The House worked long and hard Monday, passing Senate bills before the session countdown clock required shifting to a two-thirds majority vote on all items.
The high point of the day was undoubtedly final passage of the last of the criminal justice reform bills.
“74 yeas and 31 nays, and the bill is finally passed,” Speaker Taylor Barras said, as he rapped the gavel to cheering from the packed balcony of observers.
The low point may have been the hour-long debate over the SB 1, renaming the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts for its founder, the late Jimmy D. Long.
“As with anything that has touched a nerve like this, we are not as a body going to be able to make everybody happy,” Representative Lance Harris warned, as he brought what he called a “compromise” amendment. It would permit LSMSA to keep using its original name, while officially changing it to “The Jimmy D. Long Louisiana School of Math Science and the Arts”. School alumni have aggressively objected to the change throughout the legislative process, packing committee rooms to testify against the bill. When that failed to turn the measure aside, they buttonholed House members throughout the weekend at the Capitol. They tweeted at House members and posted on their Facebook pages, as well.
“If this amendment gets on, are you assuring us that we’re not going to receive any more text messages, phone calls, emails – to a degree which I have never seen before in my entire life?” Representative Cameron Henry asked Harris.
Yet even while the SB 1 debate was in progress, House members continued to be pummeled with messages in opposition.
“What we have is a group of people tell me they were okay with this, and then I’ve got people back home that are saying, ‘Hell, no. Don’t vote for that.’ So, maybe we need a little time?” Representative Gene Reynolds asked Harris.
“No,” was Harris’ response.
“I think it’s wrong to leave the people out of the process,” Representative Pat Smith objected.
But the bill passed, 56 to 43.