A few months ago, Senator Heather Cloud (8/10) filed SB7. Her bill would create a uniform policy preventing shelving of erotic materials in library children’s sections across the entire state of Louisiana. It was fantastically written to address the issue itself: erotic books being tucked between other materials in the library children’s section. However, numerous individuals showed up with the lamest excuses to oppose the measure.
It’s been a long journey
A year or more ago, we had people tell me to sit down and shut up about erotica in the library kid’s section. They said it’s too controversial. They said if it would be really bad for our organization. In fact, we had initially lost some supporters over it. However, we didn’t let up because the truth is the truth. Looking back, the rough journey has been worth the pain and vicious attacks that I’ve personally been forced to endure.
In the time since, the Louisiana Attorney General published his Protecting Innocence report. Even though the examples of materials contained in that report are blurred and redacted, it’s still so graphic in nature that it requires age verification to view. That age verification feature is thanks to a new Louisiana law that was created by Laurie Schlegel’s (7/10) bill HB142, from the 2022 regular session.
Glitchy start and re-do.
Public comment period was cut short by Senator Bodi White (6/10) during the Senate Education Committee‘s April 27th meeting. He made a motion to the previous question (3:18:45 mark of the video) which procedurally ends debate and immediately moves to a committee vote. There were no objections to the motion, or to favorable recommendation, so we can’t be certain who was in the room at the time. However, since opposition and some favorable to the bill were not allowed to speak, on May 1st, it was recommitted back to the same committee to be heard again.
That meeting happened today, May 4th, 2023. This time, Senator Bodi White (6/10) did not appear to be present.
Who would oppose this?
While we’ve come to expect the likes of Amanda Jones showing up to oppose this kind of legislation, she was strangely absent from the proceedings. That old saying comes to mind: silence means consent. Is her absence indicative of her support for this bill?
However, others showed up from the “anti-censorship” crowd. Some of these purport to be members of an organization called “Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship.” Look as we might, we can’t find a single registered organization registered under that name with either the Secretary of State or as a Political Action Committee. Closing out for the opposition was Lynette Meja. She’s a Lafayette library malcontent that regularly attends and burns every second of her three minutes of comment time for every single agenda item. The purpose, of course, is to insult the library board and make members as uncomfortable as possible.
One excuse is as good as another
The conga line of nuts that showed up in opposition to the bill came up with all kinds of weird reasons for members to vote against it. It was a multiple choice list of “vote against this bill for the reason of your choice.” My favorite on was, “this would ban the Bible, Shakespeare, or books on breast feeding.” Well, guess what? None of those books are in the children’s section.
Several librarians showed up to oppose the bill, too. I believe they were all from East Baton Rouge. Bill Jones also came down from Ruston. He’s a former state senator who is currently a member of the Lincoln Parish Library Board. These excuses were more along the lines of: “this bill is unnecessary because we’re already doing all of this.” Of course, the obvious problem with this excuse is, if you’re already in compliance with the bill why would you oppose it?
One of the comments from the public talking about censorship or book banning tweaked Senator Kirk Talbot’s (8/10) patience. “Where does this bill say books will be removed form the library?” He then made the point that the bill says nothing about removing books.
It’s not pornography?!
One of the nuts even said that Gender Queer (literally the worst book we’ve found) is not pornography. However, the people who watch our content know better. Heather Cloud addressed this issue on April 27th when she closed on her bill.
Earlier today, I had the books from the Protect innocence [project] printed in color and handed to each one of the members so that they could actually see the content that is in the books in the libraries. Don Watson who works for the senate staff, did the printing for me. She was very hesitant to hand those over to me. She wanted to do it the right way. I simply just wanted them to print the book, staple together and hand them to me. Because of the content is so graphic, they had to make sure they had a cover on the front of the books, a cover on the back, they bound it, put the material in a folder, and sealed it. I wanted my legislative assistant, who is probably 20 years old, she is an LSU law student, to go to Don Watson pick it up and bring it to me on the chamber floor.
Don Watson came to the chamber and she asked me if I would give my permission for my assistant to carry that material. If she would open it and read it, there would be potential for a sexual harassment lawsuit against me or the Senate staff because the material was so graphic. That brought so much weight and gravity. I shared that with a couple of you to imagine that our legal staff in the Senate had to be so careful in handling this material because of its graphic content and afraid of sexual harassment charges against us for this content that is readily available for our children in our public library systems. If that does not bring gravity to the situation, then I don’t know what else could. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If you’d like to hear her say it, it’s available on video.
The bill passes 5:1
Katrina Jackson (4/10) was asked first. There was a long delay and she said “no.” However, before the end of the tabulation, she corrected herself to “yes.” The “yes” vote is what would be recorded if this was a house committee. For some reason, the senate committees don’t report who voted which way. To find that out one would have to either be present, or go back to the senate video archives to find out.
The remaining “yes” votes included, Senators Mark Abraham (3/10), Robert Mills (7/10), Beth Mizell (8/10), and Kirk Talbot (8/10). Senator Cleo Fields (2/10) was the only “no” vote recorded. For whatever reason, Senator Bodi White (6/10) was not present, and so will be recorded as absent. That shouldn’t be taken as dodging a vote, though. We know Bodi supports this bill because he motioned to the previous question back on April 27th (3:18:45 mark of the video) and didn’t object to reporting the bill favorably.
Today was a little different because there was that one objection from chairman Senator Cleo Fields (2/10).