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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to the press on Friday, July 16, 2021.

The Republican majorities in the Legislature made history. They will convene noon Tuesday for the first session, ever, to override the vetoed bills of a governor — bringing Louisiana fully into the partisan warfare that has erupted across the nation.

Perhaps such a confrontation is inevitable given the Republicans are near super-majorities in both chambers, with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards the first chief executive in generations to not name legislative leadership. But what is the Republican leadership’s jus ad bellum for now launching an attack on the Democratic governor?

What GOP lawmakers are saying is that they need to overcome Edwards’ resistance to banning transgender youth from participating in organized athletics; to limiting the use of drop-off boxes and adding partisan poll watchers at election precincts; to supporting those who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations; and to allowing adults to carry concealed weapons without permits or training. All are issues that national Republicans have pushed in state assemblies to strengthen their hand in 2022 and 2024 national elections.

For instance, a February survey of 1,200 voters nationwide showed results that led the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, U.S. Sen Rick Scott, of Florida, to issue a “2022 Winning Message Alert.” Opposition to allowing transgenders born male from participating in women’s sports crossed racial lines and resonated among suburbanites — demographics that have eschewed GOP candidates during the Donald Trump years.

On the election front, David Becker, executive director of the respected and bipartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, noted Thursday the persistence of claims that the November presidential election was fraudulent, despite any evidence. That has fueled continuing legislative efforts to limit access to voting and to recounting votes in battleground states. The votes cast in Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, were counted at least four times, including hand counts that showed the validity of the machine tallies, he said.

Becker criticized ongoing efforts to delegitimize results, blaming “grifters,” who fundraise from Trump supporters disappointed by the election’s outcome, for keeping a false narrative alive. “There is an ecosystem of people who require for their own wealth the continuation of the big lie,” he said.

Two of the elections-related bills that Edwards vetoed — House Bill 704 to allow partisan poll watchers and Senate Bill 63 on delivery of mail ballots — passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate.

Senate Bill 156, which bans transgender youth from participating in organized high school sports, was approved by more votes than are necessary to override the governor’s veto.

House Majority Leader Blake Miguez asked Baton Rouge Republicans Tuesday: “Where does the governor have the right to kill a bill and to shut a bill down that was unanimously supported by the Legislature?”

The Erath Republican representative was speaking philosophically of opposition in the face of overwhelming support for a proposition. Edwards has an absolute right to veto bills under Article IV, Section 5, of the state constitution. He even has a duty under the system set up by founding fathers to check the "hasty proceedings" of legislative bodies.

The Legislature then has an absolute constitutional right to challenge a governor’s veto.

Since Louisiana lawmakers have never returned to Baton Rouge to do so, the procedures are not detailed in law, rules, or precedent. How this veto override session proceeds will basically be decided behind closed doors by two citizen-legislators, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, a former Gonzales auto mechanic, and Senate President Page Cortez, who sells furniture in Lafayette.

The law seems pretty clear that the aggrieved sponsor of gubernatorially rejected legislation needs to personally ask his/her colleagues to reconsider the veto. But there the guidance ends.

Usually, reconsiderations require a two-thirds approval just to bring up and debate a bill a second time. Does that two-thirds rule apply in a veto reconsideration? Will the reasons for overturning — or not — a veto even be debated or just voted upon?

Twenty-eight bills were vetoed on what could be considered conflicting views on policy issues.

Where the rubber hits the road will be the governor’s line-item vetoes of earmark projects in the finance bills: eight in the state’s operating budget, 11 in the construction budget. Will those line-item vetoes be considered one at a time or en masse?

Overturning the governor’s decisions on line-item vetoes is a direct attack that undermines his constitutional powers.

Presumably, Edwards will strongly protect his office’s prerogatives using whatever means are at hand. And that alone should further polarize the relationship between legislators and governor.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.