Mississippi losing job war between states, Black Caucus leader says


Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, wants colleagues to 'wise up and roll back discriminatory legislation.'
Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, wants colleagues to 'wise up and roll back discriminatory legislation.' ASSOCIATED PRESS

The chair of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus says there's a new war between the states, one being fought over jobs, and Mississippi is losing because of the "religious freedom" law.

 “It’s time to wise up and roll back discriminatory legislation before hundreds of Mississippians lose their livelihoods,” State Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, said Wednesday in a press release. “The Republican governor of Georgia vetoed similar legislation. The Republican Governor of North Carolina is now trying to dial-back that state’s anti-discrimination protections after losing major employers. Mississippians will pay a price if we don’t act and act now to reverse the damage caused by HB1523."

 “We can’t afford this. It’s clear that we’re already losing jobs and business because of this misguided bill, and it’s only going to get worse,” said Williams-Barnes, who is chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus and serves on both the tourism and gaming committees in the state Legislature.  She also noted that Business Insider has ranked the Mississippi economy as 51st in the nation.

“Perhaps it’s prophetic that Bryan Adams has a well-known song called ‘Cuts Like a Knife,’” she said. “This narrow-minded legislation is going to cut like a knife through our communities, pushing us backwards to the days when Mississippi was a national symbol of intolerance and bigotry. We will experience cuts in employment and suffer other economic consequences due to the way our state is being perceived by the business world. In a few short days, we’ve set the clock back 50 years and made Mississippi the national symbol of discrimination under law.

“In the new war between the states for jobs and income, Georgia is going to win.” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently vetoed a similar bill, giving his state a chance to build on its $5 billion-a-year film and television industry."

She said in Mississippi, stage hands, vendors and other employees will lose work because of state travel bans and entertainers like Adams deciding not to perform in a state that makes it legal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“Our casinos will lose customers and revenue, and we will telegraph a message to other employers that operating in our state means working under a cloak of prejudice,” said Williams-Barnes.