Op-Ed: Louisiana Citizens Stand Up to Governor, Set Stage for First-Ever Veto Session

The old saying, “You can’t beat city hall,” is often right, but not all the time. When ordinary people get off the couch, get engaged and follow solid leadership, they can force the political machines to bend.

I have witnessed this on more than one occasion. The latest example is unfolding right now in Louisiana.

Several conservative bills were recently passed in the state legislature but were then vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, and now grassroots pressure is forcing something very unusual to happen.

It seems that the state legislature, which just ended its regular session, may soon reconvene to hold what is called a “veto session” where the vetoes may be overridden. This has never happened before.

That’s right, the state legislature has never reconvened for a veto session to override a previously issued gubernatorial veto. One reason is that vetoes are usually issued at the very end of the regular legislative session or immediately thereafter, so there usually isn’t enough time in the session to receive a veto and then override it.

It has always been theoretically possible to override a veto by convening a second session of the legislature, but such a session has never actually been held.

Convening a veto session (as opposed to actually overriding a veto) only requires a majority vote from both houses a few weeks after the regular session is over, but it has never happened because the governor has always been able to twist enough legislative arms so that the legislature votes against holding a veto session.

In other words, “you can’t beat city hall.”  The governor has always been able to work with machine politicians and thwart the will of the people. This has been the case even if he vetoed bills that were very, very popular.

Now, however, that may change. Ordinary people are getting politically active and demanding a veto session. They are applying grassroots pressure.

And these grassroots activists are also getting more politically savvy. Some of them have formed a coalition to put pressure on legislators in favor of a veto session. They issued a joint statement demanding a veto session that was sent to all the Republicans in the legislature.

Two issues, in particular, motivated this activism.

One is the right of self-defense. Specifically, the governor vetoed a bill that would allow any adult who may legally own a firearm to place it in her purse or pocket, called “concealed carry,” without a government-issued permit.

This veto upset grassroots activists for the obvious reason that it is understood that the police cannot protect you from being attacked by a violent criminal. Rather, the police come after the fact, after you have already been attacked and possibly injured.

These activists argue, therefore, that you should be allowed to defend yourself with a concealed firearm without going through the burden of getting a government-issued permit. Getting those permits, they point out, can often take months of waiting and can cost hundreds of dollars in various fees.

The second thing that has motivated citizens is the governor’s announced veto (it hasn’t been officially recorded yet by the state legislature) of a bill designed to protect young girls who engage in organized sports from unfair competition from boys who announce that they are transgender and therefore “identify” as girls.

The author of that bill, state Sen. Beth Mizell, has styled her legislation as promoting women’s rights, and the governor’s announced veto has created the grassroots backlash described above.

It remains to be seen if this grassroots backlash is successful in achieving any veto overrides, but the mere fact that a veto session may be held is a victory of sorts. It shows that ordinary people who get organized and form alliances can force the political class to do their bidding.

Swamp dwellers take note: The people are organizing.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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