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BILL CRAWFORD: Get ready for November ballot perplexity

Bill Crawofrd

Bill Crawofrd

The differences between Proposition 42 and Alternative 42A are stark.

Well, for those not up to speed, Proposition 42 is the constitutional amendment on public school funding that over 116,000 citizens forced onto the ballot for this November. Alternative 42A is the substitute amendment that 30 senators (out of 52) and 65 representatives (out of 122) forced through the legislature and will also appear on the November ballot (the exact wording is being contested in court).
Proposition 42 would, in effect, require the Legislature to comply with existing law to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
Alternative 42A wouldn’t.
(MS Code Section 37-151-6 reads, “Effective with fiscal year 2007, the Legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.”)
Proposition 42 puts the onus for action on “the state” and gives Chancery Courts authority to enforce compliance.
Alternative 42A puts the onus for action on “the Legislature” but allows the same Legislature to set “conditions and limitations” for compliance.
Proposition 42, according to its sponsors, is necessary, because the legislature refuses to follow the law and fully fund the MAEP, and is fair, because it would only take 25% of new tax revenue each year to phase in full funding.
Alternative 42A is touted by its sponsors as a way to keep education funding decisions out of the courts and in the hands of the Legislature, just like all other state appropriations.  
(Of course, the issue is already in court. Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and others have initiated a lawsuit to force the Legislature to live up to its own law.)
Proposition 42 would require “the state” to support both an adequate and “efficient” system of free public schools.
Alternative 42A would require “the Legislature” to support an “effective” system of free public schools “as the Legislature may prescribe.”
Proponents of Proposition 42 haven’t said much about what they mean by “efficient.”
Proponents of Alternative 42A speak clearly about what they mean by “effective.”  House Speaker Philip Gunn said, “The operative word in the alternative is effective. We want schools that are accomplishing something…schools that are effective.”
Got all that? 
Well, get ready for this.
When you get to this issue on the November ballot, you will have five choices…yes, five. You can skip it, and many will. You can vote “No” against making any change to the constitution, or “Yes” to make some change. If you vote “Yes,” you can vote for Proposition 42 or for Alternative 42A.
But there’s more. To pass either 42 or 42A, first the Yeses for some change must outnumber the Nos. Then, the selection with the most votes must garner at least 40% of the total votes cast in the November general election. If a lot of voters skip this issue on the ballot, the 40% threshold will be hard to reach.
Perplexed? Join the crowd.
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)



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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


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