Friday, May 24, 2024

Odds increase for Louisiana lawmakers to return for veto session

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Lawmakers are expected to return to Baton Rouge in the coming days to consider vetoes from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Through Monday, Edwards has vetoed one bill, Senate Bill 196, and 19 line items from the budget supplemental appropriations bill, House Bill 560.

The Louisiana Constitution requires lawmakers to meet on the 14th day following the regular session to consider vetoes for override unless a majority of members of either chamber declare in writing it’s unnecessary five days prior. Lawmakers have not submitted such a declaration, signaling a veto session in the coming days. The regular session adjourned on June 8.

Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, would have increased transparency in the legal system by requiring disclosure of third-party litigation financing. Peacock points to hedge funds, equity firms and foreign funds financing lawsuits on a contingency basis, effectively using the civil justice system as an investment.

The funding is legal but not currently revealed in the legal process, and Peacock argues the agreements can create conflicts of interest between a client and their lawyer. He highlights research that shows the agreements incentivize prolonged lawsuits and result in fewer settlement funds recovered for claimants.

Edwards vetoed SB196 because it “only requires plaintiffs to unilaterally disclose their commercial legal financing arrangements,” he wrote in his veto message.

“If true transparency is what was intended, the legislation would have required all parties to disclose their legal financing arrangements,” he wrote. “The proposed structure has one desired outcome — to deter commercial legal finance companies from doing business in Louisiana.”

SB 196 cleared the House 55-28 with a Senate concurrence vote of 30-8.

Other Edwards vetoes targeted 19 line items totaling about $2.3 million in local projects slated for the districts of eight House members who voted against raising the state’s spending cap. While the legislature ultimately approved the move to spend $1.65 billion above the threshold, Edwards vowed to punish those who opposed it.

The vetoes impact projects in the home districts of Republican Reps. Raymond Crews of Bossier City, Dodie Horton of Haughton, Sherman Mack of Albany, Larry Frieman of Abita-Springs, Julie Emerson of Carencro, Johnathan Goudeau of Lafayette, and Danny McCormick of Oil City.

Edwards also vetoed a project in Pollock Republican Rep. Gabe Firment’s district. Firment voted to lift the spending cap in the constitution but sponsored legislation to prohibit gender transitions for minors that Edwards said he plans to veto.

Another line-item veto for the American Rose Society is connected to Shreveport Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh, who voted against the cap and whose wife is the society’s former director.

HB560 cleared the House with a vote of 93-9 and the Senate with a vote of 38-1.

Firment’s HB 648 is among three bills dealing with transgender issues Edwards has promised to veto. The others include HB 81 by Crews to prohibit school employees from using students’ preferred pronouns without parental consent and HB 466 by Horton to ban discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.

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