SADOW: GOP leadership must commit to greater success

If it can do some things right, why can’t the Republican leadership in the Louisiana Legislature get more done?

At least Republican Speaker Clay Schexnayder and GOP Pres. Page Cortez got it together on a few things, as opposed to last year. Then, they had an opportunity to muscle through the operating budget and many bills disliked by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards well prior to the end of the regular session, but didn’t. It led to a veto session where they brought up some of those bills, but none could gather enough votes to override, and line item vetoes went unchallenged.

This year, at least they got some of it right. Last week saw the budget passed, well in time to bring up any line item vetoes for an override, as opposed to last year when they left no time to attempt any. By doing so, they disempower Edwards from using this threat to sway votes on other pieces of legislation, by ensuring targeted members their items are safe.

Also, SB 44 by Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell is headed to Edwards’ desk, which would duplicate what a very similar bill did last year that he vetoed. That bill, mirroring laws enacted in over a dozen states, prohibits biological males from competing in scholastic and collegiate sports designated for females only.

Yet it may become the only genuinely high-profile bill that will make it out of the Legislature to allow for consideration of potential veto overrides prior to session’s end. Several others have made substantial progress and likely should achieve passage in time, which includes bills to grant more families education vouchers, make concealed carry of handguns without a permit the default, provide for more legislative oversight of gubernatorial emergency powers and particularly regarding elections conduct, and increase election security – but all likely to face an Edwards veto for partisan reasons.

A few others, despite their popularity, unless given priority may not even pass the finish line before the session’s conclusion. These include bills to sequester a portion of revenues to prevent budget deficits, protect expression on college campuses, grant greater options to students with disabilities, prevent outsourcing of elections, enhance verification of eligibility for unemployment benefits, require school district financial information to be posted on the Internet, change to a more realistic formula calculation of the state’s spending limit, prohibit encouragement of viewpoint discrimination in state contracting, and disallow vaccination mandates – again, all likely to encounter an Edwards veto to conform to his party’s agenda.

And some currently appear to have little chance for passage at all, even if according to opinion polling much larger portions of the public support than oppose these. For example, a bill that would prevent health care professionals from disregarding best practices that would lead to surgical mutilation of children and prescribing them drugs with irreversible physical effects remains stalled in the House.

In order to have the opportunity to hold override votes during the session, legislation in its final form must leave the Legislature by the end of the week. Otherwise, Edwards will have until the end of June to issue vetoes, and three weeks later the Legislature could entertain a veto session, as it did last year.

Possibly more success would accrue in such a session this year than last, depending upon whatever markers leaders collected in their chambers’ reapportionment (almost all vulnerable Democrats and no party/independent members kept their boundaries largely intact, with a notable exception one who bucked Schexnayder in last year’s session), that Edwards won’t have line item vetoes available to terrorize certain members, and being one year closer to elections constituent opinion will matter more to shore up override support. Still, regular session override attempts would have a greater chance of success because there’s less time for Edwards to work his wiles and more leverage for leadership over a legislative process still going.

Maybe it’s a matter of baby steps – bringing to life a veto session last year and finishing the budget early this year with necessary overrides accomplished this session and another veto session for other matters that has some successes leading next year to a slew of important and popular bills and the budget cascading into lame duck Edwards’ office well ahead of session close. Successfully implementing that strategy is the only acceptable excuse for GOP leadership failure this session to maximize the likelihood of important legislation becoming law.

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