Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed a light agenda to lawmakers, but he put a strong stamp on the 2014 legislative session through his vetoes, many of which struck down bills that had received overwhelming support in the House and Senate.
The Republican governor, positioning himself for a likely 2016 presidential bid, used vetoes to bolster his conservative bona fides and to kill bills that would have given lawmakers more oversight over his administration’s spending practices.
Twelve bills were vetoed by the governor, and he stripped a few items from the state operating budget for next year with his line-item veto.
Most of the jettisoned bills hadn’t raised complaints from the Jindal administration as they moved through the Legislature. Several of the proposals were pushed by lawmakers who tend to be allied with the governor. In at least one instance, Jindal’s state police superintendent advocated for a driver’s license measure only to have it rejected after passage.
Jindal sided with the Louisiana Family Forum, a powerful state conservative organization, in killing at least two bills: one setting up regulations governing surrogacy births and another letting residents get driver licenses that are compliant with the federal REAL ID security law.
The governor cited concerns raised by “many in the pro-life community” in vetoing the bill that would have set out the legal rights of adoptive parents, child and surrogate mother when a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for someone else.
After the bill was passed, the Family Forum criticized it as allowing embryos to be destroyed and sanctioning unmarried women to become pregnant.
Jindal noted the opposition of the Louisiana Family Forum and the Tea Party of Louisiana among other conservative groups in his veto letter scrapping a bill that would have allowed people to get REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses on a voluntary basis.
In 2016, people will need a license or state identification card that is compliant with REAL ID to board all domestic flights. Without one, they will be required to produce a passport or other federal identification card or could be subject to questioning from security workers.
Jindal cited “concerns about whether it will compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty.”
Also arguing individual rights, the governor refused to support a bill that would have required dogs riding in the back of trucks to be secured with a leash, crate or a ventilated truck bed cover when on an interstate highway.
In his veto message, Jindal called it a “nanny state” bill.
On the financial front, Jindal rejected a measure giving the Legislature more oversight of state consulting contracts. It would have required most of the contracts with a state general fund price tag topping $40,000 to get approval from the Legislature’s joint budget committee.
Treasurer John Kennedy, who sought the restrictions, said the veto means Louisiana will “continue to waste money on frivolous, overly expensive consulting contracts.”
The governor jettisoned another measure aimed at giving lawmakers some review of his administration’s heftiest contracts. The bill would have required approval from the Legislature’s joint budget committee of most contracts topping $100 million.
In veto messages, Jindal said the contracting oversight could hinder the state’s efforts to provide services, add layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and discourage businesses from wanting to contract with the state.
Also vetoed was a bill requiring the state’s income forecasting panel to estimate how much the state spends on certain tax breaks and to account for the spending in the budget. Jindal suggested the measure could effectively force a tax increase on businesses by limiting spending for the incentive programs.
Lawmakers could hold a session seeking to override Jindal’s vetoes, and one was automatically set for July 12 once the governor rejected bills.
But that session is not expected to happen.
A majority vote of one legislative chamber by July 7 can scrap the session, and lawmakers haven’t held a veto session since the current state constitution was enacted four decades ago.
That likely gives Jindal the final word.
Melinda Deslatte covers the Louisiana Capitol for The Associated Press.