Voters have OK’d three ballot initiatives in state history. Now, lawmakers have written all into law.
Published 3:00 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022
All three of the citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives that have been ratified by Mississippi voters have since been approved by state lawmakers, ensuring the laws cannot be struck down as a result of a landmark May 2021 Supreme Court ruling that ended the initiative process.
Since voters approved the now-defunct initiative process in 1992, just three initiatives have made it all the way through the process to gain the approval of voters. They are:
- A photo identification requirement to vote.
- The legalization of medical marijuana.
- A prohibition on the government taking private property for the use of another private entity.
Late in the 2022 session, the Legislature approved and Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law a bill that has the practical effect of preventing the taking of private property by the government for the use of another private entity.
The bill placed in state law essentially the same language approved by voters in 2011 after the Farm Bureau Federation raised enough signatures through the initiative process to place the issue on the ballot.
The reason Farm Bureau and others supported the Legislature passing the eminent domain bill is the May 2021 Supreme Court decision saying the state’s initiative process was invalid.
That Supreme Court decision came after voters in November 2020 approved an initiative legalizing medical marijuana. But the medical marijuana initiative process was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2021 at the same time the entire initiative process was ruled invalid. Earlier, in the 2022 session, a bill was passed and signed into the law to enact a medical marijuana program.
The Supreme Court struck down the medical marijuana initiative and the entire initiative process because the process required the mandated number of signatures to place an issue on the ballot be gathered equally from the five congressional districts as they existed in 1990. The state lost a congressional seat in 2000.
Some feared that because the initiative process had been struck down by the Supreme Court, a future court ruling also could invalidate the eminent domain initiative. The bill passed during the 2022 session alleviates those concerns.
Voters in 2011 also approved an initiative requiring a government-issued photo identification to vote. Voter ID was not viewed as being in jeopardy because of the May 2021 Supreme Court ruling since it was approved by the Legislature after it was approved by voters in 2011.
While all three initiatives are now safe through action of the Legislature in spite of the Supreme Court ruling, the state no longer has an initiative process. The Legislature could not agree in the 2022 session on language to revive the process.