The Louisiana Senate has voted to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill targeting transgender athletes, putting the veto override effort in the hands of the state House as a tense, historic veto session began Tuesday.
Another effort to override Edwards’ veto of a bill to allow concealed carry of guns without a permit died in the state Senate, gaining only 23 votes. It needed 26. That left Republicans with one of two key bills in play for the first-ever veto override session.
The Senate voted 26 to 12 on a strictly party-line vote to override Edwards’ veto of the transgender bill. That was the exact number of votes needed to override.
The state House must also vote by a two-thirds margin to override the veto for the transgender sports bill to become law.
Shortly before the historic veto session began, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder announced he was cracking down on press access, kicking many reporters off the floor of the House and relegating them to the balcony. He claimed the reason for allowing only two reporters on the floor at a time was to put more COVID precautions in place.
Senate Republicans advanced the transgender bill despite concerns from Democrats and business leaders that the law would hurt the state economically. A host of big corporations and the NCAA have said they oppose such bills targeting transgender people and would consider pulling events and business relocations from states that pass them.
Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, the sponsor of the bill, brought the bill shortly after members convened Tuesday at noon. The bill would ban transgender women and girls from competing in women's and girls' sports.
Mizell called the threat from the NCAA that it may move the Final Four from New Orleans “extortion.” She urged members not to vote based on a “stick” or “carrot.”
“If you have not heard the voices of the large majority of people in this state by emails, by phone calls, by personal visits, there’s no words I can give you,” Mizell said.
Transgender advocates were forcibly removed from the House balcony as the session began for protesting the bill.
Democrats voiced objection to the legislation. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said lawmakers must decide if they want businesses to come to Louisiana or "want to discriminate."
“The governor did the right thing to protect the people of Louisiana from discrimination and to protect the Louisiana economy," she said.
Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, pointed out the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which supported the bill, already has rules in place making it almost impossible for transgender girls from competing in girl's sports at the high school level.
Edwards has put on a full-court press to block a veto override, dispatching top aides to lobby lawmakers on the effort. After the Senate voted to override Edwards’ veto of the transgender bill, a gaggle of Senate Democrats gathered around Rep. C. Travis Johnson, who is seen as a possible Democratic member who could defect from the caucus to override the governor.
House Republicans have 68 members, and as such cannot reach the 70-vote threshold needed to override the governor without help from Democrats. There are three no-party members, but at least one is not attending the session and another opposes the transgender bill.
The House could vote Wednesday on the transgender sports bill.
Four Democratic senators flipped their votes on the override question from their positions on final passage of the measure. Sens Regina Barrow, of Baton Rouge; Katrina Jackson, of Monroe; Gary Smith, of Norco; and Gregory Tarver, of Shreveport; all voted to pass SB156 on May 5 but to sustain Gov. Edwards veto on Tuesday.
Joseph Bouie and Karen Carter Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats, were absent for final passage on May 5 and voted against the veto override. Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, missed the final passage vote but backed making the bill law over the objections of the governor.
Voting to override the governor’s veto of banning transgender youth from women’s sports (26): President Cortez, Sens Abraham, Allain, Bernard, Cathey, Cloud, Connick, Fesi, Foil, Henry, Hensgens, Hewitt, Lambert, McMath, Milligan, F. Mills, R. Mills, Mizell, Morris, Peacock, Pope, Reese, Talbot, Ward, White and Womack.
Voting against overriding veto of Senate Bill 156 (12): Sens Barrow, Boudreaux, Bouie, Carter, Fields, Harris, Jackson, Luneau, Peterson, Price, Smith and Tarver.
Not Voting (1): Sen. Johns.
The Louisiana Legislature gaveled in for an unprecedented veto override session at noon on Monday.
Louisiana legislators have never before returned to Baton Rouge to override a governor’s veto and a lot of lawmakers are confused about just h…