The influential Louisiana Family Forum gave its lowest ranking in the state Senate to a Democratic candidate for Baton Rouge mayor who attended an evangelist’s university and sponsored numerous anti-abortion bills over the years.
The Baton Rouge-based group, which advocates conservative Christian values in government, graded Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome at 38 percent on its 2015 legislative scorecard.
“I don’t think being seen at the bottom of list is a sum total of things I’ve done for families and children,” Broome said Thursday. “My faith is not measured by my ranking with the Louisiana Family Forum.”
“It surprised me to see her with that score,” the Rev. Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said Thursday, adding that Broome frequently has allied with his organization over the years. “All we can do is take a snapshot of what occurs.”
Broome was faulted for supporting legislation that would create a cause of legal action for not paying women equally as men, authorizing the state to survey the sexual practices of public school students, and for a plan that would limit payments under the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, the scholarship that pays state university tuition for qualified students that is better known as TOPS. Higher educations officials and the widow of the TOPS founder argued that plan would save the program whose costs are spiraling out of control. Gov. Bobby Jindal, however, vetoed the legislation.
Mills said they were told by legislators from both chambers that the need to balance the budget trumped other issues considered controversial, including legislation that would have added legal protections for people who refused service based on religious beliefs and that would have prohibited abortions based on the gender of the fetus.
The Family Forum interpreted the effort as amounting to holding socially sensitive bills hostage to ensure enough votes for measures that raised revenues. “So, this year, the scorecard included some of those fiscal issues,” Mills said.
Broome voted for legislation that rolled back 1 percent of the exemption for sales taxes businesses pay for utilities. The business community calls it a tax increase, but supporters spun it as cutting the taxpayer largesse to rich corporations in order to raise money for higher education and health care.
“We were in a very difficult financial bind with the $1.6 billion deficit,” Broome said. “It was one session, these issues. But I’m going to continue to live out my public service motivated by my convictions as a committed Christian.”
Broome was the primary backer of establishing and expanding the state’s “Right to Know” law, which requires offering pre-abortion counseling 24 hours prior to the procedure. The law now includes taking an ultrasound of a fetus, which could then be shown to the mother.
Broome is the second-highest-ranking Senate officer, attended Regent University, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, and has sponsored, during her 23 years in the Legislature, about a dozen bills chipping away at the ability to perform abortions in Louisiana. Family Forum is the Louisiana affiliate of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington, D.C., linked to James Dobson, another evangelist.
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