The state House has sent a proposal to the Senate that would let Louisiana voters decide whether felons should have to wait before they can run for elected office.
The Legislature is weighing several proposals this session that seek to reinstate a constitutional amendment that had barred felons from seeking state or local office during the 15 years after they served their sentences.
The state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the state’s old constitutional provision, approved by voters in 1998, was invalid after a challenge from a former state lawmaker who spent two years behind bars on corruption charges.
The House approved House Bill 275 in a 79-19 vote on Tuesday.
Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, said the effort to reinstate the previous restrictions on convicted felons is about restoring the faith in elected office.
“This is not about punishment,” he said. “This is about the rights of the people of Louisiana to try to bring the best out in government.
“I’m doing my part to try to improve our reputation.”
Some legislators have challenged the proposal by questioning what length should be appropriate for such a “cooling off” period. Currently, there are no such restrictions on felons running for Congress.
“The reality is the electors will decide who makes it into office and who doesn’t,” said Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans.
Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, said he wants to raise the expectations of elected officials.
“We rise to the level of the expectation that is set for us,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here — not a right. It ought to be damn hard to get here.”