BY: Bill Crawford

Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that nobody had standing to appeal Attorney General Jim Hood’s ballot title for Initiative 42A, the Legislature’s alternative to the citizen-sponsored Initiative 42. Proponents of Initiative 42, hoping to mandate full funding for MAEP, had gotten Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd to rewrite the title.
So, the 42A title goes back Hood’s language, “Should the Legislature provide for the establishment and support of effective free public schools without judicial enforcement?”

This will be on the November ballot along with the 42 title, “Should the State be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” Missing from this title, but included in the underlying amendment, is a provision that gives chancery courts authority to enforce the amendment.

Last month, Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary ruled former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and allies were incorrect in believing state law already requires the Legislature to fully fund MAEP. He threw out their lawsuit based on Section 37-151-6 (MS Code, 1972), “Effective with fiscal year 2007, the Legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).”

Essentially, Singletary, a former legislator himself, ruled “shall” in this case doesn’t mean “shall.”

“While this Court agrees with Plaintiff that the term ‘shall’ generally denotes a mandate, our Mississippi courts have allowed for exceptions to this mandatory interpretation of ‘shall’ where it ‘is necessary to carry out the purpose of the legislature, effect justice, secure public or private rights, or avoid absurdity.”

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