Analysis: Controversies took unexpected twists and turns during the La session | Louisiana News

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By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) – Louisiana’s legislative session saw lawmakers engage in many of the same cultural clashes as their counterparts in other states and many of their own unique disputes, but with surprising results.

The Republican-majority House and Senate have not followed other GOP-led states in enacting new general restrictions on voting rights or on teaching race and racism. Meanwhile, local scandals involving Louisiana State University and Louisiana State Police did not spark as much discussion as expected during the nine-week session, and neither entity suffered serious consequences.

Once again, the Louisiana legislature has resisted certain expected trends.

While Republicans in other states have pushed bills to limit voters’ access to polling stations, the Louisiana legislature has largely avoided these controversial debates. Instead, lawmakers agreed to add four days to Louisiana’s early voting period for the presidential election.

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However, they have had heated debates over how Louisiana should handle the replacement of its 10,000 voting machines, many of which date back decades. During those talks, some Republicans have repeated baseless allegations of widespread fraud in other states in the 2020 presidential election that former President Donald Trump lost.

Trump won Louisiana and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin vehemently defended Louisiana’s electoral system as safe, declaring in exasperation in a legislative hearing, “The paranoia over the national narrative is out of control.

Most GOP lawmakers have defended the Republican Election Leader and his agency’s performance, which likely helped block any discussion of tightening voting restrictions. In addition, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he has no plans to sign bills that will make voting more difficult.

Louisiana has not escaped national arguments over class education about race in America. But the types of measures passed in several Republican-controlled states have not gained support here, blocked by GOP House Chairman Clay Schexnayder, who won his post with the backing of black lawmakers.

Republican Representative Ray Garofalo of St. Bernard Parish introduced legislation to block the teaching of Critical Race Theory, an examination of how race and racism have influenced politics, culture, government systems and laws. The bill would have prohibited teaching that the United States or Louisiana is “consistently racist or sexist” and prohibited the use of information that “promotes concepts of division.”

Schexnayder sought to stop Garofalo from moving the bill forward, but Garofalo held a hearing lasting several hours anyway. The measure never got out of committee, but Garofalo’s handling of the issue ultimately cost him his job as chair of the House education committee. Schexnayder kicked him out of his post, even as the state’s Republican Party leaders rallied to defend Garofalo and his bill.

Efforts to revive the proposal failed to gain traction – but the debate stoked racial tensions that persisted for much of the legislative session, which ended on June 10.

Locally, a scandal involving LSU’s botched response to allegations of sexual misconduct has sparked a tightening of regulations that colleges in Louisiana will be required to follow to deal with such allegations – but no direct penalties or strikes at the local level. university beyond.

LSU hired independent law firm Husch Blackwell to review its response to sexual misconduct complaints after the USA Today report examined the university’s handling of assault cases involving two former football players. The scathing report described numerous examples of universities ignoring student allegations of rape, domestic violence and assault.

Lawmakers, who particularly expressed their anger at the findings, said they preferred to work on problem-solving rather than taking dollars from LSU’s budget or taking other punitive action.

Louisiana state police have also escaped direct legislative backlash, which are embroiled in controversy over their fatal arrest of Ronald Greene, a black man whose death in May 2019 is under investigation. federal law on civil rights.

Greene died after being knocked out, punched and dragged by state soldiers, and state police are accused of trying to cover up the circumstances. Soldiers first told Greene’s relatives that he died in an accident following a chase near Monroe. State Police later released a short statement saying soldiers struggled with Greene during his arrest and that he died on his way to hospital.

The agency’s police unit in northeast Louisiana is under review to determine whether it has systematically targeted black motorists for abuse.

Lawmakers spent little time discussing the investigations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte has covered Louisiana politics for The Associated Press since 2000. Follow her at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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