Gov. John Bel Edwards (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)
No bills to remap Louisiana’s political landscape have landed on his desk yet, so Gov. John Bel Edwards said he hasn’t decided yet whether he would veto any without new minority districts. But the Democratic state leader said the prevailing versions the Legislature’s Republican leadership have advanced so far are “very problematic.”
Edwards’ comments Monday during a press conference were his first in-depth takes on the Legislature’s redistricting session, which began Feb. 1, and must end by Sunday. Separate redistricting maps have emerged from the House and Senate, and the only ones to advance from each chamber are those Republican leadership have authored.
So far, GOP-backed bills have not added any minority districts beyond the status quo with one exception. The governor said he was “heartened” to see the House redistricting committee approve House Bill 22 Monday from Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, that adds a second minority district to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
While not tipping his hand on veto possibilities, Edwards said he was “very concerned” about whether the maps that advance to him are fair and comply with the Voting Rights Act. The new districts should reflect changes since the last Census that show Black residents now make up a third of Louisiana’s population.
“Where you can do it, a third of the districts should be African-American majority districts. Hopefully there will be an effort in that direction in the redistricting bills we’re going to get up here,” the governor said.
Some of the redistricting bills and amendments Democratic lawmakers have proposed include additional minority districts, which Edwards said shows it can be done.
The governor said he “would not lose any sleep” should the Legislature decide not to add a minority district to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. There are eight elected representatives on the board and three who the governor appoints. Currently, two elected BESE seats are in Black-majority districts.
Should the governor veto any of the bills, a two-thirds vote in the Legislature is necessary to override it. Republicans hold a super majority in the Senate but are a couple seats short in the House. The redistricting bills approved so far have surpassed that threshold, but there’s no guarantee the votes will be there again should Edwards reject any of them.
The governor can also veto line items in the state budget, which will be considered in the regular legislative session that starts March 14. He may well wield that power in a spending plan that is flush with federal cash intended for local projects.
Edwards said when considering vetoes in past sessions,https://lailluminator.com/2022/02/14/louisiana-senate-house-approve-initial-version-of-their-own-political-maps/ he is mindful of bills that have received two-thirds support. However, the numbers are a secondary factor, he said.
“It’s whether I believe that the bill represents good public policy, and if the answer is no, do I think the policy that the bill contains is bad enough that it warrants a veto.”
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