A state representative and a state senator laid down their swords Sunday in asking legislators to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto on setting up a legal framework for surrogacy births in Louisiana.
State Rep. Joe Lopinto said Sunday afternoon that he had the necessary votes in the Louisiana House chamber but didn’t want to pit his colleagues against the governor. Across the hall in the state Senate, state Sen. Gary Smith said he also did not want to put legislators in the awkward position of defying Jindal.
Lopinto, R-Metairie, returned House Bill 187 to the calendar, effectively killing it for this session. The session ends at 6 p.m. Monday.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, the Lake Charles Republican who owes his position to Jindal’s support, led the House chamber in applauding Lopinto’s move.
Lopinto held out a sheet saying he had the votes in the Louisiana House but probably not in the state Senate. “That’s the reality of it,” Lopinto said.
Given the Legislature’s history of not contradicting the governor, Lopinto said he would not put his House colleagues through publicly opposing Jindal, given that the Senate likely would not vote to override.
Two-thirds majorities are needed in both chambers to override a veto. A veto override requires 70 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate.
HB187 breezed through the Legislature, clearing the House on an 80-14 vote and the Senate on a 22-11 vote. The House voted 73-7 in favor of concurring with the Senate’s changes to the bill, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk.
Surrogacy births — in which a couple’s embryo is implanted in another woman — are not illegal in Louisiana. The contracts between the surrogate and the parents just aren’t enforceable in the state’s courts, leading to many couples going out of state rather than risking a legal battle in uncharted waters.
Smith, D-Norco, and his wife, Katherine, used surrogates outside Louisiana to bring their son and daughter into the world. For two years in a row, Smith has tried to set up a legal framework in Louisiana for surrogate births. The governor has vetoed the legislation each year.
Former state Rep. Woody Jenkins sent out a message Sunday urging that calls be made to legislators asking them to sustain the governor’s veto. Jenkins enclosed a letter by Tony Perkins, chairman of the Family Research Council, based in Washington, D.C.
Perkins — describing himself as the leader of an organization promoting public policy from a Christian worldview — wrote that the bill raises ethical and social concerns. He said some of the embryos created through the surrogacy process could be discarded as medical waste.
The governor, in his veto message, wrote that “despite the good intentions and hard efforts of the author, this legislation still raises concerns for many in the pro-life community.” He said he couldn’t “in good conscience, sign this bill.”
The Legislature has never overridden one of Jindal’s vetoes. Any attempt to reverse his veto of HB187 would have started on the House side and progressed to the Senate, where it likely would have stalled.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said he wasn’t looking forward to making a decision on a veto override, given that the governor controls $20 million to $40 million in state construction spending for his district. White said he wished a compromise could have been reached.
Smith said he didn’t want his colleagues to take a stance against the governor.
“Obviously I’m disappointed. But it’s the process,” he said.
In a statement Sunday night, the governor said: “Representative Lopinto and stakeholders worked very hard on this piece of legislation to try and come to a compromise on a very difficult issue. I commend them for their efforts and I appreciate their passion on this issue.”
Mark Ballard and Will Sentell of The Advocate Capitol news bureau contributed. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.