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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House passes several Senate bills

With March 11th being the deadline for the House to take action on bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate, several significant issues were settled.  From the House of Representatives Weekly Summary, the following issues were approved:

Senate Bill 2389 is an Article V vehicle to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the ability of Congress to raise the debt limit without states’ approval. The bill was passed by the House but not without some contention between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Bill 2695, the “Special Needs Bill,” was passed to set-up a pilot program to give parents of special needs students allotments (or vouchers up to $6,500) to can seek the educational opportunities appropriate and best suited for their children’s specific situation.

Senate Bill 2161 establishes a commission to study Common Core State Standards, determine suitability for Mississippi school children, and present recommendations to the State Board of Education.

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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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Busy April Fools’ Day for State Legislature

The Mississippi Legislature had a busy day and passed several bills despite some significant opposition to several of them.  Below are the bills that have been sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for signature with some comments from Twitter.

Senate Bill 2681, Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, received significant opposition and was labeled as discriminatory.  A similar bill in Arizona raised national attention but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.  Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) had several interesting comments:

SB 2681 wasn’t passed without some objections:

Remarkably, House Bill 1400, which prohibits abortion after 20-weeks, passed both the House and Senate and Gov. Bryant is ready to sign into law:

What some are calling a compromise, House Bill 504, Teacher Pay Raise, will provide for pay raises based on meritorious achievement.  Few are entirely satisfied but many are thankful to have passed something including Mississippi Delta Sen. Derrick Simmons:

Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula authored and pushed forward Senate Bill 2579, Marine Resources and Accountability and Reorganization Act, to reform the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) after widespread corruption was discovered recently in the organization.

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