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Restoration of Mississippi ballot...

Restoration of Mississippi ballot initiative process dies in the Senate

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 23, 2023

The Senate did not bring the measure up on Thursday, leaving it to die on the calendar.

The people of Mississippi will not have a chance to reinstate the ballot initiative process this year after lawmakers allowed the only bill left alive that could have done so die on the calendar. The effort met a similar fate last year.

On Thursday, which was a deadline day for the bill, the Senate did not bring up SCR533, ultimately killing the bill for this year’s session. There is no other vehicle that the ballot initiative process could be restored through in this current session.

Senator John Polk (R), who handled the bill, said they chose to let it die on the calendar because the two chambers were too far apart on the issues for conference to be productive.

“We were so far apart on some of the issues that there was no way we would ever get to a conclusion that supplied everyone’s needs and wants,” said Senator Polk. Polk did say he expected the issue to come back up in 2024.

“It’s not dead, dead, dead, just dead for this year,” said Polk.

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said the move came because a number of lawmakers have different opinions on restoring the process.

“I have consistently said I am in favor of an initiative process in Mississippi. I trust the voters of the state, both in who they elect to office and on policy matters,” said Hosemann in a statement. “A number of Republicans in the Senate have a different opinion on the initiative issue. This is the legislative process and we will continue that process.”

The move caught some House leadership by surprise.

“I’m surprised,” said State Representative Jason White (R). “Our people, specifically in the House, their constituents have expressed a great desire for our ballot initiative to be reinstated.”

Speaker Pro Tem Jason White (R)

White said many members in the House were disappointed to see it die after several attempts to compromise with the Senate’s original proposal.

In discussions on the bill, Senator Polk was adamant about the process only remaining statutory and requiring signatures from 12 percent of registered voters in each Congressional district in order to certify a ballot initiative. The move would have raised the required signatures necessary to roughly 240,000.

Even after an amendment was offered in the House to lower that number back to the original requirements – close to 107,000 – White said the House indicated to Senate leadership they would work to find a happy medium between the two numbers.

“We had indicated from our original bill that we were willing to move up if that was the sticking point,” said White.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R) also shared concern that the Senate did not pass the resolution.

“For two years now, the House has passed the bill reinstating the initiative process as close as we could to the way it was in the original language. Obviously, they [Senate] didn’t agree with that. It’s unfortunate that the whole process died,” said Speaker Gunn.  

Gunn said it is unclear right now how the public will respond to such a bill dying again. He said he hopes lawmakers continue to work throughout the year to find a way to restore this process.

There is no other mechanism for this particular issue to be revived before the end of the 2023 session.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: