Legislature gets initiatives on opening day

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The Legislature will have the option to offer alternatives to three initiatives that will appear on the November election ballot.
On Tuesday, the opening day of the 2011 session, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, as mandated by law, delivered the three initiatives to the House and Senate where members will have the option to pass alternatives to the initiatives. The alternative would appear on the ballot along with the original initiative. Voters could reject both or choose between the two.
Les Riley of Pontotoc, sponsor of what is known as the personhood initiative, said he hopes the Legislature does not try to place an alternative on the ballot.
“It is our hope that they will just place on the ballot what the 130,000 Mississippians who signed the petition want on the ballot and nothing else,” said Riley, who was at the Capitol on Tuesday when Hosemann presented the petitions.
Riley’s initiative defines life as beginning at fertilization and is currently being challenged in court.
Unless the state Supreme Court finds the proposal unconstitutional, it will appear on the November ballot along with an initiative that would require Mississippians to display identification to vote and an initiative that would prohibit the government from taking private property for the use of another private entity.
David Waide of West Point, former president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, is the sponsor of the initiative that would prevent the government from using the power of eminent domain to take land from one private entity for the use of another. Waide, who also was at the Capitol, said he anticipates efforts to put “a watered-down version” of his proposal on the ballot as an alternative, but said he does not believe that will be successful in the legislative process.
The sponsors of the initiatives had to garner the signatures of at least 89,285 registered voters or 12 percent of the total who voted in the last gubernatorial election to get their proposals on the ballot. If they are approved by voters in November, they will become part of the state Constitution.
In addition to receiving the initiatives on the opening day, the Legislature also passed and sent to the governor an economic development bill to help lure Stion, a manufacturer of solar panels, to Hattiesburg in south Mississippi. The California-based company has said it will invest $500 million and create 1,000 jobs over a six-year period.
Under the legislation, the state will provide Stion a $75 million loan and tax breaks.
“Stion fits with our vision of Mississippi’s being recognized as an energy-reliable state. It’s another step in a brighter energy future for our state,” Gov. Haley Barbour said.
Sen. Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, said he supports companies like Stion, but said if the state is going to invest in them then the state should use products like solar panels when opening new buildings.
“We should be encouraging the use of energy-efficient products like solar panels in state buildings,” he said. “That is good for the state in the long run.”

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.