JACKSON — One hundred nineteen thousand signatures of registered Mississippi voters landed at Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office last Thursday morning.
They all oppose government taking private property and handing it to another private person.
If Hosemann’s office certifies the signatures as belonging to people who are registered to vote in Mississippi, voters will decide the issue in the 2011 elections.
“The counting process starts today,” Hosemann said. He expects it to last a week or two.
From there, the initiative will be presented to lawmakers at the start of the 2011 session, when they can offer a competing amendment that will also be on the ballot, or place the initiative on the ballot by itself.
Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation led the effort to gather the required number of signatures.
“You have to give credit to our staff and volunteers of Farm Bureau,” said Farm Bureau president David Waide.
Waide said the signature gathering started last April, almost immediately after a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain to projects that served a direct public use was vetoed by Gov. Haley Barbour. Barbour’s veto was sustained. Barbour and economic development groups said the restriction would deter big projects like the Toyota and Nissan plants from locating in Mississippi. Barbour spokesman Dan Turner did not return a call seeking comment last Thursday afternoon.
“I go back to the Founding Fathers, who believed there were three basic principles,” Waide said. “One was the freedom of the religion, the right to own property and the right to bear arms. We don’t want to compromise those principles. I don’t see where it’s going to compromise economic development.”
Farm Bureau attached petitions to its magazine, and the response from its more than 200,000 member families was overwhelming, Waide said.
That same tactic will likely be used in the campaign to sway voter next year.
“Once we’re informed that we’ve got it on the ballot, we’ll start the publicity on what we’re attempting to do,” he said after a press conference at Hosemann’s office last Thursday. “We’ll inform the public through our magazine, and we’ll probably participate in both audio and print media (advertising) to try to get the message out.”
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