Supreme Court To Decide Fate of Ballot Initiative 42-A
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Mississippi Supreme Court justices are deliberating on how to phrase the title of an alternative, education-funding ballot initiative. The justices will decide whether lawmakers can keep the language they adopted for Initiative 42-A.

For nearly three hours yesterday, all nine of Mississippi's Supreme Court justices heard arguments about whether a Hinds County Judge overstepped his authority when he changed the title to a legislative alternative to an education funding ballot initiative.

The original language for 42-A would require lawmakers to fund a -- quote -- "effective system of free public schools." However, public education advocates complained that language was misleading, and challenged it in a Hinds County court where Judge Winston Kidd changed it.

Michael Wallace is the attorney representing the Legislature's Republican leadership.

"I think if the circuit judge has no jurisdiction then the proper result of this case is for you to announce that the circuit judge had no jurisdiction and to order a dismissal of the petition," said Wallace. "That's all you need to do."

Despite his argument, a number of the justices asked how to best change the ballot title to reflect the differences between the two education funding proposals. Under state law, titles have to be 20 words or less.

Jim Keith represented the group that pushed for the language change.

"There's no question that the key difference is that measure 42 provides a specific judicial remedy and 42-A ignores that," Keith said. "So that's why we said that theirs is wrong, that it's confusing and that's why we challenged it."

The justices did not put a time frame on when they will reach a decision, but ballots must be printed by September.