The final legislative session before the 2023 elections for governor, statewide offices and lawmakers has drawn to a close. The New Orleans city government did not have a specific public agenda of bills promoted for the session, but there still were some issues in which the administration had an interest. There also were issues that could disproportionally affect New Orleans residents.
In looking at legislation affecting the city, it is simplest to first look at what failed. After the collapse of the mayoral recall election petition earlier this year, Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, filed a bill to lower the signature threshold to trigger recall elections from 20% of registered voters in a jurisdiction to 20% of persons who voted in the previous election.
Disagreements over the final percentage caused the effort to die in the Senate. Hollis said he will work to have a similar bill introduced next year, even though someone else will need to author it. Completing his third term in the House, Hollis is term-limited from seeking re-election. This probably ends all efforts to begin a new recall petition against Mayor Latoya Cantrell before her second term ends in two and a half years.
Since crime and guns are always issues in New Orleans, local interest was high in a couple of criminal justice bills. A bill by Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, that would have forced Orleans and four other parishes to establish online dashboards listing records of juveniles arrested for violent crimes failed in the Senate in spite of support from Attorney General Jeff Landry. Opponents of the bill raised concerns about privacy, racial discrimination, and the high cost to local governments.
For the third year in a row, advocates of eliminating permit requirements for concealed firearms, also called constitutional carry, failed to repeal the concealed firearms law. Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, pulled his bill after opposition from law enforcement groups caused unfriendly amendments to be tacked onto the proposal. Urban police chiefs argued the measure would put more guns on the streets and put officers at increased risk.
Now on to the bills affecting the city that did pass. New Orleans could find itself affected by the LGBTQ+ culture wars currently raging in Southern states. While the bills do not specifically target New Orleans, the majority of the LGBTQ+ population in the state is clustered in urban areas, so the city’s population could be disproportionally affected.
Three bills described as anti-LGBTQ+ by advocacy groups passed this session: A ban on gender-affirming care for minors by Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, a ban on discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools, (also called the “don’t say gay bill”), by Rep. Debbie Horton, R-Haughton, and a bill by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, that would force teachers to use pronouns that correlate with the student’s birth certificate. Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will veto all three bills. Voters can expect a veto-override session to take place in mid-July.
Perhaps the biggest surprise affecting the Legislature took place on the closing day of the session. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a redistricting case that Alabama, a state with a 27% Black population and one Black-majority congressional district among seven, was in violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered the Alabama legislature to draw a second Black-majority district. A Louisiana case with a similar set of facts (Louisiana is 33 percent Black with one Black-majority among six), is currently pending in federal court.
In the last session, the Legislature passed a map including one Black-majority district, drawing a veto from the governor. The Legislature overrode his veto, at which time Black plaintiffs challenged the map in federal court. The Louisiana case was frozen at the appellate level pending the conclusion of the Alabama case. With the Alabama case resolved, Louisiana plaintiffs will return to court asking for a second Black-majority district. They will argue that the precedent set in the Alabama case should be applied to the Louisiana case.
The governor asked the Legislature to call a special session and create a second Black-majority district. He argues that if they don’t, a court will do it for them, and they will lose any influence on the district boundaries.
Whether it is an override session or special redistricting session, or both, the voters should expect more legislative action this summer. Voters are reminded that if they disagree with the results of this session, qualifying for all legislative seats is Aug. 8-10. Now would be a great time to get involved.
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