Louisiana Republicans face thin margins to override governor’s congressional map veto

Three GOP lawmakers weren’t certain whether they would vote to override

By: - March 25, 2022 1:23 pm

The Louisiana House will likely be going into a veto override session next week. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

The Louisiana Legislature is all but certain to have a veto override session starting Wednesday. What Republican leaders don’t know is whether they have enough votes to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rejection and put their version of Louisiana’s congressional map into place.

Two-thirds of the Louisiana Senate and House each must vote in favor of overriding Edwards. With less than a week to go before the veto override session would open, it’s not clear the Republican legislative leadership has the 70 votes in the House they need.

The resistance is coming from unexpected corners. House Republican Caucus chairman Blake Miguez of Erath was one of at least three Republicans who hadn’t committed to voting for the override.

“I haven’t made a decision yet,” Miguez said Wednesday about the veto overturn.

Edwards vetoed two identical versions of Louisiana’s U.S. House map that the Republican-controlled Legislature overwhelmingly approved last month.

Lawmakers passed a U.S. House map with only one majority-Black district. The Democratic governor said two of the six seats drawn should be majority-Black districts because Louisiana’s Black residents make up a third of the state’s total population.

The Legislature won’t officially decide to schedule a veto override session until Saturday, but there’s little chance it won’t happen. Legislators have until Friday at midnight to decide whether they want a veto override session to be held. If most lawmakers in each chamber are in favor of the veto session, then it will take place. Given that Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers, lawmakers expect the session to go forward. 

Like his fellow Republicans, Miguez wants a U.S. House map with one majority-Black district. His reasons for opposing the Legislature’s map have nothing to do with the governor’s concerns.

Miguez and U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins are opposed to the map splitting St. Martin and St. Mary parishes between two congressional districts, the 3rd District seat that Higgins holds and the 6th District of U.S. Rep. Garret Graves. Higgins wants all of St. Martin and St. Mary parishes in his district.

“My congressman is very upset about the process and feels he was lied to [by legislative leadership],” Miguez said.

In the Louisiana Senate, Republicans can vote to override the governor with ease because they make up two-thirds of the chamber. The House is different.

Republicans only have 68 votes in the lower chamber and need 70 votes for a veto override. Even if the GOP has all their members on board, they still have to convince at least two Democrats or independents to go along with them to be successful.

If all the Republicans stick together next week, there is a good chance the leadership can get the votes needed. One Democrat, Rep. Francis Thompson of Delhi, already supports the override.

Two independents, Joe Marino of Gretna and Malinda White of Bogalusa, also voted in favor of the Republican-backed congressional map twice when it came up for votes in February. The House’s third independent, Daryl Adams of Jackson, voted in favor of the map once and against it another time, making it unclear where he stands.

Marino and White declined to comment Friday on whether they would vote for a veto override. Adams could not be reached for comment.

If Marino, White or Adams joined the Republicans and Thompson in the veto override, they would have 70 votes, enough to defeat the governor.

“After talking to members, I feel confident that we do have the votes [for the override],” House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, said in an interview Thursday.

Schexnayder could still run into trouble if he can’t get enough Republicans on board to support the map. Besides Miguez, Republican Reps. Beryl Amedee of Gray and Gabe Firment of Pollock have said they were uncomfortable with the map. All three voted against it when it came up for votes in February.

Like Miguez, Amedee is upset the map splits St. Mary Parish, specifically that it carves up Morgan City, a coastal community of approximately 12,000 people that she represents.

“I wanted a map that did not divide the city of Morgan City,” she said Thursday. “I’m going to speak with my mayor, parish president and my congressman [before deciding how to vote].”

Firment was initially upset the map split Grant Parish, where he lives, between congressional districts represented by U.S. Reps. Mike Johnson and Julia Letlow. He said he now feels better about the proposal after having conversations with both of them.

“I’m still talking to folks back home,” Firment said. “[But] in all likelihood, I’ll be in support of the veto override.”

Governors’ vetoes in Louisiana rarely get overturned. Since the state enacted its current constitution in 1973, lawmakers have only overridden a governor’s veto twice – once in 1991, when Gov. Buddy Roemer was in office, and a second time in 1993, when Gov. Edwin Edwards led the state. Roemer had vetoed an abortion restriction, and Edwards was overturned on a budget issue regarding the attorney general.

The upcoming veto override session must start by noon Wednesday under a timeline outlined in the state constitution. It can run up to five days, though legislative leaders said they expect it to last one to three days.

Schexnayder said the session may have to run at least two days if the Senate ends up voting on the override first. Procedural rules prohibit the House and the Senate from taking an override vote on the same day if the Senate takes the first vote, he said.

If the veto override efforts fail, legislative leaders still have other options for getting their map approved.

The Legislature just ended its second week of its annual lawmaking session, which is expected to be suspended for a few days so the lawmakers can hold the veto override session. If the governor’s veto is upheld, lawmakers could also pass the same map again during the regular lawmaking session.


Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, has already filed an identical version of that map – House Bill 608 – in the regular session. Several Black Democrats have also filed their own congressional maps which create a second majority-Black district.

Legislative leaders said they haven’t decided whether they will try to pass their congressional map again if the veto override effort fails.

“There’s been no decision about that yet,” said Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

Regardless, any map approved that doesn’t include a second majority-Black district will be tied up in lawsuits. Civil rights organizations have said they will sue over maps with just one majority-Black district, arguing that they violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Some version of the map must be in place before candidates start registering to run in U.S. House elections. That filing is supposed to happen in July.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.