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Veto override effort fizzles in the Louisiana House

by Minden Press-Herald

BATON ROUGE — Republican lawmakers in the Louisiana House have ended talk about a possible override of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ line-item vetoes of some budget cuts, instead deciding Wednesday to uphold the Democratic governor’s decisions.

The House voted 98-1 to sustain the vetoes at the request of Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, a Republican. Henry said he got more information from the governor that answered questions lawmakers had about the vetoes, ending discussion about an override.

But it also had become clear an override wouldn’t be successful.

House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said any effort at an override would have been unlikely to draw the two-thirds support in the House needed to reverse the governor’s decisions — which would have required backing from some Democrats.

And even if the House had been able to muster the unlikely two-thirds vote there, Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said he wasn’t interested in a Senate debate on veto overrides at all.

Although the dispute over those cuts is finished, more budget slashing looms. Edwards planned a Thursday news conference to describe how he intends to reduce $70 million in state spending before the budget year ends June 30.

Edwards announced last week that he was using his line-item veto to strip $9.8 million in budget cuts approved by lawmakers in the recently ended special session to help rebalance this year’s budget, suggesting the reductions pushed by House Republicans were too deep.

Those included cuts to the state agency that oversees the Superdome and the sports arena in New Orleans, the state racing commission, the Louisiana State Police and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

But at the time he unveiled his line-item vetoes, the governor also said he intended to enact smaller cuts to those agencies, except the tourism department. The net result was that Edwards intended to decrease the cuts by about $4 million.

Henry said he didn’t know about the plan to reinstate portions of those cuts until he spoke to the governor Wednesday.

“More information has been developed between the time the bill had left here and got to the governor’s office. He feels that (those agencies) can’t sustain that but they can sustain something,” Henry said. “I think that it’s his job to do that.”

Then, he asked lawmakers to vote to support the governor’s vetoes.

A day earlier, Alario said he didn’t see an “overbearing need” to overrule Edwards in his decision to lessen the budget cuts. He said additional cuts “were added at the last minute” by House members as the special session neared its end and he wasn’t sure they would have won widespread support if they had been more thoroughly deliberated by lawmakers.

Lawmakers rarely override a governor’s veto in Louisiana. Only two gubernatorial vetoes have been overridden in modern times in Louisiana: one by Buddy Roemer in 1991 and one by Edwin Edwards in 1993.

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