It was just a matter of time before Initiative 42 proponents trotted out a judge sympathetic to their cause in an effort to redirect the current dialogue.
Enter former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George Carlson.
Carlson appears in an ad for 42 for Better Schools saying, “I know the law and I know what a judge can and cannot do.”
He goes on to say, “Initiative 42 does not give a Hinds County judge authority over school spending. 42 gives funds to local schools and they decide how to spend it.”
Since the language in 42 has yet to be adjudicated I’m not sure how Carlson can be so certain in his comments. Given his background, he should know that lawsuits against the state do come before a Hinds County judge, and if you take the language of 42 on its own merits, how he can claim local school districts will receive more funds and directly decide where those dollars are spent is beyond me. That notion isn’t in 42 at all.
It’s almost as if there’s an agenda behind the scenes and he doesn’t want to tip his hand.
You see, George Carlson is well acquainted with those behind Initiative 42 and the education lobby, chief among them Ronnie Musgrove.
Carlson, a Batesville native, was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2001. The relationship between the two dates back a number of years, centering around First Security Bank, where each shared a vested interest. Musgrove was the bank attorney with offices in the same building. Carlson has been listed as a principal holder of common stock and later on the bank’s board of directors.
This ad with Carlson would make the uninformed believe that a random retired judge just got sick of the anti-42 rhetoric and decided to jump in and clear the air but there clearly appears to be a backstory that Better Jobs Better Schools hasn’t told quite yet.
The oath taken by Mississippi Supreme Court Justices calls for impartiality while on the bench. Once retired, not so much.
It was shown yesterday that former Justice George Carlson has deep ties to Democrat interests, making his ad on behalf of Initiative 42 not all that surprising to those in political circles.
Sitting Mississippi Supreme Court Justices, however, cannot be partisan and must offer opinions based on law, not theory.
Justice Mike Randolph opined on the courts’ role in Initiative 42 in the Shipman case (you remember, the lawsuit Initiative 42 proponents filled over the alternative ballot title) this summer:
¶51. Without passing judgment on the wisdom or folly of Measure 42, nothing on the ballot informs voters that (1) voting for this proposed amendment creates a new right for children to an “educational opportunity;” or (2) any child’s right to an “educational opportunity” shall be enforced by a chancellor if an attorney can convince the chancellor that the amount of money budgeted for education by the Legislature fails to provide an “adequate and efficient system” (whatever that means). Nothing on the ballot informs the voter that if Measure 42 becomes law, the newly created right can be asserted against the State (which includes the judicial, executive, and legislative branches), even though control of the state’s purse strings is and has always been with the Legislature, the same magistracy of our state government given the power to “provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools.” Miss. Const. art. 8, § 201.
¶52. Voters are not informed that, under our existing Constitution, the Legislature has discretion in funding education—determining the amount to be spent, balancing those expenditures with the demands of other critical government services (e.g., public safety, economic development/job creation, transportation, healthcare (physical and mental), inter alia). If approved, Measure 42 could require education to be funded to an unspecified level, without consideration of unknown fiscal burdens to provide other essential government services. Our present Constitution does not empower courts to determine the fiscal policies of our State, clearly a political question.
¶53. Measure 42 does not define “adequate and efficient.”7 Only the Legislature has the power to collect revenue and appropriate funding for the state’s public schools. See Miss. Const. art. 4, §§ 69-70. Courts have little or no training or experience in such matters, and more importantly, have no specific constitutional authority to decide how to distribute the state’s limited resources. See Miss. Const. art. 1, § 2 (“No person or collection of persons, being one or belonging to one of these departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others.”).
7 While the proponents of Measure 42 defined “adequate and efficient” in their initiative petition (“For purposes of the initiative, a minimum standard of contemporary adequate education is described by the funding formula of the current version of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and an efficient education is one that will, among other things, enable Mississippi’s public school graduates to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states.”), the proponent’s definitions will not be on the ballot.