06 June 2006

Committee action, Jun. 6: SB 18, SB 411, SB 86, SB 476

SB 18 would create closed primaries for federal elections. Author Sen. Cleo Fields argued to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that this bill would solve the U.S. Supreme Court decision that, given Louisiana’s blanket primary system, forced Louisiana elected members to Congress to be seated later because the general election runoff was having these people elected later than those from all other states.

Rep. Peppi Bruneau asked whether this could force three elections, and the attendant cost, which Fields concurred. Fields also told him that parties could opt to allow no-party affiliates (independents) to participate in their primaries. Bruneau said this might cut a lot of people out of participating in the first stage of the process, and argued that an open primary system ought to be instituted (where independents got to choose a party primary in which to vote). Fields said he couldn’t see the parties “locking them out” as a practical matter.

Bruneau objected to adoption by consent, and came out on the short end of a 6-1 vote.

SB 411 would require initiation of a civil action suit against people filing for state or local office contrary to the law; the illegal qualifier would have to pay costs involved. Author Sen. Max Malone noted that four candidates who had committed felonies prior to elapsing of the constitutional 15-year qualification had run in the last round of Shreveport elections. He said this would be an additional tool to discourage this behavior and would take out having third parties having to file such suits.

Rep. Billy Montgomery wondered about the federal vs. state felony distinction. Malone said federal pardons had to be obtained for federal crimes, and state pardons for state crimes, echoing what he said the governor had told him. Bruneau pointed out that the bill was somewhat duplicative, Sec. 495 of the Election Code (Title 18), and preferred the consolidation of such matters there which addressed it which this bill did not. He also said East Baton Rouge Parish always had been used as the venue for such suits for state office, while this bill would allow venues in all sorts of places. Malone said there were extra penalties in his bill for compliance.

Bruneau suggested that the bill could make the Attorney General force local district attorneys to act, with the penalties. Malone agreed, and Bruneau asked for adoption which was consented to without objection. It was reported similarly.

SB 86 by Sen. Charles Jones would extend early voting four hours later into Saturday when a holiday was not already within the early voting period. The state’s registrars were concerned that burdens on their offices were slowly being increased by legislation such as this, and wanted the committee to know this. Amended for technicalities, it was reported by consent.

SB 476 by Sen. James David Cain would instruct the Secretary of State to distribute documents recognizing America’s religious heritage. Opponents argued that because the bill actually included the language, one particular version of things such as the Ten Commandments, might be exclusionary. The committee then embarked on postulating amendments that made editorial changes to the texts of these documents. Yes, it did get reported with these amendments without objection.

WEDNESDAY: HB 604 and HB 669 are scheduled to be heard in the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

We agreed on seven of them … that’s better than we usually do.
Bruneau, as the SB 476 debate started to get silly.

We aren’t adding any Commandments, are we?
Montgomery, as it got sillier.

Will we amend it to say “Thou shalt not bloviate?”
Rep. Rick Gallot as the debate became truly silly, referring to a remark Bruneau had made earlier in the week.

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