Constitution of Mississippi

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The Constitution of the State of Mississippi is the governing document of the U.S. state of Mississippi. It describes the structure and function of the Mississippian state government. The constitution was adopted on November 1, 1890.

Contents[edit]

The organization of the Mississippi Constitution is laid out in a Preamble and 15 Articles. Each Article is subdivided into Sections. However, the Section numbering does not restart between Articles; Sections 1 and 2 are in Article 1 while Article 2 began with Section 3 (since repealed). As such, newly added Sections are given alpha characters after the number (such as Section 26A in Article 3)

Preamble[edit]

"We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and involving his blessing on our work, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Article 1: Distribution of Powers[edit]

Article 1 defines the separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial.

Article 2: Boundaries of the State[edit]

Article 2 formerly defined the state boundaries; after the 1990 repeal of section 3, the legislature holds the power to define the state boundaries.

Article 3: Bill of Rights[edit]

Most of the rights defined in article 3 are identical to the rights that are found in the United States Bill of Rights.

Unique additions to the 1890 Mississippian constitution include Section 7 (denying the state the ability to secede from the United States), Section 12 (explicitly permitting regulation of concealed carry weapons) and Sections 26, 26A, and 29 (on conditions for grand jury and bail necessitated by the War on Drugs).

Section 12 allows for the ownership of weapons by the state's residents, however, the state government is given the power to regulate and abridge the carrying of concealed weapons:

The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons.

Section 15 forbids slavery or involuntary servitude within the state, except when done as a punishment for a crime:

There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Section 18 discusses freedom of religion. It prohibits religious tests as a qualification for officeholders. It also contains a unique clause which states that this right shall not be construed as to exclude the use of the "Holy Bible" from any public school:

No religious test as a qualification for office shall be required; and no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect or mode of worship; but the free enjoyment of all religious sentiments and the different modes of worship shall be held sacred. The rights hereby secured shall not be construed to justify acts of licentiousness injurious to morals or dangerous to the peace and safety of the state, or to exclude the Holy Bible from use in any public school of this state.

There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Section 19 originally banned duelling:

Human life shall not be imperiled by the practice of dueling; and any citizen of this state who shall hereafter fight a duel, or assist in the same as second, or send, accept, or knowingly carry a challenge therefor, whether such an act be done in the state, or out of it, or who shall go out of the state to fight a duel, or to assist in the same as second, or to send, accept, or carry a challenge, shall be disqualified from holding any office under this Constitution, and shall be disenfranchised.

The repeal of Section 19 was proposed by Laws of 1977, and upon ratification by the electorate on November 7, 1978, was deleted from the Constitution by proclamation of the Secretary of State on December 22, 1978.

Article 4: Legislative Department[edit]

Sections 33-39 define the state Senate and House of Representatives while Sections 40-53 define qualifications and impeachment procedures.

An extensive portion of the article (Sections 54-77) is devoted to the rules of procedure in the legislature, particularly in regards to appropriations bills.

Sections 78-86 list a series of laws that the Mississippi Legislature is required to pass, while Sections 87-90 list requirements and prohibitions involving local and special laws. Sections 91-100 list additional laws which the Legislature may not pass (Section 98, which prohibited lotteries, was repealed in 1992).

Section 101 defines Jackson, Mississippi as the state capital and states that it may not be moved absent voter approval.

Sections 102-115 contain a series of miscellaneous provisions, including a unique section (106) dealing with the State Librarian. Section 105 was repealed in 1978.

Article 5. Executive[edit]

Sections 116-127 and 140-141 deal with the office of the Governor of Mississippi. Section 141 states that, if no candidate receives a majority of the popular vote, then the Mississippi House of Representatives shall choose the Governor from the two candidates with the most votes. This Section came into play only one time in the state's history; in the 1999 gubernatorial election Ronnie Musgrove had the most votes, but not the majority needed to win the election outright; the House selected Musgrove.

Sections 128-132 deal with the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, while Section 133 deals with the Secretary of State, Section 134 with the State Treasurer and Auditor of Public Accounts. Section 143 states that all state officers shall be elected at the same time and in the same manner as the Governor.

Sections 135-139 deal with county and municipal officers (Section 137 was repealed in 1990).

Section 142 states that, if the House of Representatives chooses the Governor under the provisions of Section 141, then no member of the House is eligible for state appointment.

Article 6. Judiciary[edit]

Section 144 states that the judicial power of the State is vested in the Mississippi Supreme Court and in such other courts as provided for in the Constitution.

Sections 145-150 (and Section 151 until its repeal in 1914) discuss the number, qualifications, and terms of the Supreme Court's judges (as they are called). Each judge serves an elected eight-year term (Section 149). In an odd series of provisions, Section 145 states that the number of Supreme Court judges shall be three with two forming a quorum, amended by Section 145A which states that it shall be six ("that is to say, of three judges in addition to the three provided for by Section 145 of this Constitution") with four forming a quorum, then further amended by Section 145B which states that it shall be nine ("that is to say, of three judges in addition to the six provided for by Section 145-A of this Constitution") with five forming a quorum.

Sections 152-164 discuss the establishment, qualifications, and terms of the circuit and chancery court judges. All such judges serve elected four-year terms (Section 153).

