Sam Hanna Jr.

Common sense tells us the ongoing legislative session in Baton Rouge should be focused on how the state will spend a $1.6-billion gift from the federal government.

The windfall from the feds was a nationwide thing that was intended to assist states with the economic fallout from the corona virus pandemic. As you may have expected, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a liberal Democrat, already has plans for the money, though it should be noted the governor’s ideas are not far fetched or out of left field.

Yet, a free flowing debate over what the Legislature should do with the federal largesse is not what lawmakers have been up to since the regular session got underway a few weeks back. Instead, lawmakers have been embroiled in hotly contested exchanges over whether Louisianians can exercise their constitutional right to carry a concealed firearm sans a permit, whether men disguised as women can play female sports and whether the state’s colleges and universities can freely brainwash students with the silly notion that racism is running rampant from sea to shining sea.

Sen. Jay Morris, a Republican from Monroe, has emerged as a hero to gun owners with his legislation to legalize the carrying of a concealed weapon without possessing a concealed carry permit issued by the state. Opponents of Morris’ bill, which includes some law enforcement professionals, argue the legislation — for the lack of a more in-depth discussion — would remove safeguards preventing the wrong people from carrying a weapon out of sight of police officers. As someone whose father exposed him to pistols, rifles and shotguns at an early age and who has a concealed carry permit, there’s no doubt the teaching and training one must receive in order to obtain a concealed carry permit are beneficial. However, that’s not the issue. The issue is whether a gun owner must ask the government for permission to exercise a constitutional right. Besides, criminals already carry concealed weapons.

Sen. Beth Mizell, a Republican from Franklinton, got her bill out of a Senate committee that would bar transgender athletes from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity. The important word is “identity.” Not what God created but how a male or female “identifies.”

Anyone playing with a full deck — pardon the pun — certainly realizes a male athlete has an unfair advantage over a female athlete and identifying oneself as a woman only enhances the advantage.

That raises an interesting question. Will LSU’s new women’s basketball coach, Kim Mulkey, start recruiting transgenders to post up — pardon the pun — on the hardwood? Is that what this fuss is really all about?

Not to be overlooked on the controversial front is Rep. Ray Garofalo, a Republican from Chalmette. Garofalo, the chairman of the House Education Committee, got into hot water last week when he made an off-handed remark about slavery. While discussing his legislation to prevent faculty members at Louisiana’s colleges and universities from using their proverbial platforms to fill students with a leftist ideology anchored by the argument that America is the land of racists and sexists, Garofalo responded to criticism of his legislation and said, “You can talk about everything dealing with slavery. The good. The bad. The ugly.”

Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, a Metairie Republican, quickly replied to Garofalo and said, “There is no good to slavery, though.” To which Garofalo responded and said, “You are right. I didn’t mean to imply that and don’t believe that.”

Garofalo’s clarification didn’t pass muster with black lawmakers, particularly Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge, the Black Caucus chair. James and his peers called for Garofalo to be removed as education committee chairman, and shortly thereafter, Edwards, leaning on the bully pulpit of the governor’s office, said Garofalo’s remark was “egregious enough to warrant his removal.”

It’s baffling how Edwards can find the time to pontificate about whether a lawmaker has made an “egregious” statement, but the governor can’t seem to find the time to offer an opinion about female students being sexually assaulted and harassed on the LSU campus, both in Baton Rouge and at the medical school in Shreveport.

Edwards’ behavior toward the ever-present sex scandal at LSU is truly perplexing. It’s as if he’s got something to hide, but I guess we’ll just have to keep hope alive.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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