Dear Mrs. Clark,
Again, columnist Sid Salter of Starkville writes incorrectly about Initiative 42, which nearly 200,000 Mississippians asked to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot. Initiative 42, if passed, will require the Legislature to provide the children of this state an adequate and efficient public school system. It will stop the Legislature from playing games by requiring it to fund the formula it developed in a law passed 18 years ago but short-changed 16 times.
Recently, my client, Adrian Shipman of Oxford, objected to the ballot title the Legislature wanted to place on the ballot describing how the Legislature's alternative is different from Initiative 42. She believed it was worded in such a way to confuse voters and kill Initiative 42. She took that appeal to circuit court in Hinds County, where the Legislature requires these kinds of disputes to be filed. The presiding judge, Winston L. Kidd, agreed with her appeal and ordered the Legislature's alternative ballot-title wording changed to more specifically show the difference between it and Initiative 42 so that voters could make a clear choice.
Salter incorrectly claims that the judge “usurped the will of the Legislature.” That's absolutely wrong. The judge was abiding by the Legislature's own law, which gave the judge the authority to consider such appeals.
This initiative law, passed in 1993, specifically gives any citizen the right to take his or her objection to court. This law passed on a resounding bipartisan 84-36 vote – which included a “yes” vote by a Rankin County representative named Phil Bryant, our current governor.
If something is wrong with that law, 22 successive Legislative sessions have occurred without any suggestions of changing the law. Even this session, two bills proposed changing jurisdiction from Hinds County courts to the court located wherever the objection arose. These bills died for lack of support.
The Mississippi Legislature created this process and the laws that implement this process. Its members, former members, state leaders and writers like Salter cannot now criticize anyone else for abiding by the laws the Legislature created.
Adrian Shipman and Judge Kidd fulfilled their legal responsibilities by their actions in this appeal. These rights came to them through the Mississippi Legislature's own actions.
Initiative 42 is about our children's future. It shouldn't be about politics. Moreover, this is an issue about our state's economic future. All our leaders should embrace a better future, not fight against it.
James A. Keith
Attorney at Law