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Louisiana lawmakers getting closer to possible veto session

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(The Center Square) — Pressure is mounting for lawmakers to hold a veto override session this month following the governor’s rejection of numerous bills from the 2023 regular session, including some approved by wide margins.

About two dozen vetoes from Gov. John Bel Edwards nixed the phase out the state’s corporate franchise tax, clarification of school immunization requirements, increased transparency in health care pricing, mandated notification for insurance companies, and three transgender-related bills.

Edwards has also used his line-item veto authority to rework the state budget, restoring $100 million to the Department of Health that was removed during a chaotic finale to the session last month. Other line-item vetoes cut local funding for lawmakers who opposed Edwards’ spending priorities.

While lawmakers have yet to decide whether to return to Baton Rouge, several in both chambers are ready and willing to make the trek.

The state constitution requires an override session unless a majority of lawmakers from either chamber vote to skip it. Republicans failed to override any vetoes during the first override session in state history in 2021, but successfully reversed Edwards’ veto of congressional redistricting legislation last year.

Lawmakers have until July 13 to decide, with a five-day session scheduled for July 18. Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both chambers required to override the governor.

Pollock Republican Rep. Gabe Firment, sponsor of vetoed House Bill 648 to restrict gender transitions for minors, recently told the media his colleagues in both chambers favor an override session, while others have followed commitments on social media.

The Twitter feed for Citizens for a New Louisiana includes several Republican lawmakers in favor, including Abita Springs Rep. Larry Frieman, Shreveport Rep. Alan Seabaugh, Denham Springs Rep. Valarie Hodges, New Iberia Rep. Blake Miguez, Haughton Rep. Dodie Horton, and others.

“The governor has vetoed a number of important bills that protect our children,” Frieman said in a Citizens for a New Louisiana post. “Our children alone are worth a veto override session. Additionally, he has vetoed bills designed to punish the criminals and protect the victims.”

Some lawmakers have also taken to their social media pages to weigh in.

“Please know I am absolutely ready to do my duty and go to Baton Rouge for a veto-override session,” Rep. Chuck Owen, R-Rosepine, posted to Facebook. “Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto pen has caused harm in all corners of our state. He’s harmed teachers, hospitals, businesses, families of school-age children and municipalities throughout Louisiana.”

Calls for overrides are coming from outside the legislature, as well.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is urging lawmakers to override Edwards’ veto of House Bill 646, a thrice rejected measure to enhance the annual voter canvass and ensure accuracy of the state’s voter rolls.

“The insistence by the governor that this process is unnecessary is blatantly partisan and ignores not only the recommendation of the nonpartisan Louisiana Legislative Auditor and election experts, but also the relevant testimony and real-life examples presented in committee,” Ardoin said. “I call on the legislature to convene a veto override session and consider H.B. 646. No other election integrity measure is more critical to our state at this juncture.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins has also cited Edwards’ veto of HB 648 aimed at “protecting children from genitalia mutilation and chemical gender reversal” to call for action.

“Let’s see if our Republican legislature does anything about it,” he posted to Twitter. “We the People demand a veto-override session.”

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