Louisiana Veto Session

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder waits to hear results of votes in the Senate Chambers during a veto session in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Louisiana lawmakers ended their historic veto session Wednesday, July 21, 2021, after two days in which Republicans failed to overturn any of Gov. John Bel Edwards' bill rejections.

(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Legislature adjourned the state’s first veto override session in modern history Wednesday without overturning a single veto.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards rejected 28 regular session bills this year. The Republican-dominated Legislature, however, failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority in each chamber to erase Edwards' veto pen.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, or Senate Bill 156, was seen as the GOP’s best opportunity for success. The transgender athlete legislation would have prohibited students from competing on teams that differ from their assigned gender at birth.

The bill initially passed with bipartisan support, but Edwards vetoed the legislation, saying it “unfairly discriminated against transgender youth.”

A successful Senate override vote occurred Tuesday, but the House failed to advance the effort Wednesday after tabling 20 other bills to get to it.

Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson, spoke in favor of the measure. Members were allowed to discuss only the governor’s stated objections in his veto message, not the merits of the legislation.

Schlegel reminded her colleagues that nothing had changed since the bill passed in May with 78 votes and 50 co-sponsors.

“If you’ve seen the polling on it then you know in this state, in every single district, whether it’s Democrats, Republicans or Independents, they overwhelmingly believe biological males should not play female sports,” she said.

Edwards also cited the NCAA’s anti-discrimination policy covering transgender sports bans in his veto statement, which he said could impact the state economically. New Orleans is scheduled to host the 2022 men’s basketball Final Four.

“It’s unimaginable to me that we could let any outside organization hold our state hostage on a bill,” Schlegel said.

Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, was the lead dissenting voice.

“Protecting our girls is something I choose to believe every member of this Legislature wants desperately and undeniably. It’s something that I believe our governor undoubtedly wants,” he said. “But members, not only is this bill unnecessary, I can assure you that it does not, in fact, protect our girls.”

Duplessis warned of lawsuits, personal privacy violations, bullying and economic losses. He added that helping girls in sports would involve additional funding to create more opportunities.

“They’re not on a mission to dominate sports. They’re on a mission to survive,” he said of transgender youth.

Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Livonia, unsuccessfully urged House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, to let he and other members speak.

“Some of us have been put in astronomically difficult situations,” he said.

LaCombe voted for the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in May but chose to sustain the governor’s veto Wednesday.

Democratic Reps. Chad Brown, Mack Cormier, C. Travis Johnson and Pat Moore also voted against the override after previously supporting the bill, as did Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, the lone Independent in attendance.

Schlegel closed by asking members to “fight like a girl and override this veto.”

Seventy votes were needed but only 68 came – two short of the required super-majority. The 68-30 final result prompted Schexnayder to suspended further deliberations.

Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, moved to adjourn hours later, indicating no other reconsidered bills would receive attention. The House soon followed in tow.