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21.7.21

Democrats win today, set up for loss tomorrow

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards won the battle, and progress in Louisiana lost. But the victory for state Democrats looms Pyrrhic.

In the historic veto override session, Republicans were unable to override Edwards’ veto of SB 156. The commonsense bill prevents biological males, who have a genetic physical advantage over females, from competing in female-only sports at the scholastic and collegiate level that would discriminate against female competitors.

The Senate approved an override on a party-line vote, which hit right at the two-thirds threshold because Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns took a dive. But defections and no-shows from Republicans state Sens. Louie Bernard, Patrick Connick, Fred Mills, and Rick Ward doomed other attempts as Democrats held firm.

Politics over principle marks LA Senate votes

Louisiana Senate Democrats would rather inject divisive partisan politics than stand by superior legislation they once supported, all for reasons of politics rather than principle – joined by a few Republicans-in-Name-Only that in a couple of cases leads one to wonder what inducements Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards offered them to change their votes.

That lesson came through the Senate’s consideration of bills vetoed by Edwards, after taking up five vetoed bills. Eleven Democrats voted both on Senate final passage and on override consideration, while newcomer Democrat state Sen. Gary Carter had voted on final passage in the House and was the only of the bunch to have voted against consistently.

In order, starting with SB 156 by Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell, the most discussed of the vetoes and the only one gaining a successful override vote, four Democrats flipped to oppose the override: Regina Barrow, Katrina Jackson, Gary Smith, and Greg Tarver. Not a single one took to the floor to explain what had changed in less than a month-and-a-half to make them switch from support to opposition. All Republicans held the line on the bill that would prevent discrimination against females in scholastic and collegiate sports on the basis of sex.

20.7.21

Legislature must follow through with overrides

Louisiana’s legislative Republican majority, with help from transient other party allies, need to finish the job during this week’s veto session.

It’s not enough to have triggered a historic veto override session that sets the stage for overturning egregious vetoes by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Letting him off the hook without reversing anything only will embolden him to keep denying good legislation the kind of which many other states routinely pass. Two-thirds majorities in each chamber will do the trick.

The margins that produced the session provide a clue as to whether and how intensely the GOP can achieve its mission. In the House, 69 – all Republicans minus one plus a Democrat and no party member – voted against not having the session, one short of that majority. In the Senate, all 27 Republicans – one more than a supermajority – did so.

19.7.21

Veto session watershed in LA political culture

Louisiana’s political culture reached a milestone when the Legislature resoundingly rebuffed staying home from a veto override session.

Barely a third of legislators by the deadline last week turned in a ballot signifying they didn’t want one to occur, contrary to what has been the case since the implementation of the current 1974 Constitution. In the Senate, it followed party lines with all Democrats sending in one. In the House, the same happened except that Democrat state Rep. Francis Thompson didn’t and Republican Joe Stagni did. Of the three no party representatives, state Rep. Roy Daryl Adams didn’t while state Reps. Joe Marino and new former Democrat Malinda White did.

Putting down its foot on Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ vetoes makes two telling departures from the past. Firstly, until now a governor’s veto of bills passed late in a session have remained sacrosanct. With an asymmetry of power – the full weight of most of the executive branch compared to the relatively puny resources of the Legislature, especially in information, with thousand of full-time employees versus part-time legislators – governors almost always could maneuver things so that any potentially controversial veto could occur late enough so that only an override session could cancel it.

18.7.21

Special elections to test BC reform movement

As opposed to this spring’s regular election, a choice that could move Bossier City forward seems murkier for the city’s southern residents in this fall’s special election. Such a dilemma doesn’t exist for parish residents further north in the city.

Three candidates queued up to fill the vacancy in District 1: Democrat technology administrator Darren Ashley, Republican small businessman Brain Hammons, and independent consultant Michael “Lun” Lombardino. The election became necessary when spring winner Republican Shane Cheatham didn’t take the seat in anticipation of being named city chief administrative officer under Republican new Mayor Tommy Chandler.

Like Chandler, Cheatham had run under a reform banner that questioned city spending priorities and it lack of transparency in decision-making. They criticized then-incumbent Republican Mayor Lo Walker and the City Council, including Cheatham’s incumbent opponent Republican Scott Irwin, for keeping power-wielding among a close-knit group inside and outside of government.

15.7.21

No reason to reimpose harmful restrictions

Oh, no! Delta variant! Case counts going way up! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! One big Louisiana city already looks ready to hit the panic button, so should the state follow as after a subdued period the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic starts to boil higher again?

