- The Washington Times
Monday, July 19, 2021

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana State Legislature is set to hold its first veto override session in nearly 50 years, reviewing bills that would allow concealed-carry gun permits and forbid transgender women from competing in women’s sports, among others.

The override session kicks off Tuesday, and the Republican majorities in both houses will have until Saturday to work on more than two dozen bills Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed in the last session.

The session will be the first since Louisiana adopted a new state Constitution in 1974.

Conservative groups and the state Republican Party, which held a rally Monday in Baton Rouge, are elated over the prospect of asserting themselves over a Democratic executive in a deep red state, but the margins for GOP overrides are extremely thin.

“The real test of Republican strength will not just be the session call, it will be their ability to actually stick together to override the governor’s vetoes,” said Republican state Sen. Conrad Appel.

Although the concealed carry permit law and the ban on transgender athletes enjoy broad popular support in Louisiana and sailed through the Legislature on bipartisan, veto-proof margins, political operatives sounded doubtful Monday about the chances for overriding those bills.

“We’ve gotten our members very involved, but unfortunately we’re hearing about a lot of shenanigans afoot in Louisiana,” said Brendan Boudreau, a spokesman with the National Association for Gun Rights, a supporter of the concealed-carry legislation.

In particular, Mr. Boudreau cited the announcement by Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns, who said he would miss the override session for health reasons. Mr. Johns had voted for concealed carry and a transgender athletes ban, and his absence leaves Senate Republicans with the exact number — 26 — they need for a two-thirds override vote.

That means Mr. Edwards, who said he is “not surprised” by the override session his team worked hard to prevent, only needs to peel away one vote in the Senate to protect one of his 28 vetoes.

“It’s going to be on the legislative leadership to actually hold the votes and call the bluffs to see who has the political courage to vote against bills that are popular with most Louisianians,” Mr. Boudreau said.

Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder sounded confident when he announced on June 16 the override session would be held.

“In accordance with the Louisiana Constitution and the will of the majority of its members, the legislature will return to Baton Rouge to consider overriding vetoes made by Gov. Edwards this session,” Mr. Schexnayder said in a statement issued to The Associated Press. “This is democracy in action.”

Since the state Constitution was adopted in 1974, the majority of lawmakers had voted each year against holding an override session. This year, an insufficient number voted against conducting a session.

Under state law, two-thirds majorities in both chambers are required to override a veto. Republicans hold 68 seats in the 105-member House but will need to win 70 votes to override the Democratic governor’s vetoes.

“For the GOP legislators to stick together and call a special veto override session was historic,” Mr. Appel told The Washington Times. “Now, Gov. Edwards’ legacy rides on not being the first governor to suffer veto overrides, so behind closed doors he is making all sorts of deals to break down the Republican bloc.”

But Mr. Edwards may be counting on more than just a stray Republican reversal. A handful of Democrats in the state House who voted for the concealed carry bill and the transgender sports ban are considered uncertain votes for an override.

Earlier this month, the Edwards administration rallied sheriffs and other law enforcement chiefs for a Baton Rouge press conference indicating their support of his veto of legislation that would allow all licensed gun owners age 21 or older to carry concealed weapons.

Mr. Edwards noted that Louisiana already permits open carry of firearms and argued that a training requirement for concealed carry is reasonable when he vetoed the measure.

That veto put Louisiana at odds with other states, particularly those in the Deep South, that have enacted concealed carry laws that gun-rights supporters say codify what is implicit in the Second Amendment.

The Edwards press conference also offered protection for wavering supporters of the concealed carry law, leaving some Republicans less confident of a successful override of that veto than they are of the transgender sports ban.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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