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Initiatives related to abortion would...

Initiatives related to abortion would not be considered under new House proposal

By: Anne Summerhays - March 1, 2023

The Mississippi House Constitution Committee meets Tuesday, February 28, 2023.

The Mississippi House Constitution Committee amends Senate resolution but keeps the higher threshold of signatures needed for a ballot initiative to reach voters.

Lawmakers in the Mississippi House kept a bill alive on Tuesday that would restore the public ballot initiative process. However, under the latest proposal from the House Constitution Committee, initiatives related to abortion were added to the list of those items that would not be permitted for consideration.

Abortion has been outlawed in Mississippi since the implementation of the state’s trigger law following the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer in the Dobbs case which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 533 passed the Mississippi Senate in early February by a vote of 43-4 and was transmitted to the House without the abortion-related language. It requires 12% of the total qualified electors of the state as of the last presidential election evenly distributed across the state’s current number of congressional districts – four as of today – to sign an initiative.

The 12%, or nearly 240,000 signatures, is a higher threshold than the previous requirement of just over 100,000 signatures needed to move an initiative forward prior to the Mississippi Supreme Court striking down the process following the legal battle over Initiative 65 nearly two years ago.

During the 2022 legislative session, the House proposed a lesser number of required signatures, but the Senate held firm to its position of the increased requirement. The legislation died in conference as the session closed.

On Tuesday, House Constitution Committee Chairman State Rep. Fred Shanks (R) said that while a lower number is still his preference, the committee passed the bill out to continue to work on the legislation this year in hopes of reaching an agreement. Shanks noted that the final product is likely to come down to conference negotiations once again.

Not all members were pleased with the development, particularly the strike all amendment’s addition of the abortion-related restriction. House Democrats voiced their opposition on the restriction, saying that the people should be able to consider issues important to them no matter the subject.

In addition to the added abortion-related restriction, state constitutional amendments would not be considered through the proposed initiative process. That is another change from the previous initiative process prior to the 2021 ruling of the state Supreme Court. Other initiative restrictions include potential changes to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), amending local laws, and those measures that would specifically appropriate funds.

To pass, the legislation needs a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and would then be placed on a future statewide ballot for consideration by the citizens of Mississippi in a November General Election. That could come in 2024 if lawmakers reach an agreement.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: