Members of the House bow for a prayer Tuesday, July 18, 2023, during the veto override session at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. (Matthew Perschall for Louisiana Illuminator)
Three anti-LGBTQ+ measures grabbed headlines in the Louisiana Legislature’s one-day veto override session, but about two dozen other bills that Gov. John Bel Edwards rejected were also up for consideration. In the end, most were never even brought up while others fell short of the needed votes to become law.
Lawmakers failed to revive two bills on vaccines in K-12 schools, both from Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Baton Rouge, who has repeatedly proffered misinformation on the topic. The House voted to override the veto of House Bill 399, which requires communications about school vaccine requirements to include info on exemptions, but the Senate did not meet the two-thirds majority threshold.
Edmonston’s House Bill 182, which would have prohibited public and private schools from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, didn’t get the votes it needed in the House.
An override attempt of a bill to require a supplemental voter canvass faltered in the House, coming just one vote shy of a two-thirds majority. House Bill 646, sponsored by Rep. Les Farnum, R-Sulphur, failed 69-30.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who was the biggest cheerleader for the Farnum bill, expressed his disappointment in the outcome.
“I am disappointed that the legislature was not able to override the governor’s misguided and highly partisan veto of HB 646,” Ardoin said in a press release. “ …I call upon the next Secretary of State to pursue this legislation under a pro-election integrity governor next year.”
The House also failed to override House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, in a 66-29 vote. It was a largely redundant proposal on the state’s fortified home standards enacted in another piece of legislation.
An effort to override the governor’s veto of a bill to prohibit Chinese nationals and other “foreign adversaries” from owning land in Louisiana was just three votes short. House Bill 125, sponsored by Rep. Michael Echols, R-Monroe, passed the House 72-25 vote but came up short in the Senate, 23-15.
The bill defined “foreign adversaries” as people or governments from China, Hong Kong, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela while under the leadership of Nicolas Maduro. It did not include anyone who is a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, who presented the bill to the Senate floor on behalf of Echols, suggested his military service gave him authority to speak on the matter.
“I can tell you the threat from China is real,” Cathey said. “They want to kill us. They want to take over America. They want to see Louisiana destroyed.”
Edwards signed into law a similar bill. A primary difference is that it relies solely on the federal definition of a foreign adversary, unlike Echols’ bill that listed out the specific countries. Also, Echols’ bill would have provided specific means of enforcement such as a $50,000 fine against violators and various ways to recover the land and penalize foreign actors through the courts.
House Bill 658, by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, aimed to provide more transparency in health care pricing. With all House Democrats opposed, it fell one vote short of an override, 69-29.
In his veto letter, Edwards said the Crews legislation conflicted with federal law that requires medical care transparency. The governor also said it would increase the workload and costs of the state health and insurance departments.
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Vetoed bills dealing with business
In business-related legislation, Louisiana’s franchise tax will remain on the books for now after state legislators chose not to address the issue in the veto override session.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, would have gradually eliminated Louisiana’s corporate franchise tax, which is essentially a privilege tax corporations pay to do business in the state. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the measure, saying he agreed with the bill in principle but that Allain’s timing was off.
The legislature made sweeping changes to the state’s individual and corporate income tax structures just two years ago, and the state won’t see the effects of those changes until the end of this year or early next year. The governor said in his veto message it would be unwise to make another drastic change to the state’s tax structure before the effects of the previous changes fully pan out.
Allain, who is term-limited from seeking reelection, said he decided not to push for a veto override after privately canvassing his colleagues in the legislature
“Unfortunately, I talked to every one of our members and just didn’t have the votes,” he said in an interview. “So I’m going to leave it to the next legislature.”
Allain said several of his colleagues agreed with the governor’s assessment that it was bad timing to phase out the franchise tax.
A companion proposal, Senate Bill 6, to end the Quality Jobs tax incentive for businesses, was also untouched. Allain intended for it to offset some of the state revenue lost by eliminating the franchise tax.
Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Schriever, came up one House vote short to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 415, which would have excluded digital currency from being considered a deposit account for banking purposes. The governor’s veto message warned of unforeseen consequences because federal banking policy for digital currency doesn’t exist yet.
Lawmakers chose not to reconsider the veto of House Bill 585, sponsored by Echols. The bill would have created a new state entity called the Council of Economic Prosperity.
Budget bills stay intact
House and Senate members choose not to bring up projects and other language the governor removed from three budget bills — House bills 1, 2 and 560 — for a veto override, despite threats from conservative Republican lawmakers to do so. The governor primarily removed funding from the districts of legislators who had fought his proposal to spend more money in the current fiscal year.
Legislation from Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, to provide more detailed accounting of the state revenue available to lawmakers to spend each fiscal cycle also failed to overcome the governor’s veto override in the House. House Bill 166 garnered no opposition from lawmakers when it was approved last month but failed on a partisan vote of 69-39 in the House – with all Democrats opposed – in Tuesday’s veto override session.
Lawmakers largely steer clear of criminal justice vetoes
Legislation to deny parole to “dangerous offenders” as defined in Rep. Larry Frieman’s House Bill 188 came up short in a 67-29 veto override vote. The bill was unnecessary because such provisions are already in existing law, according to the governor’s veto message.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Pineville, indicated before the veto override session he would not bring up House Bill 85, which would require onlookers to remain 25 feet away from police in action. The proposal will be brought up again next year with a new governor in office, he said.
No action was taken on the veto for House Bill 91, by Rep. Jonathan Goudeau, R-Lafayette, dealt with restitution to victims of vehicular homicide. The governor’s veto message said it lacked clear direction for courts to implement the law.
Also left alone was House Bill 659, from Rep. Troy Romero, R-Jennings, that would have set up a registry for certain offenders convicted of crimes against children. It was considered a redundant measure
Cathey declined to bring up Senate Bill 159, which would have treated 17-year-olds as adults for crimes of violence, starting with their arrest.
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Other untouched vetoes
- House Bill 205, from Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, would have an overtime pay schedule for teachers and school employees.
- House Bill 260, from Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, would have required state legislative approval for any federal election directive handed down from Washington.
- House Bill 504, from Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, would have repealed a law that requires all unclassified state employees and civil service employees making over $100,000 a year hold a Louisiana driver’s license and have every vehicle they own registered in Louisiana.
- House Bill 661, by Rep. Nick Muscarello, R-Hammond, called for the Judicial Council of the Supreme Court of Louisiana to make suggestions to the legislature for merging or splitting judicial districts.
- Senate Bill 123, by Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, attempted to shield signatures in recall petitions for 90 days.
- Senate Bill 196, by Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, sought to reveal specifics when financial backing is the driving force behind litigation.
Reporters Piper Hutchinson, Wes Muller and Julie O’Donoghue and Editor Greg LaRose contributed to this article.
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