Thursday, May 30, 2024

Louisiana ballot initiative proposal dies in committee 

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee shot down a proposal Wednesday to create a statewide ballot initiative and referendum process. 

House Bill 165, proposed by Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, would have put a constitutional amendment before voters this fall asking if they wanted a process that would allow the public to put issues directly on the ballot. If the amendment passed, legislators would’ve then be tasked next year with coming up with the guidelines. 

The bill was killed on a 7-4 vote, with Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, R-Livonia, joining Democrats in supporting the bill. 

“These voters we trust to elect us, to elect all of us in the state, and we probably should also trust them to have this process,” Landry said. 

Landry pointed to the history of bipartisan support for the proposal. In the past 30 years, nearly 50 ballot initiatives bills have been filed, several put forward by high profile Republicans such as former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, former Gov. Mike Foster and Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne. 

But just as those bills all fell short in the face of opposition from powerful interest groups, so did Landry’s. 

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, a powerful business lobbying group, opposed Landry’s bill. 

“Your legislature is bought and paid for,” Landry quipped as she walked out of the committee room following the vote. 

While Landry’s proposal failed, it did receive a more robust discussion than any other bill on the topic has since 1999, when the same committee spent over two hours discussing a bill put forward by Rep. Charles DeWitt, D-Alexandria, who carried the bill for Foster. 

Since 1999, the idea has received just two hearings, in 2015 and 2019, when the discussion lasted no more than 10 minutes. 

Landry’s bill was discussed for half an hour, receiving pushback from several members of the committee. 

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, raised concerns that the legislation deviates from a republican form of government, reading a passage from the Federalist Papers. 

“At the end of the day, we know voters don’t always inform themselves on issues,” Ivey said.

Landry pushed back on Ivey’s assertion. 

“To say voters aren’t informed enough on an issue is saying they aren’t informed enough to vote for us,” she replied.

Allowing the initiative process would be a check on the legislature, while still allowing lawmakers to serve as a check on the electorate, Landry argued.

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