AP

Mississippi could renew initiatives but ban them on abortion

Feb 28, 2023, 5:59 PM | Updated: 6:01 pm

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi residents might get back the ability to enact public policy through statewide ballot initiatives, but people would be banned from using the process to change abortion laws.

Republican lawmakers advanced a proposal Tuesday that would strip voters of their ability to launch abortion measures under a revived ballot initiative process.

Starting in the 1990s, Mississippi had an initiative process that allowed people to put proposed state constitutional amendments on the ballot. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the process was invalid because it required an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. The state had dropped to four districts after the 2000 Census, but initiative language was never updated.

Since the 2021 ruling, Mississippi voters have lacked a process for addressing issues by launching initiatives. The restriction on abortion ballot measures is the latest update to a resolution moving through the Legislature that would restore the initiative process. This would allow proposed laws, not constitutional amendments, to go on the ballot.

The initial version of the resolution had no provisions related to abortion; those were added Tuesday. Rep. Fred Shanks, the Republican chair of the House Constitution Committee, told reporters there was concern among GOP lawmakers that Mississippi voters might use the initiative process to expand abortion access, which is now tightly restricted.

“There was some concern about it, yeah,” Shanks said.

In 2011, Mississippi voters rejected a “personhood” initiative that would have defined life as beginning at fertilization. The measure was promoted as a way to eliminate abortion rights, and its failure surprised many in the deeply conservative state.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away constitutional protections for abortion based on a Mississippi case. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the decision would allow abortion laws to be settled through the democratic process.

“Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

If the proposed new initiative process is adopted, state legislators would be the only people in Mississippi with the power to change abortion laws.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in June, voters in six states have either expanded or protected existing abortion rights through statewide ballot initiatives. Kansas resoundingly protected abortion rights in August, and five other states have either enshrined those rights or rejected constitutional restrictions on abortion.

To put an initiative on the statewide ballot in Mississippi, petitions would need to be signed over a 12-month period by at least 12% of the state’s registered voters as of the last presidential election. Shanks said that would be about 240,000 signatures.

The requirements are tougher than those under the prior initiative process. Before 2021, a petition only needed about 106,000 signatures to appear on the ballot — 12% of the total votes cast in the most recent election for governor.

The resolution will go to the full House for more debate. If it survives, senators could either accept the House changes, seek final negotiations or let the proposal die.

___

Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

1 hour ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

21 hours ago

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

4 days ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

5 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

5 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Mississippi could renew initiatives but ban them on abortion