Louisiana Senate votes to overturn transgender sports ban veto, but gun expansion veto holds
Louisiana's Senate voted to overturn Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto on a transgender sports ban bill Tuesday, but Edwards' veto on a gun expansion bill held on the first day of an historic veto override session.
Senate Bill 156 by Republican Sen. Beth Mizell to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams and Republican Sen. Jay Morris' Senate Bill 118 to allow anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training are the top two veto override targets of the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Senators voted 26-12 to override the transgender veto, the exact number of yes votes needed to reach the two-thirds requirement to overturn a veto. Here's how each senator voted.
But Morris' effort fell three votes short at 23-15 in the 39-member Senate. Here's how each senator voted.
Mizell's bill now heads to the House, where it must secure another two-thirds vote to complete the override.
"Your opportunity is now to do what you've been led to do by your own conscience," Mizell said as she asked senators to vote to override. "Without protection women's sports will no longer exist."
Mizell said her bill will protect girls and young women from facing athletes who would have a biological advantage because of their birth sex.
But opponents said there are no such reported instances that exist in Louisiana and the ban could cause companies and organizations like the NCAA to shun the state in the future.
"I'm convinced this bill is a solution looking for a problem," said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria.
"This bill threatens to strip billions of dollars from Louisiana's economy," said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.
But Sen. Michael "Big Mike" Fesi, R-Houma, said the issue is more important than money.
"What about our morals?" Fesi said, drawing applause from the Senate gallery. "This bill is about our daughters and granddaughters."
The governor said the bill promotes discrimination against vulnerable transgender youth. He also said the bill could threaten the state's hosting of the 2022 NCAA Final Four set in New Orleans and other NCAA events.
In April, the NCAA issued a statement saying it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports" and said its policy "directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected."
Some supporters of Edwards' veto on the transgender sports bill were removed from the House gallery after they tried to drape a banner over the railing.
Edwards vetoed 28 bills, all of which are eligible to be considered for an override, but the general consensus is the transgender and gun bills were the Republicans' best chance.
Three other Senate attempts to override vetoes were beat back Tuesday.
Morris said he intends to run his concealed carry gun bill again next year.
"I'm disappointed in the final result, but we'll keep fighting the good fight until constitutional carry is the law of Louisiana like it is in our neighboring states Texas and Mississippi," Morris said.
No votes were taken in the House Tuesday. Members there will begin taking up their bills when they convene at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales said he is confident members can secure enough votes to override the transgender bill, but House Democratic Caucus Chair Sam Jenkins of Shreveport said his caucus is unified against an override.
"I believe it’s going to be very difficult to overturn any vetoes in the House," Jenkins said.
Schexnayder reduced media access in the chamber Tuesday. Schexnayder blamed the move on COVID-19 restrictions, but no such measures were taken by Republican Senate President Page Cortez of Lafayette in the Senate.
The veto override session, the first in history, must end by Saturday but could end earlier if the House and Senate agree.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.