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Louisiana State Senate sustains governor’s veto on concealed carry

A holstered handgun. (Al Behrman/TNS)

The Louisiana Senate rejected an attempt to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill to allow for concealed carry of guns without a permit, apparently killing one of the two key bills in the state Legislature’s first-ever veto override session.

Three Republicans, Sens. Patrick Connick of Marrero, Louie Bernard of Natchitoches and Franklin Foil of Baton Rouge, voted against the override attempt after supporting the bill in the regular session. Senate Bill 118 failed on a 23-15 vote; it needed 26 votes to move to the House.

Democrats voted as a bloc against overriding Edwards on the gun bill; Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, had supported the gun bill during the regular session but sided with the governor on the override attempt.

Connick, a key Republican in the veto session, had voted in favor of overriding Edwards on the other key bill for the session, which targets transgender athletes. But he read a vulgar message he received on the gun bill and said the Legislature should come together despite the divisive debate over both bills.

And importantly, Connick said he would not vote to override Edwards’ veto on any other bill, dimming the prospects of veto overrides on other bills. Republicans have 27 members in the Senate, but Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, did not attend for health reasons, leaving the GOP without any margin for error. That means at least one Democrat would need to join Republicans in the Senate to override other vetoes.

“We’re dividing our house and we’re going to collapse,” Connick said. “Let’s find a way to come together.”

Bernard said he changed his mind on the bill after talking to law enforcement; a host of sheriffs came out against the effort to override Edwards’ veto.

“I wouldn’t want to go to bed at night knowing I had created any additional layer of risk” for police, Bernard said.

The Senate took up both the transgender bill and gun bill shortly after convening the first-ever veto session at noon. Leadership has targeted those two as the key bills for the override session, but rank-and-file members are looking to override Edwards’ vetoes on other bills.

For instance, two other bills failed to get the votes needed to override the governor’s veto in the Senate Tuesday: A bill by Sen. Bodi White to clear industry members of a groundwater commission of ethics charges and another bill by Sen. Heather Cloud to require the legislative auditor to investigate the state’s elections systems.

SB118 won final passage June 1 on a 27-9 vote in the Senate. But when it came to overturning the governor’s veto to give the bill a chance to become law, four senators flipped their votes as well as picking up the vote Sen. Greg Tarver, the Shreveport Democrat who was absent on the June 1 final passage vote and Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, who was sworn in a couple hours earlier. The four senators who changed their “Yea” votes on final passage to “Nay” votes on overturning the governor’s veto, which rejects the bill, were Sens. Louie Bernard, R-Natchitoches; Patrick Connick, R-Marrero; Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; and Gary Smith, D-Norco.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, voted for final passage in June but is recovering from surgery and was absent from Tuesday’s proceedings.

The only vote that SB118 proponents picked up was Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who was absent in the June vote for final passage.

Voting to override Gov. Edwards’ veto of permitless concealed carry (23): President Cortez, Sens Abraham, Allain, Cathey, Cloud, Fesi, Henry, Hensgens, Hewitt, Lambert, McMath, Milligan, F. Mills, R. Mills, Mizell, Morris, Peacock, Pope, Reese, Talbot, Ward, White and Womack.

Voting against overriding Senate Bill 118 (15): Sens Barrow, Bernard, Boudreaux, Bouie, Carter, Connick, Fields, Foil, Harris, Jackson, Luneau, Peterson, Price, Smith and Tarver.

Not Voting (1): Sen. Johns.

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