Veto override session – a look back

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Nobody has the right to harm children. These words echoed as Louisiana legislators voted to override House Bill 648 by Representative Gabe Firment (R 8/10). Things could have gone better, but what a great win for the children of Louisiana.

We weren’t sure there would be a session

In the days leading up to Louisiana’s 2023 Veto Session people across the state voiced the urgency in overriding the governor’s vetoes on a few very important bills. Many legislators were ready to go the moment the governor vetoed HB648. Others needed a nudge. In the end only thirty one (31) from the house and twelve (12) from the senate opted out of the session. Of those, the only two Republicans who abandoned our children in writing were Rogers Pope (R 4/10) and Fred Mills (R 2/10), both Senators.

Six (6) House members chose to stay home. On the House Republican side, while Paula Davis (R 3/10) and Joseph Stagni (R 5/10) didn’t petition to cancel the session, they also didn’t bother to show up. The four Democrats who decided to boycott included: Barbara Carpenter (D 1/10), Kenny Cox (D 4/10), Denise Marcell (D 1/10), and Candace Newell (D 1/10). On the Senate side, all 39 members were in attendance. Even though Patrick Connick (R 3/10) missed the initial roll call, he was present for the vote on HB648.

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Would this be like previous veto sessions? Would legislators hear more bills and go on record with their votes? While various conservative groups teamed up to encourage an override session to happen, conservative legislators themselves were working to ensure it would be productive. According to Louisiana Freedom Caucus member Alan Seabaugh (R 9/10), we can credit the threat of removing the House Speaker for the consideration of so many veto overrides.

Override them all, right?

A simplified glance at veto override votes, only showing members who were recorded differently. Members who were recorded the same on all votes were removed.

The Governor vetoed twenty eight (28) bills in total. The media’s obsession with legislation intended to protect children gave the Senate some cover for failing to override any other bill. However, House members attempted to override quite a diverse list of bills, twelve in all. Only three bills received the requisite votes; and each one was overridden thanks to a few Democrats crossing the aisle. They were:

  1. HB648 by Gabe Firment (R 8/10), to address the problem of sex change procedures on minor children.
  2. HB125 by Michael Echols (R 8/10), to forbid foreign adversaries from purchasing farm land.
  3. HB399 by Kathy Edmonston (R 9/10), to require communications about student vaccine recommendations be accompanied by exemption information.

The other bills that were considered, but fell short, included:

  1. HB415 (69:29:7) by Beryl Amedee (R 9/10), to block central bank digital currency. It fell one vote short of the 70 threshold. The only vote that changed from HB399 (which passed with exactly 70 votes) was Tammy Phelps (D 1/10). It’s just possible that this bill would have passed if only Paula Davis (R 3/10) or Joseph Stagni (R 5/10) had shown up to the override session.
  2. HB658 (69:29:7) by Raymond Crews (R 8/10) would improve healthcare pricing transparency. This one failed by the same one vote as HB415: Tammy Phelps (D 1/10) sticking with the party line to vote “no.” As expected, those Republicans present stuck together and fully supported this bill. If Paula Davis (R 3/10) or Joseph Stagni (R 5/10) had shown up, this bill should have been overridden.
  3. HB646 (69:30:6) by Les Farnum (R 4/10) was his third attempt to allow Louisiana’s Secretary of State to clean the voter rolls. This time, Mack Cormier (D 2/10) was the sole Democrat to join with Republicans to get this one overridden. Unfortunately, Neil Riser (R 5/10) inexplicably voted “no,” causing the override to fall one short. Although it doesn’t appear in the Journal, Riser did attempt a motion to reconsider. For a few moments, it was marked as such on the legislature’s website, and returned to the calendar. However, some moments later, everything related to his reconsideration disappeared.
  4. HB166 (69:29:7) by Tony Bacala (R 8/10) would require additional, specific details be included with each year’s budget. A united Democratic Party was able to block this veto override only thanks to the absences of Paula Davis (R 3/10) and Joseph Stagni (R 5/10).
  5. HB182 (69:28:8) by Kathy Edmonston (R 9/10) would forbid requiring a COVID-19 vaccine to attend school. Once again, Mack Cormier (D 2/10) joined with Republicans to get this one overridden. However, an inexplicable “absence” by Les Farnum caused the bill to fail to be overridden. Farnum rushed to the front to complain that his voting machine malfunctioned. However, the vote was not permitted to be altered and so the veto was not overridden.
  6. HB466 (68:29:8) by Dodie Horton (R 9/10) would forbid teachers from sharing their sexual proclivities with children. This one fell two votes short. What’s odd is Democrats Mack Cormier (D 2/10) and Roy Adams (D 2/10) crossed the aisle to support this bill. However, those two votes were canceled out by Paula Davis’ seat mate, Stephanie Hilferty (R 4/10), and candidate for Governor Richard Nelson (R 2/10). That should have made it fail by only one vote, except that Tanner Magee was marked “absent.” This couldn’t have been an accident, as Magee was standing in plain view of the entire House chamber at the time!
  7. HB81 (67:29:9) by Raymond Crews (R 8/10) would forbid school teachers from secretly changing the pronouns of students. Four Democrats, Roy Adams (D 2/10), Chad Brown (D 1/10)Mack Cormier (D 2/10), and Pat Moore (D 1/10), crossed the aisle to support a veto override. However, five Republicans flipped. Mary DuBuisson (R 4/10), Bryan Fontenot, Stephanie Hilferty (R 4/10), Tanner Magee (R 2/10), and Richard Nelson (R 2/10) all voted no! Timothy Kerner (R 6/10) who had voted favorably to every other bill was suddenly and inexplicably “absent.”
  8. HB188 (67:29:9) by Larry Frieman (R 9/10) would deny parole to dangerous criminals. This time, Tanner Magee (R 2/10) was mysteriously absent in plain sight of all present, along with Richard Nelson (R 2/10). The Democrats maintained their united front.
  9. HB309 by Ray Garofalo (R 7/10), to allow discounts on insurance rates. This one should be a no-brainer. However, it fell four votes short. Not one single Democrat supported an override. On the Republican side, the absences of Paula Davis (R 3/10) and Joseph Stagni (R 5/10) can account for most of the failure. However, several other Republicans were counted as absent for the final bill vote of the day. These included Kathy Edmonston (R 9/10), Valarie Hodges (R 9/10), and John Stefanski (R 5/10). Even had they counted favorably, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?

