Tuesday, May 28, 2024

LaRose: The public shouldn’t be silenced for a lawmaker’s inability to schedule

by BIZ Magazine

More than a dozen proponents and nearly as many opponents came to the State Capitol Thursday to address lawmakers regarding Senate Bill 7, a proposal under consideration in the Senate Education Committee. It would require public libraries in Louisiana to set up a checkout card system that would restrict children’s access to materials deemed sexually explicit. Sen. Heather Cloud’s legislation provided definitions to determine what would qualify as unfit.

But after only three people took the mic to support the measure, Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, moved for the question on the bill. The procedure halts all debate for a vote on the issue at hand. More than 20 people waiting to speak on Cloud’s bill would not get the chance to do so.

As White’s live microphone would reveal, his reason for ending discussion was an apparent scheduling conflict. Let’s hope that whatever was a priority for White Thursday afternoon – long after the Senate and all of its other committees had adjourned for the week — was far more important than the rights of those who were silenced.

Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, approached White at his seat after his motion, and their whispered conversation was audible through his mic. When Cloud asked if he would reconsider to allow the remaining people to speak, White refused.

“They can speak without me,” he said. “I’m leaving. I’ve got 14 people waiting on me.”

White’s response might also reveal his ignorance of legislative rules. Because he had moved for the question, no one else would have the chance to testify. Had he just wanted to exit the hearing early, he could have done so without a formal motion and allowed the meeting to continue. His colleague, Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, did just that earlier in the meeting.

Continued debate might not have changed the outcome of the final vote on Cloud’s bill, which was advanced to the Senate floor without objection. But another senator on the committee could have spoken up to either oppose White’s motion or explain to him that another option was available that wouldn’t have ended public comments.

But they didn’t and that makes every lawmaker present complicit in the stifling of free speech.

We expect more from elected officials charged with protecting our rights.

Greg LaRose is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator and has covered news in Louisiana for 30-plus years.

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