Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, presents legislation in House Chamber at the Mississippi Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Jackson. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A House bill that would allow elected municipal officials to be recalled during the middle of their terms, through a combined effort of the governor and the voters, was voted down Thursday in a surprise rebuke of the proposal.

Rep. Shanda Yates, an independent from Jackson and the only white member of the capital city’s House delegation, filed the bill in response, she said, to constituents asking her if there was a mechanism in state law to recall elected officials.

Opponents have argued that the legislation specifically targeted Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who has been at intense public odds with Gov. Tate Reeves and other state and legislative leaders.

Black members of the House argued during the debate on Thursday that Yates’ bill was a continuation of multiple proposals pending this legislative session intended by white state elected officials to strip power from the leaders of Jackson — or at the very least treat the capital city differently than other municipalities in the state.

Earlier this week, there was a four-hour debate over legislation that created a separate court in Jackson, the largest city in the state and Blackest major city in America, where the judges would be appointed instead of elected like most other judges in the state.

“When you see things woven in the fabric of racism, all there can be is a racist blanket,” said Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville. “We are better than this.”

A sizable number of House Republicans voted with Democrats, who are in a minority, to defeat Yates’ recall proposal 53-60 on Thursday.

READ MORE: ‘Only in Mississippi’: White representatives vote to create white-appointed court system for Blackest city in America

Yates said when she researched existing state law after getting questions from constituents, she found a little known and little used provision that allows for the replacement of county officials. Her bill would have amended that law to include municipal officials.

She argued there are mechanisms that allow the removal of all elected officials in the state except for municipal officials. When it was pointed out to her earlier this session the proposal would allow voters to recall municipal officials, but not state officials, including legislators, she told Mississippi Today she would not have a problem allowing for the voter recall of legislators.

But no effort to change the bill to include legislators was made when it was debated and ultimately defeated Thursday. Rep. Tommy Reynolds, a Democrat from Water Valley, wanted to amend the bill to remove the governor from having a role in the removal and leave it solely to voters, but Speaker Philip Gunn said his amendment was offered too late.

“If we wanted to do (recall) for everybody, that would be good, too,” Reynolds said.

Yates’ bill would have given the governor the authority to establish a panel to decide if a recall should occur if 30% of the voters signed a petition in support of a recall.

READ MORE: Rep. Shanda Yates’ controversial recall bill doesn’t include lawmakers. A Senate bill does.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.