Louisiana’s veto override clash moves Wednesday to the House, where Republican state lawmakers hope to get a few Democrats to rebuff Gov. John Bel Edwards and overturn his rejection of a bill targeting transgender participation in school sports.
The measure prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams with their identified gender appeared to be the only one of 28 bills spurned by Edwards that had a chance of becoming law in the historic veto session. Senators agreed Tuesday to reverse the rejection of the sports ban bill — but blocked other override attempts.
The House was scheduled to begin its work Wednesday afternoon. With a short schedule, lawmakers believe the veto session — which is allowed to last until Saturday — could end as early as Wednesday.
Simply holding the gathering was unprecedented in Louisiana. Lawmakers had never before convened a veto session across the five decades since the current state constitution was enacted in 1974.
But Republicans in the majority-GOP House and Senate decided in a near-bloc to hold the session, in a continuing escalation of disagreements with Edwards and an ongoing push to assert their constitutional independence.
It remained unclear if they would go home with a new law to show for the effort or a list of failed override attempts.
Republicans in the House would need the support of at least one independent and two Democrats — or three Democrats — to reach the two-thirds vote required to overturn a gubernatorial veto. The transgender sports ban measure received bipartisan House support when it passed in the regular session, but that was not certain to hold for an override vote.
Both the Edwards administration and bill backers were battling behind the scenes, trying to win over the handful of lawmakers who might be persuadable. The governor has heavy sway over spending on projects, appointments to boards and commissions and other points of leverage.
Fighting about the issue was intense, with outside groups, the Republican and Democratic parties and even clergy exerting pressure.
The conservative evangelical Christian organization Louisiana Family Forum said it had signatures of support from more than 500 pastors across the state calling on lawmakers to overturn Edwards’ veto of the transgender sports legislation sponsored by Franklinton GOP Sen. Beth Mizell.
“This historic, first-in-state-history veto override session is being held because everyday citizens implored their elected leaders to preserve fairness and dignity for women in Louisiana,” said Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 100 Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and pastors from varying faiths submitted a letter to lawmakers objecting to the legislation.
Their letter said: “The bill is full of cowardice and meanness and does nothing to make our shared society better. It is cynical and frivolous, seeking to extract political advantage by playing upon people’s prejudices and fears.”
The sports ban legislation was the only bill Tuesday to get the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate for a veto override, and Jefferson Parish Republican Sen. Pat Connick announced he would not back any other efforts to bypass the governor.
Without Connick and with another Republican senator absent, the GOP does not have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto in the Senate on their own. Lake Charles Republican Sen. Ronnie Johns is not attending the veto session because he’s recuperating from knee replacement surgery.
Senators blocked efforts to override a separate measure that would remove the permitting requirements, background check and safety training required to have a concealed handgun in Louisiana. They also refused three other veto overrides that were attempted in the chamber.