

Below are the candidates for the coastal counties’ Chancery Courts:

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone):

District 16 (George, Greene, Jackson):

  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 1:
  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 2:  Jaye A. Bradley (unopposed)
  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 3:
    • Michael L. Fondren
    • Gary L. Roberts

Jackson County is holding a special election for a new sheriff to replace Mike Byrd who resigned in 2013; more information if available here.  Three Mississippi Court of Appeals judgeships are also up for election but none that represent the coastal counties (District 5).

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