Last week, on the final day of this decision-making, Edwards vetoed a slew of bills concerning hot-button issues. Including some vetoes issued earlier this year, Edwards has authorized less transparency in government, promoted insufficient checks on gubernatorial emergency powers, coerced government diversion of part of paychecks to special interests, made elections less secure from fraud and special interest interference, promoted injections of vaccines labeled by the federal government as carrying elevated risks for youths, made an invitation to waste taxpayer dollars on invalid public records searches, encouraged state bond underwriters to engage in discriminatory lending practices, promoted needless requirements to carry a concealed firearm, and discriminated against female youths in athletic pursuits.
Never had a governor vetoed so many high-profile non-fiscal bills, because never has a governor faced as rebellious of a Legislature. Until a quarter-century ago, economic liberal populists with socially conservative tendencies, almost all Democrats, ruled the legislative roost with views sympathetic mostly with those of governors. A vast influx of full-spectrum conservatives has infiltrated the Legislature since, while Edwards mirrors the old-school liberal populists of the past but with more socially-liberal views than almost all of his predecessors.
Especially significant, of these 16 bills, all but one passed by margins that would suggest their vetoes could be overridden. Scuttlebutt from the Capitol indicates just such a historic session will occur later this month.
In many other states, these kinds of bills passed and were signed in most instances. They became necessary as temporary policy made in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic had exposed shortcomings in ballot security and benefits administration, as well as the far left policy lurch of Democrat elites challenged existing consensus, such as in disallowing biological males to compete in all-female sports, never written into law
But Gov. Nyet of Louisiana refused, and the reasons are instructive. In a sense, fault lies prior to him in the process from poor leadership shown by Republicans House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate Pres. Page Cortez. Knowing the momentum of these bills was such they would pass easily, they should have scheduled them early so as to arrive at Edwards’ desk well before session’s end. This would have discouraged Edwards from vetoing these, knowing an override vote could have occurred at any time during the regular session and not requiring a special session.
Idiotically, rather than doing this, the two leaders got it all backwards by allowing a number of Democrat-sponsored and supported bills, such adding an unneeded sales tax exemption, making it easier for felons to vote, and adding a useless state holiday, to pass quickly. Had they reversed matters, they could have held up bills Edwards supported and threatened that these never would see the light of day unless Edwards signed off on these others and the tepid tax changes that they saw as the centerpiece of the session.
Thus emboldened, Edwards shot down all these Republican bills, ironically with increased incentive to do so when the calling of the override session became likely (a majority of lawmakers in each chamber must refrain from calling off the session for it to happen). Constitutionally, the session may last only five days, so by going all outdoors with vetoes he can flood the zone and, with help from legislative Democrats through dilatory tactics, keep all of the more important vetoed bills from receiving a vote.
Yet the bill massacre also serves a political purpose down the road. Edwards has reached a point of no return in his governorship preceded by a steady slide in power. If it goes further, his last two-plus years in office will feature him as an inconvenience, and bystander, in policy-making dominated by the Legislature. Certainly, that will become the case if even a very few of these bills have overridden his vetoes.
So, he had to take a stand and go for broke. He could have vetoed just a few of the 16 that draw the least passion, and likely nothing would have happened. However, continuing on a meek course by allowing several others inimical to his issue preferences to become law would have sent him past this critical point separating him from irretrievable irrelevance. Thus, by going after all and having his vetoes of every one sustained whether involving an override session, this would reverse his decline and show the Legislature who is boss.
If all his vetoes stand, Edwards reinvigorates his governorship (even if these vetoes make his election for any future statewide office impossible). If not, he’ll have a long 30 months ahead of him – if he even chooses to serve out his term.