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Certain vetoes/threats would burnish Blanco reform credentials

Bills inviting a veto by Gov. Kathleen Blanco continue to stack up. Whether she will is another matter, but they would give her a chance to walk the reform walk.

HB 685 certainly deserves it, mandating the use of ethanol in gasoline in as little as a few months which very likely would drive up considerably the price of a gallon of gas and have environmental ramifications while assisting only some agricultural producers; after initially saying she’d sign it, Blanco has wavered and needs to reverse that earlier pledge. Another which may deserve it is HB 909 which has its good points in reforming election law but has one serious error violating the spirit of the Constitution in that it redefines when a term starts and thus could add potentially four more years to the terms of otherwise term-limited, initially-elected mid-term, legislators.

Proponents argue that casting floor votes should define when a term starts, which occurs after taking the oath of office which happens at the beginning of a session, as opposed to when the necessary paperwork is filed under current law. But plenty of new, between-session, members have been active in committee meetings, which can make official recommendations to the entire chamber and meet between sessions, and members get paid for these and their regular salaries the moment they are certified.

Blanco will have to weigh whether the beneficial parts of the bill are worth this violation of the spirit of the Constitution. Or, perhaps she could cast a veto and instruct the Legislature to initiate change concerning the existing standards about when the oath is given and the legal change to start payment only after the oath is administered.

Another pair may end up needing a veto, HB 829 and SB 89. The relatively minor changes they make are more than offset by the unfortunate consequences they would loosen on levee governance reform efforts. Amendments to them doing this slipped by apathetic and/or inattentive lawmakers. Under the guise of fairness and efficiency, they created situations that basically gut the purpose of previous legislation that sought to consolidate, not to balkanize, flood control policy.

Blanco needs to inform the Legislature for these that she intends to veto both with these provisions, giving the chambers a chance on the floor or in conference to strip the provisions, and if they don’t she needs to carry out the threat. Instead, she has wavered on SB 89’s amendment which would create a permanent Jefferson Parish majority on the new West Bank levee district’s board. This is unacceptable: the idea is to unify and govern comprehensively, not to give one constituent part control over others.

Vetoes cast on these measures will bolster Blanco’s shaky assertion that she supports reform policy that looks towards the good of the entire state, not just aiding the interests of a few.

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