Hearings set to inform public on initiatives

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Not since 1999 has a constitutional amendment initiative been on the Mississippi general election ballot, but this November there will be three.
Tupelo and Starkville will be two of the nine sites for public hearings where people can both learn about and voice their opinions on the initiatives.
State law requires the Secretary of State’s office to conduct the public hearings on any proposal that has garnered the required number of signatures to be placed on the general election ballot.
During the hearing, Pamela Weaver, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, said the initiative sponsor or supporter as well as an opponent will be asked to speak. Plus, the public – those in favor and opposed – can express their views.
The first of the nine hearings is July 7 in Southaven. Starkville’s is July 12 and Tupelo’s Aug. 9.
An initiative sponsor is required to gather the signatures representing 12 percent of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election to get an issue on the ballot.
This year’s initiatives, if passed by the voters, would change the state Constitution to:
• Require people to have a government-issued identification to vote.
• Define a person “from the point of fertilization, cloning or equivalent.”
• Prevent the taking of private land by the government for the use of another private entity.
Weaver said all three proposals will be discussed at each public hearing.
In addition to the public hearings, the Secretary of State’s office must publish a pamphlet that includes essays by both a supporter and an opponent of the proposal. The pamphlets will be available at the public hearings and at the Secretary of State’s office or on the web site at www.sos.ms.gov. Transcripts from the public hearings also will be posted on the web site.
Two of the initiatives – dealing with personhood and the taking of private land – are being challenged in court. Opponents said the two would amend the Bill of Rights to the state Constitution, which is not allowed through the initiative process.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.