Absolutely not. By no means should the state or its subgovernments begin to reimpose restrictions that weren’t that effective anyway and probably cost more lives than they saved.

Predictably, case surges have started in areas with lower rates of vaccination. In fact, a high cluster of these exists in the center of the country running north-south from Missouri through Arkansas and swelling into Louisiana. This comes largely courtesy of the rising virus delta variant now becoming more prominent, which does appear more transmissible and does a bit better job of defeating vaccines.

14.7.21

Diluted UBI about to hit reeling LA hard

Louisiana’s problems will multiply as for the next 12 months the nation takes one step closer to a universal basic income.

This week, households with children can start receiving child tax credit monies courtesy of legislation rammed through Congress by its slender majority of Democrats and signed by their own Pres. Joe Biden. It provides $3,000-$3,600 in free (read: from increased taxes or debt) money to upper middle-class and below households per child, depending on age, with monthly installments available for half through the end of the year. Those invested in the idea, such as Louisiana’s Democrat Rep. Troy Carter, already shill it as great policy.

Far from it, and not because it's not a perfect universal basic income, or the idea that every citizen should receive a periodic government cash grant without strings attached. It tapers beginning at about six figures and disappears at a quarter million dollars in income, it only lasts a year with an option to receive the first half of payments in six monthly installments, and obviously the family must have a dependent child younger than 18.

13.7.21

Edwin Washington Edwards, 1927-2021

Two years ago, Louisiana had five ex-governors out and about; today, just one. The one of the quartet who stayed with us the longest, Prisoner #03128-095, went out in a way not inconsistently with his political career: with a wink and a nod. Last week, he entered hospice care, with him and his family saying it was for better care and that he looked forward to future birthdays. Days later ….

Known outside the big house as Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards, it’s perhaps difficult for many who follow Louisiana politics to understand the shadow he cast over state politics for a quarter-century starting in 1972. Obviously the center of attention when in office, he wasn’t too far away from that even when out of it during the 1980-84 and 1987-92 periods (he actually vacated the office after conceding defeat a couple of months prior to the official end of his third term in 1988). He probably really liked it that way.

I met Edwards the first time, briefly, when he attended the dedication of my employer’s new library in 1992. But where I actually had a few minutes to chat with him, the chastened version after prison, was almost a decade ago at the Louisiana Political Science Association annual meeting. From that second meeting I draw some of the impressions below.

12.7.21

Politics, not data, behind top cop veto wish

You might think Republican Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre, after nearly three decades in office, would have learned it is an asset in politics to know what you are talking about before you open your mouth. Only in office less than a decade, Republican Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington showed him how it’s done.

Last week, in an assemblage of a few dozen law enforcement officials that included a dozen of the state’s 64 sheriffs, Webre emerged as the most outspoken critic of efforts to overturn Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of SB 118 by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris. The bill would remove permit requirements to carry a concealed firearm for most citizens, which currently include a fee, paperwork, and mandatory training classes.

At the made-for-media, if not Astroturf, news conference, Webre expressed several sentiments. “I don’t want to be at a Mardi Gras parade with my daughter where someone jumps up to catch a bead and that gun falls out their waistband it hits the concrete, goes off and innocent people get killed …. I don’t want to go into a department store or restaurant and wonder who might be carrying a concealed weapon.” He further alleged that the bill “not only is going to endanger the law enforcement community, it will endanger the general public as well.” And, he claimed it could embolden untrained people to act like citizen vigilantes, unnecessarily escalating minor incidents into deadly ones.

11.7.21

Keep Shreveport ban to empower vulnerable

Shreveport’s City Council this week faces a choice between possibly more tax dollars from more economic activity and limiting the autonomy of vulnerable citizens.

Councilors will consider passing an amended ordinance that carves out an exemption from its commercial smoking ban for establishments that have gambling. An entire ban for indoor areas except for businesses specifically catering to smoking would have gone into effect last Aug. 1 but was delayed to this Aug. 1 because of the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Now some want to dilute the prohibition by excluding gaming areas of casinos and bars and truck stops licensed for gambling.

As has become typical as jurisdiction after jurisdiction in Louisiana where such battles play out with casinos involved – and all resulting in restricting of smoking – opponents argue casinos will take a hit with this. Smoking, like gambling, is addictive behavior, so eliminating the practice of one vice by discouraging practitioners of another disproportionately eats into casinos’ potential clientele.