HINDS COUNTY JUDGE OVERSTEPPED AUTHORITY, LEGISLATURE ARGUES

When a Hinds County Circuit Court Judge rewrote a ballot initiative title, he exceeded his legal authority over the Legislature and the Attorney General, legislators said in an appeal filed today.

The Legislature filed documents at the state Supreme Court to preserve the wording of the Alternative 42A ballot title. In April, a Hinds County Circuit Judge refused to approve the Alternative 42A ballot title agreed upon by Attorney General Jim Hood and legislators.
State law does not allow the Circuit Court Judge to alter the ballot title for Alternative 42A, according to the appeal.

Although both Initiative 42 and Alternative 42A mandate “free public schools,” as does current law, Judge Kidd’s ballot title inexplicably deletes the word “free public” from the legislative alternative, thereby falsely implying to voters that one version would require “free public” schools while the other would not.

“Anyone comparing the Circuit Court’s ballot title for Alternative Measure No. 42A with General Hood’s ballot title for Initiative Measure No. 42 might reasonably suspect the Court of partiality,” the appeal states.

The legislative alternative, known as Alternative 42A, ensures public schools are effective in educating Mississippi’s children without subjecting statewide education policy decisions to a single judge in Hinds County. The Legislature passed the initiative to provide Mississippi voters with an alternative to Initiative 42, which allows a single Hinds County judge to make decisions that will have far-reaching consequences for the entire state.

This dramatic shift in power away from locally-elected legislators is likely to result in significant tax increases, drastic cuts in state priorities – such as funding for universities, community colleges, University Medical Center, roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and even agricultural programs – or both.

The Legislature should retain its authority granted by the Mississippi Constitution to determine education policy and funding decisions.

“The ultimate enforcement of the Mississippi Constitution, of course, lies in the hands of its people,” the appeal states. “Voters dissatisfied with the Legislature’s discharge of its duties may vote to change the membership of the Legislature. Voters dissatisfied with this Court’s performance of its duties may vote to change the membership of this Court. What the voters of 81 counties and three-fourths of the voters of Hinds County cannot do is vote to change a Circuit Judge who elevates his view of truth and impartiality over that of the Attorney General elected by all Mississippians.”

Initiative 42 and Alternative 42A will be on the Nov. 3 ballot. Voters can also choose not to change the Constitution by voting “no” to both options.

Joint Press Release
LG Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn
5/22/15