Section 166 places a prohibition against reducing the salary of any judge during his/her term in office.

Section 167 states that all civil officers are conservators of the peace.

Section 168 discusses the role of the court clerks.

Section 169 discusses how all processes are to be styled, that prosecutions are to be carried on in the name and by the authority of the "State of Mississippi", and requires that any indictment be concluded with the phrase "against the peace and dignity of the state."

Section 170 states that each county shall be divided into five districts, with a "resident freeholder" of each district to be elected, and the five to constitute the "Board of Supervisors" for the county. Section 176 further enforces the requirement that a Supervisor be a property owner in the district to which s/he is elected. (A 1990 proposed amendment to these sections was rejected.) It is not known whether the provisions are enforceable.

Section 171 allows for creation of justice courts and constables in each county, with a minimum of two justice court judges in each county. All judges and constables serve elected four-year terms.

Section 172 allows the Mississippi Legislature to create and abolish other inferior courts.

Section 172A contains a prohibition against any court requiring the state or any political subdivision (or any official thereof) to levy or increase taxes.

Section 173 discusses the election of the Mississippi Attorney General while Section 174 discusses the elections of the district attorneys for each circuit court. All such officials serve elected four-year terms.

Section 175 allows for the removal of public officials for willful neglect of duty or misdemeanor, while Section 177 allows for the Governor to fill judicial vacancies in office subject to Senate approval.

Section 177A creates a commission on judicial performance, which has the power to recommend removal of any judge below the Supreme Court (however, only the Supreme Court can order such removal), and also has the power to remove a Supreme Court judge upon 2/3 vote.

Article 7. Corporations[edit]

Sections 178-183 and 190-200 deal generally with corporations and related tax issues. Section 183 prohibits any county, town, city, or municipal corporation from owning stock or loaning money to corporations.

Sections 184-188, 193, and 195 deal with railroads (Sections 187, 196, and 197 also dealt with railroads and similar companies, but were later repealed).

Section 198A, added in 1960, declares Mississippi to be a right-to-work state (though several other states have similar provisions, this is one of only five such provisions included in a state Constitution).

Article 8. Education[edit]

Sections 201-212 discuss the State Board of Education, the State and county school board superintendents, and generally the establishment and maintenance of free public schools, including those for disabled students. Sections 205 and 207, as well as later-added 213B, were later repealed; the latter required schools to be racially segregated but was repealed in 1978.

Sections 213 and 213A discuss higher education.

Article 9. Militia[edit]

Sections 214-222 discuss the Mississippi National Guard.

Article 10. The Penitentiary and Prisons[edit]

Sections 224 and 225 allow the State to require convicts to perform labor, either in state industries or by working on public roads or levees (but not to private contractors). Section 226 prohibits convicts in county jails from being hired outside the county.

Section 223 was repealed in 1990.

Article 11. Levees[edit]

Sections 227-239 generally discuss the creation of levee districts within the State. The text discuss the two levee districts which were created prior to the adoption of the current Constitution – the district for the Mississippi River and the district for the Yazoo River.

Article 12. Franchise[edit]

Sections 240-253 discuss matters related to voting.

Sections 241A, 243, and 244 were later repealed; all three were designed in some part to disenfranchise minority voting (241A required that a person be "of good moral character", 243 instituted a poll tax, and 244 instituted a literacy test).

Article 13. Apportionment[edit]

This article consists of a single section (254) which states how the State will be apportioned into State Senatorial and State Representative districts after every Federal census, and that the State Senate shall consist of no more than 52 Senators and the State House shall consist of no more than 122 Representatives.

Sections 255 and 256 were later repealed.

Article 14. General Provisions[edit]

Sections 257 through 272A contain miscellaneous other provisions not related to other Articles.

Section 265 prohibits any person who "denies the existence of a Supreme Being" from holding state office. This requirement, as well as similar provisions in several other state constitutions, violates the First Amendment prohibition on establishment of religion, as well as the prohibition on any kind of religious test located in Article 6 of the federal constitution.[1]

Sections 263, 269, 270, and 272 were later repealed.

Article 15. Amendments to the Constitution[edit]

Amendments may be made by either the Mississippi Legislature or by initiative (Section 273).

For Legislature-proposed amendments, 2/3 of each house must approve plus a majority of the voters.

The number of signatures required for an initiative-proposed amendment must be at least 12 percent of the total votes cast for Governor of Mississippi in the most recent gubernatorial election. However, a further restriction is placed in that no more than 20 percent of the signatures can come from any one congressional district. As Mississippi has only four districts, a strict interpretation of this section makes it impossible to propose an amendment via initiative.

The Article excludes certain portions of the Constitution that can be amended by initiative; for example, any of the sections in Article 3 (Bill of Rights) are off-limits.

The Article also discusses the procedures in the event that a Legislature-proposed amendment is similar to that of an initiative-proposed amendment.

Sections 274 through 285 contain transitional provisions.

Previously the Article contained Sections 286 and 287 which were classified as "ADDITIONAL SECTIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF MISSISSIPPI NOT BEING AMENDMENTS OF PREVIOUS SECTIONS"; these were later renumbered as 145A and 149A and placed under the article related to the judiciary.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Torcasco v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961) FindLaw

External links[edit]