Louisiana lawmaker blasts colleagues after they scuttle his redistricting bill

GOP representative calls Legislature ‘the laziest group of people I’ve ever worked with’

By: - February 16, 2022 5:13 pm
Barry Ivey

State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, talks with colleagues in the Louisiana House of Representatives on Feb. 2, 2022. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Republicans in the Louisiana Legislature have dominated the ongoing redistricting session, almost exclusively advancing maps that favor their party retaining its healthy majority in Congress and state bodies. But one GOP member had choice words for his colleagues Wednesday after he bucked the partisan trend and sought to add a minority district to the Louisiana Supreme Court

After his bill was tabled without discussion on the Louisiana House of Representatives floor in a rare procedural move, Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, vented for more than eight minutes in a speech to members.

“We all say, ‘It’s not about race. We’ve grown. We’ve matured, We’ve evolved, right? We’re enlightened,’” Ivey said. “But what do we do? We repeat ourselves because we don’t learn from history.”

Ivey’s bill was one of four options lawmakers advanced with new Supreme Court district boundaries. There are seven seats on the court, with one representing a district with a minority population of more than 50%. Rep. Wilford Carter, D-Lake Charles, has two bills that add a second minority district, and both advanced Wednesday from the House redistricting committee. 

Another bill from Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, keeps the court’s minority district count at one. The House redistricting committee also moved her map favorably Wednesday. It already has the full Senate’s approval.

Timing is a factor for the bills still alive in the redistricting process. Legislative leaders have said they intend to end the special session before the weekend, although they technically have until 6 p.m. Sunday to conclude.

Hewitt’s bill would ordinarily “lay over” a full day before the full House could take a vote on it, but it’s been given a waiver so that it could be considered as soon as Thursday. The same exception hasn’t been made for Carter’s bills.

Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, offered a motion to table Ivey’s bill in the middle of debate over his map. It effectively killed the proposal without lawmakers having to officially go on the record as voting for or against it.

After the 53-42 vote to table his bill, Ivey chided his colleagues for not heeding the input many received during a statewide round of redistricting hearings ahead of the session.

“When groups of people in our state do not vote because they feel that their vote doesn’t count… what do we say? We’re saying we haven’t evolved at all,” he said.

Ivey said he doesn’t intend to propose any bills in the upcoming regular session – maybe not next year either – and will instead work with other lawmakers to support their causes.

“Because being principled, trying to be consistent isn’t necessarily politically expedient,” Ivey said. 

Without naming specific lawmakers, Ivey called the Legislature “the laziest group of people I’ve ever worked with” and that members prioritize “playing politics” over the livelihoods of Louisiana residents.

“Last year, what you’ll find is if (a bill) wasn’t backed by the pockets of corporate special interests, it didn’t have much of a shot,” Ivey said.

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Ivey also reflected on the testimony of several students who called on the Legislature to increase minority representation through redistricting. Some said they would likely leave Louisiana unless they saw significant change, and Ivey called out colleagues who ignored their pleas. 

“When this institution over the last hundred years has extinguished the hope of our children, shame on us,” he said.

In an interview with the Illuminator after the House adjourned, Ivey said some House members didn’t want to take a final vote on his bill because it could have been “injurious politically.”

“Sometimes, we choose easy instead of right,” he said, adding that he did not expect the motion to table his bill.

The derailing of Ivey’s bill provoked some angry back-and-forth in the House.

After Ivey’s speech, Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, said he believes in the political process and that “life does not give you what you want. It gives you what you deserve.” Members of the Legislative Black Caucus in the House reacted visibly to Harris’ comments.

Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, thanked Ivey for his comments and agreed with his sentiments.

“I do believe this process is tainted,” she said.

The Black Caucus issued a statement Wednesday evening on the fate of Ivey’s bill. “To table a bill for the sake of killing debate is reprehensible,” it said in part. “To not have the courage to go on record with your vote is unworthy of the honor of serving as an elected official in the great State of Louisiana.” (Read the entire statement below this story)

The Legislature can adjourn without approving a new state Supreme Court map because the law doesn’t compel them to draw new districts. The last time they were updated was 1997, and only then because a federal court forced the state’s hand.

Lawmakers could make another attempt to fashion court districts during the regular session, but it would be one of several heavy lifts — along with the state budget and construction spending plan — on the agenda. 

Legislative Black Caucus responds to vote to table House Bill 22

The members of the LLBC commend Representative Barry Ivey for doing exactly what we were elected to do: fight for the rights of the people and to create access for the historically disenfranchised. To table a bill for the sake of killing debate is reprehensible. To not have the courage to go on record with your vote is unworthy of the honor of serving as an elected official in the great State of Louisiana. 
We were called into this special redistricting session to reapportion representation based on census information—census information that has confirmed growth in the number of Black Louisianians to a full one-third of the overall population. To fail to adequately reapportion our maps according to this information is a dereliction of our duties. 
As it stands, the Louisiana Supreme Court only has one majority-minority district out of seven—an even more egregious malapportionment than our Congressional map which only has one majority-minority district out of six. The bill presented by Republican Representative Ivey would have presented a bipartisan solution to this malapportionment, and the failure of the Body to vote on it is an embarrassment to the institution. 
The Black Caucus will continue to fight to ensure fair and just representation in Louisiana as we focus on the instruments remaining in this redistricting session. Representative Wilford Carter’s HB 18 and HB 20 both work to expand minority representation in the Louisiana Supreme Court and will be heard on the House Floor soon—where we expect and demand a robust debate and vote. 
LLBC Chairman Vincent Pierre added, “The people of Louisiana want and deserve representation that is fair, just, courageous, and honorable and that is exactly what they should get.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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