Jeremy Alford

This week’s veto session will introduce arena politics to Capitoland, with divisive, headline-grabbing issues pitting two branches of government against each other in an epic exchange that has been decades in the making. 

The conservative shift in the Legislature, the evolving role of the governor in Baton Rouge politics and the overall sour mood of the electorate all collide in this singular event. 

Since such a special session has never been conducted, you should expected the unexpected. But session organizers are up to the challenge and have a framework ready to go. 

What’s the Procedure For the Floors? 

As we already know, all House bills will begin in the House and the same goes for the Senate. From there, things get a bit more complicated. 

To get the veto override process started, Senate President Page Cortez said an initial motion to reconsider must be made from the floor, which will require a majority vote. 

A second motion will then be required to move the bill to final passage (subsequent to a governor’s veto), which will require a two-thirds vote. This second motion is debatable and members will be allowed to take to the floor. “For this step, it’s essentially the same procedure as final passage,” said Cortez. 

As for other legislative action, the process won’t allow for resolutions, which is disappointing news for lawmakers who wanted to author a condolence resolution for late Gov. Edwin Edwards, who passed away last week. 

Are All Vetoes Eligible For an Override? 

While the Constitution states that all vetoed bills can be a part of an override session, there’s conflicting language in statute that will come to light during the special session. 

The question involves the timing of the vetoes, with some arguing that any bills vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards during the regular session are off limits — and those vetoed after sine die are fair game. 

House Majority Leader Blake Miguez said he’s concerned that interpretation may be applied to his legislation that would have prohibited election officials from receiving donations from private entities and nonprofit groups. The bill was vetoed by the governor prior to the end of the regular session, along with two other measures. 

Miguez said an attorney’s general opinion on the matter has been issued, and it states that any and all bills vetoed are eligible. Failure to do so would be a “tortured construction of the Constitutional article & a distortion of its clear terms,” according to the opinion, which merely offers an interpretation of current laws. 

In part, there’s an argument that lawmakers already had an opportunity to override those earlier vetoes during the regular session. Additionally, when the governor informed the Legislature of his vetoes, prior to his own deadline, he listed only those bills he vetoed since sine die. 

Depending on how the issue shakes out, lawmakers may end up pulling the Judicial Branch into this Legislative-Executive fight. (It’s probably worth noting here that the Legislative Branch creates the budgets for the Executive and Judicial branches. Just saying.) 

How Many Times Can a Motion Fail? 

Another question lawmakers are trying to answer this week week is whether a motion to reconsider (final passage) that fails can be reconsidered. 

There is caselaw that reasons the governor only gets one chance to veto a bill, so lawmakers should only get one opportunity to overturn the same. But since that decision was handed down, during the term of former Gov. Buddy Roemer, senators voted to override a veto after first failing — and then passing — a motion to reconsider. 

The Senate’s decision to take up a second motion for reconsideration during the Roemer years, despite the earlier caselaw, was never challenged in the courts. 

Lawmakers this week may discover that getting into a veto session was the easy part. The devil’s in the details when it comes to actually delivering an override. 

Jeremy Alford can be reached at  JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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