…because it’s been done before. Johns isn’t hardly as bad off as former state senator Tommy Hudson was in 1979, after all.
To catch you up if you missed this, Johns, a weak Republican state senator from Lake Charles who’s in line to be appointed by Democrat governor John Bel Edwards as chairman of the state gaming board, one of the cushiest gigs in all of state government, suddenly turned up unavailable for the veto session scheduled to take place next week.
Johns says he had knee replacement surgery on July 7, and his doctor has told him he can’t travel for four weeks, so nope – he can’t make the session. But he can take the gaming board job a few days after it’s over, though, and avail himself of lots of free perks and swag from the casinos in Lake Charles who’ll be very pleased to treat him as the high-rolling regulatory muckety-muck he’ll be.
They might even hook him up with an extra pillow he can rest his leg on at the blackjack tables. Who knows?
Johns isn’t saying when he’ll go to work for Edwards as the gaming board chair. He’s just saying he’s too laid up to attend the veto session. On account of the knee surgery, you know.
But in 1979 when the legislature was debating the Equal Rights Amendment, its supporters carried Hudson into the Senate chamber on a stretcher to vote for it. He was so busted up from a back injury he couldn’t even sit up, but he could still press a button for a vote on the ERA.
We even have video of it. Skip to 23:50 at this link and you’ll see it.
And the ERA was a dead letter. It had no chance of passage. They went through all that with Hudson just to make sure they got everybody on the record on the issue, which at the time was a big deal.
That’s a relevant point, because there are a whole host of bills which passed initially and were vetoed this year, and it’s in doubt whether there are enough votes to override the veto in next week’s session.
We’ve heard a couple of times that the legislative leadership in both houses is planning to take a powder on many of those bills and only hold votes on a few of them. Since there probably aren’t enough votes to override the governor’s veto on those others, and all.
Several legislators we talked to this week have been adamant about the fact that the leadership has not been whipping votes or even “ticking” them to find out how many supporters these bills have.
This ought to infuriate you, by the way.
There is a custom in that legislature by which the leadership does everything it can to “protect” its members from having to take votes on controversial measures or on bills which might bring down the wrath of the governor. Especially if there aren’t enough votes to make those bills law.
This was one of the things which made John Alario very popular as a legislative leader through the years despite the obvious fact Alario was hideously corrupt. He made sure lots of controversial bills never got voted on. And in his final term as Senate president he also made sure to kill lots of bills which would have passed in the Senate before they got votes – doing that meant Edwards didn’t have to veto them, and therefore the voters of Louisiana didn’t get a true picture of just how far left John Bel Edwards really is in advance of the 2019 election.
The current leadership is a little different, in that they actually let a lot of these bills out to Edwards’ desk and forced him to veto them. As such, some people who voted for him under the impression he was “moderate” or “conservative” are beginning to wake up to the fact he’s pro-trans, pro-gun control, pro-voter fraud, pro-radical teacher union, and pro-vaccine mandate, among other things.
The problem here is that by not holding override votes on all of these bills, if in fact those rumors are true, the leadership will be denying their members an opportunity to show that they oppose Edwards on all of these things. Of course the ultimate goal will be to make policy by overriding the veto, and if there aren’t 70 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate you can’t do that.
But even if you can’t make policy with a veto override, there is immense value in at least putting everybody on the record. Because the voters deserve to know where their representative and their senator stand on those issues. The legislative tradition in Louisiana is to hide the ball from the voters and deny us the information we need to make informed decisions on Election Day. We get worthless campaign promises and failure theater, and we’re supposed to be satisfied with that.
So if we really are going to have a change, and if we really are going to break up this imperial governorship which has served Louisiana so poorly, then let’s have a change in that custom. Let’s have votes on all the vetoed bills, and let’s make sure everybody is on the record.
And if some of the legislators who voted for these bills the first time decide to switch their votes and sustain Edwards’ veto, let’s make sure everybody in Louisiana knows it. Let them explain their flips, and let those flips be campaign issues in 2023.
In our neighboring states, what we can tell you is they don’t have this problem all that often. In those places the legislators are enthusiastic about voting on principle. They want people to know where they stand, because they’re conservative and they damn well mean it, and they want people to know about it.
We have lots of legislators like that here. But not all of them are. And the leadership is going to need to prove it won’t coddle them.
Starting with Ronnie Johns, as it turns out. His malingering is unacceptable, and it shouldn’t be accepted.