Updated at 4:32 p.m.

A Republican majority Louisiana House voted 68-30 and failed to overturn Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto of legislation that banned transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports.

Several hours later, both chambers adjourned, deciding to prematurely end the veto override session and go home. None of the vetoes on 28 bills were reversed.

The vote on Senate Bill 156, two shy of the 70 needed, was a blow to Republican leaders, who called the first-ever veto override session with the goal of overriding the Democratic governor’s vetoes on the transgender bill and a permitless concealed carry gun bill, which failed to get enough votes for an override in the state Senate.

Senate President Page Cortez told his Senate members that overriding a governor's veto was intentionally set high. The Senate voted to override the transgender sports bill, but the House did not. “That’s the process,” Cortez added as senators collected their belongings.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said Monday he was “comfortable 100%” he would have the votes to override the transgender sports bill. But he was unable to garner enough support from Democrats to override the veto. Republicans hold only 68 of 105 seats.

The failure comes after Republicans in the state Senate rejected an override attempt for the other main bill at issue in the historic session, a proposal to allow for concealed carry of guns without a permit.

The Senate voted Tuesday to override the governor on the transgender sports bill, which would ban transgender athletes born as males from competing in girl’s and women’s sports. Republicans got 26 votes – the exact number needed – in a strictly party-line vote in the Senate.

But lawmakers must get two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a governor’s veto.

Edwards and his allies had put on an intense lobbying effort to halt the override effort. Lawmakers have only overrode governors’ vetoes twice in recorded history, once in 1991 and most recently in 1993. The Legislature had never before convened a session specifically aimed at overriding vetoes, which was authorized nearly half century ago by the most recent state Constitution.

Recently elected Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, said arguments that SB156 was a bill in search of a problem aren't reasonable. “All around the world” transgender persons born as a male and competing in female sports has become a growing problem, she said.

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“Respecting biological differences is not discrimination,” Schlegel said, as several Senators watched from the side of the chamber and dozens of onlookers packed into the balcony. 

But Democrats have pointed to the fact that transgender girls and women don't play girl's and women's sports in Louisiana, mostly because current rules from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association make it virtually impossible. Business and tourism leaders in recent days warned it would hurt the state's economy, because businesses and the NCAA have said they won't invest in states that pass discriminatory legislation. 

“This symbolic legislation that solves no real problems,” said New Orleans Democratic Rep. Royce Duplessis, “is worth suffering dire economic consequences.” Speaking in favor of Edwards' veto, he added that SB156 was discriminatory.

House members cut through 20 bills that Edwards had rejected to get to SB156, which the Senate overrode Monday by the barest of margins. The vetoed measures were returned to the calendar and could come up again Wednesday.

Back on May 27, when the House gave final passage to SB156, the 78-19 votes seemed secure enough to override a gubernatorial veto.

But between then and now, supporters of the transgender ban lost 10 votes. Six came from Democratic members, one from a representative without party affiliation, and three others who voted for the measure in May but didn’t participate in the veto override effort Wednesday.

The six members whose votes flipped were: Reps Roy Daryl Adams, No Party-Jackson; Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine; Robby Carter, D-Amite; Mack Cormier, D-Belle Chasse; C. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia; Jeremy LaCombe, D-Livonia; and Pat Moore, D-Monroe.

The representatives who had voted for SB156 in May but didn’t vote on Wednesday were: Reps Wilford Carter Sr., D-Lake Charles; Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches; and Malinda White, No Party-Bogalusa.

Voted to override veto of transgender sports bill (68): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps Amedee, Bacala, Bagley, Beaullieu, Bishop, Bourriaque, Butler, Carrier, Coussan, Crews, Davis, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Echols, Edmonds, Edmonston, Emerson, Farnum, Firment, Fontenot, Freiberg, Frieman, Gadberry, Garofalo, Geymann, Goudeau, Harris, Hilferty, Hodges, Hollis, Horton, Huval, Illg, Ivey, M. Johnson, Kerner, Mack, Magee, McCormick, McFarland, McKnight, McMahen, Miguez, G. Miller, Mincey, Muscarello, Nelson, Orgeron, C. Owen, R. Owen, Pressly, Riser, Romero, Schamerhorn, Schlegel, Seabaugh, St. Blanc, Stefanski, Tarver, Thomas, Thompson, Turner, Villio, Wheat, Wright and Zeringue.

Voting to sustain the veto on SB156 (30): Reps Adams, Brass, Brown, Bryant, R. Carter, Cormier, Duplessis, Freeman, Gaines, Green, Hughes, James, Jefferson, Jenkins, T. Johnson, Jones, Jordan, LaCombe, Landry, Larvadain, Lyons, Marcelle, D. Miller, Moore, Newell, Phelps, Pierre, Selders, Stagni and Willard.

Not Voting (6): Reps Carpenter, W. Carter, Cox, Glover, Marino, and White.

 

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