Thirty years ago, then-Gov. Buddy Roemer vetoed legislation aimed at curbing abortions in Louisiana. Lawmakers overrode the veto. Two years later, lawmakers overrode a veto issued by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards that concerned a flap over funding for the state Attorney General’s office.
Not since the early 1990s, though, has the Louisiana Legislature overridden a governor’s veto. The political atmosphere in the state today, however, tells us lawmakers are poised to do it again.
We’ve arrived at this juncture thanks to Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoing two controversial bills the Legislature approved by wide margins in the 2021 regular legislative session. One of them was the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act authored by Sen. Beth Mizell while the other measure was Sen. Jay Morris’ legislation to allow any law-abiding citizen to carry a handgun without possessing a conceal carry permit issued by Louisiana State Police.
Mizell’s bill would prohibit biological males — or transgender females — from participating on female athletic teams or in female sporting events at government-funded schools or institutions. It’s as simple as that. It’s not discriminatory, unless one believes prohibiting a man from roughing up a girl on a basketball court or on a soccer field qualifies as discrimination.
Though Morris’ bill was painted by its detractors as a potential threat to law enforcement, it’s straightforward and easy to understand, too. It simply would allow anyone over the age of 21 and who was not a convicted felon to carry a concealed firearm without obtaining a conceal carry permit.
There’s another angle to Morris’ bill to consider. That is, should any law-abiding individual be required to ask the government for permission to exercise a constitutional right? After all, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is alive and well, and for those of you who fell asleep in a civics class somewhere along the way, the 2nd Amendment clearly states a “well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Requiring any individual to obtain a permit to carry a gun is an infringement. No ifs, ands or buts.
The state Constitution says the Legislature “shall” meet in a veto session on the 40th day following the adjournment of the most recent session to consider all bills vetoed by the governor. Lawmakers don’t have to do it, though. Following each session, each lawmaker receives a veto ballot. If a lawmaker believes a veto session should be held, the lawmaker simply does nothing with the ballot. If a lawmaker doesn’t believe a veto session is necessary, the lawmaker must sign the ballot and return it to the Legislature. If a majority of the ballots in the House (53) and Senate (20) are not returned, a veto session will be held. It is automatic.
In recent days, the political class and handicappers alike have been busy speculating about what Edwards was doing to convince lawmakers not to go forward with a veto session. Tales of lawmakers being promised funding for one pet project after another in their legislative districts are abound. A few reports have surfaced of the governor’s staff threatening to veto funding for a particular project in a lawmaker’s district if the lawmaker goes along with a veto session. Then there’s the silly scuttlebutt about Democrats informing Edwards they’ll stand by him as long he signs Sen. Rick Ward’s legislation to divert sales taxes collected on vehicle sales to road and bridge construction across the state. That one makes no sense whatsoever because Edwards cannot — politically — veto Ward’s bill. It cleared the Senate by an almost unanimous vote and by a similar margin in the House. Democrats supposedly rising to defend Ward’s bill makes even less sense because we all know Democrats would deal for themselves but never for the general welfare of society.
In our neck of the woods in northeastern Louisiana, just about every Republican is on record in support of a veto session. Only Sen. Stewart Cathey of Sterlington hasn’t said publicly whether he wants one or opposes it.
Republicans elsewhere in Louisiana who can’t decide where their loyalties lie should bear in mind that 2023 is just around the corner, and they can rest assured potential opponents are watching the veto session vote like a kettle of hawks. They’ll pay even closer attention if the Legislature actually meets and votes on whether to override the transgender bill and the conceal permit bill.
For Republicans — even Republicans in one of those cosmopolitan districts — the time has arrived to develop a spine. One way or another.
Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of the Ouachita Citizen.