The Mississippi Free Press reported recently on a failed effort in Mississippi to restore the public’s right to initiate and vote on statewide referenda.

Mississippi citizens will not be able to organize and vote on issues using ballot initiatives again any time soon after a Mississippi Senate leader allowed legislation that would have revived the option to die on calendar due to multiple concerns—including his fear that voters could use an initiative to repeal the state’s “right-to-work” law, which severely limits labor union organizing in the state.

The Mississippi Supreme Court nullified the ballot initiative process in a 2021 ruling that also killed a voter-approved medical marijuana law. Senate Concurrent Resolution 533, which lawmakers in the upper chamber passed on Feb. 9, would have restored a more limited version of the ballot initiative process.

The House made substantial modifications to the Senate’s bill, though, including removing a provision that said voters would not be able to “amend or repeal the constitutional guarantee that the right of any person to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.” They also inserted a prohibition on using ballot initiatives to amend Mississippi’s highly restrictive abortion laws, which polls show most voters oppose.

After the House made its changes, Mississippi Senate Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee Chairman John A. Polk could have sent the bill back to the Senate floor for concurrence or he could have called for a conference between the two chambers to iron out their differences. Instead, the Hattiesburg Republican allowed it to die on deadline Thursday.

Polk told the Mississippi Free Press he did not see a path to an agreement.

“We were so far apart. I don’t think there was any way we would ever get an agreement in conference,” the senator said.

The chairman said it “was disturbing to me” that House lawmakers removed language from the bill that would have prohibited voters from altering Mississippi’s right-to-work law.

“They took that out of the bill we sent, and that was disturbing to me because I’m not sure why they did it,” he said. “Mississippi needs and should be a right-to-work state.”

While supporters of right-to-work laws say they increase worker freedom by banning union membership requirements as a condition of employment, opponents argue that such laws lower wages and weaken worker protections by curtailing the ability of labor unions to organize.

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Democracy is not alive and well in a state that refuses to acknowledge the will of the people but prefers to limit the voice of the public by gerrymandering control of the legislature.