Each January, we send people to Jackson to represent our voices on the big issues that face our state.
Each February, we are reminded that such representation is largely an illusion.
Our state is run by a select group of no more than a handful of people — none of them from anywhere near the Golden Triangle.
Whatever influence the five representatives and two senators from our area may have in Jackson is confined pretty much to local issues alone.
On big issues that affect every Mississippian, they are left on the sidelines, without even being allowed to vote up or down on those important issues.
Tuesday was the deadline for moving bills out of committee and onto the floor of the House and Senate where they could be debated and voted on.
Most of those bills die in committee and are never given that consideration. The sheer volume of bills filed each year — 2,500 or more — demands that many bills do not advance, otherwise there would not be enough days on the calendar to move them through the full House and Senate.
A lot of the bills amount to little more than posturing. Some are impractical. Some are unconstitutional. Some die in one chamber so that identical legislation in the other chamber can move through.
But every year, there are bills whose merits demand the full consideration of the Legislature, bills that have a measure of public support, which are not granted a full and fair hearing.
The few men who run our state (and, yes, they are all men) decide that these bills never see the light of day.
House Speaker Phillip Gunn, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and a key group of committee chairman whose fealty to Gunn or Reeves is best described as slavish, make these decisions. In many cases, these bills don’t even come up for discussion in committee meetings. Bills arrive DOA, largely because Gunn and Reeves declare it.
On Wednesday, there were many bills that died in committee, bills that deserved full consideration of the 174 men and women who make up our Legislature.
Among them, a bill that would mandate equal pay for women; a bill calling for a new design for our state flag, which remains a source of embarrassment and division; establishing a minimum wage; pay raises for state employees; and a handful of bills that could be characterized as criminal justice reform, a topic that the state’s rulers embraced with much fanfare before the session, but turned a deaf ear to this week.
Whether you support or oppose any of these measures, no one would consider them frivolous. They are worthy of discussion and debate.
The fate of those bills might turn one way or another, but they would live or die based on the votes of the 174 people who are chosen to represent our state.
Yet people from one end of the state to the other would like to know — no, deserve to know — where their representative or senator stands on equal pay or public education or criminal justice reform.
But those legislators are never given that chance.
Their voices are silenced by a few power-hungry autocrats.
And that means our voices are silent, too.
Representative government in our state, for all practical purposes, is an illusion.
Perhaps that is why our state lags behind so terribly in so many areas.
We simply don’t have any say in the matter.