Public Deception On Display In Early-Release Vote

Think we had ethic reform on Louisiana? New day of transparency? Sorry, but public deception is still happening in Baton Rouge.

In an e-mail update to the members of Legislative Action Watch (LAW) on Thursday, I said the following:

Subject: LA House: Early Release of Old Non-Violent Offenders, Bad; Early Release of Violent Offenders, Ok

Fellow LA Taxpayers:
 
That’s right, you read the subject line correctly.  Yesterday evening, two bills dealing with early release of incarcerated criminals by State Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge) were voted on by the State House.

 
HB 35 provided for early release of non-violent incarcerated individuals who were at least 65 years of age and had served 10 years.  The Louisiana DA Association originally opposed this bill in committee, but dropped their opposition once approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee, likely due to the bill not pertaining to violent criminals and those convicted of certain sex offenses.
 
HB 194 provided for early release of some first time VIOLENT incarcerated individuals by increasing the time of sentence earned for good behavior.  Not the worst pro-violent criminal legislation pre-filed for this session, but still troubling enough that the DA Association did not drop their opposition to the proposal.
 
Therefore, one would think that our State Reps. would have passed the bill dealing with elderly non-violent offenders and maybe rejected, or at least have had a closer vote, on the bill dealing with violent offenders.  Save the state money by moving old non-violent criminals out of the prisons, thereby reserving money and room for those who commit acts of violence on innocent people, right?
 
WRONG
 
HB 35 (elderly non-violent) received a plurality, but not a majority, and therefore FAILED 50-40.
 
Vote:  http://www.legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=702320
 
HB 194 (1st time violent criminals) PASSED 56-29.
 
Vote:  http://www.legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=702366

What is most confusing is how some legislators obviously thought it would be better to grant early release to violent criminals rather than non-violent criminals who had reached senior citizen age.  Those brilliant State Representatives who voted AGAINST HB 35 but FOR HB 194 are:
 
Austin Badon (D-New Orleans); Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport); Patrick Connick (R-Marrero); Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro); Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose); Sam Little (R-Bastrop); Eric Ponti (R-Baton Rouge); Clifton Richardson (R-Baton Rouge) and Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs).
 
Just another day in the Louisiana State Legislature!

Yesterday evening at the LAW  meeting, we discussed the fact that some legislators who were trying to change their votes. According to House rules, State Reps can change their vote, as long as it does not effect the overall outcome of the legislation. HB 194, which provides for early release of most 1st time violent offenders, passed with 56 votes. It needed only 53.

Lo and behold, when I checked the votes this morning, sure enough, the new YES total was 53, not 56.

The following four legislators changed their vote from YES to NO:

Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport); John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie); Sam Little (R-Bastrop) and Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs).

Roy Burrell (D-Shreveport), a legislator with a clear pro-violent criminal voting record switched from ABSENT to YES, allowing a fourth colleague to deceive the voters.

All four who changed from YES to NO are Republicans, so they must have taken some heat from their conservative constituency. Hopefully, someone in the media will pick up on this so voters will know the truth. It’s one thing to vote for bad legislation. It’s another thing to change your vote after the fact to escape accountability for what you’ve done.

Nick Bouterie is a conservative activist from Iota, LA.

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