Tally sheet / comparison from the veto override session and regular session. Each bill has two columns. The left column is the override vote, the right column is either final passage or the conference report vote.

Apparently a few weeks is enough time for some legislators to completely change their minds about cleaning voter rolls, foreign adversaries buying Louisiana’s ag land, digital currency, fortified homes, and informing parents about vaccine exemption rights. These bills went from around one hundred yeas to 70 or less. The bills had not changed. Did they not read them before they voted on them? Did they have an epiphany? Or, were they simply playing political games with zero regard to how it might impact the citizens of Louisiana?

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Ensuring every bill gets heard creates an ever important voting record. That record helps to expose the hypocrisy of members who vote in favor of a bill for appearances versus those who truly believe in the legislation. Here’s a short list of the most egregious flip-flop votes of the override session: the five unanimously passed bills.

  1. HB125 by Michael Echols (R 8/10), to forbid foreign adversaries from purchasing farm land passed the House unanimously. However, during the override session, the only Democrats who stuck true to their beliefs, and helped to override the veto, were: Roy Adams (D 2/10), Mack Cormier (D 2/10), and Pat Moore (D 1/10). The other twenty four (24) Democrats along with “Independent” “Jiving Joe” Marino’s (I 2/10) hypocrisy was exposed.
  2. HB415 (69:29:7) by Beryl Amedee (R 9/10), to block central bank digital currency, fell one vote short of the 70 threshold. It failed because every single Democrat flip-flopped from their previously unanimous approval of this bill. Of course, we can credit “Jiving Joe” Marino, who also actively voted in favor of this bill just weeks earlier.
  3. HB658 (69:29:7) by Raymond Crews (R 8/10) would improve healthcare pricing transparency. Again, the Democratic Party united against a fantastic bill that they  and “Jiving Joe” had previously and unanimously supported. When did this unchanged bill suddenly become terrible?
  4. HB166 (69:29:7) by Tony Bacala (R 8/10) to require additional, specific details be included with each year’s budget was another no-brainer. Who doesn’t want more transparency in the budgeting process? A united Democratic Party (including “Jiving Joe”) had voted for this bill during the regular session, then flipped to oppose a veto override. The hypocrisy is shocking.
  5. Finally, HB309 by Ray Garofalo (R 7/10), which would allow discounts on insurance rates was unanimously passed by Democrats and “Jiving Joe.” When it came to supporting the governor or giving you an insurance discount, a united Democratic Party chose a toothless, lame-duck Edwards who couldn’t do anything to them now if he wanted to.

The above tally sheets are images for easy display. However, if you’d like to see and manipulate the data for yourself, we’ve made a veto override tally spreadsheet available for download.

Leave the kids alone!

We could rehash all of the things legislators should have done differently. We could dwell on the idea that they did not do enough. There are a lot of things we could complain about. We can also acknowledge the win.

There was a bit of lecturing from those who believe cutting is okay as long as the doctors do it, or that children will die if they are not given cross sex hormones. Those in the audience booed as legislators tried to tug heart strings claiming this bill would be certain death for children. They also said that any one in favor of HB648 by Gabe Firment (R 8/10) want people to move out of this state. Ultimately both chambers voted to override the governor’s veto.

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The children of Louisiana won. In a bipartisan effort legislators sent a clear message: nobody has the right to harm children.




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