Legislative briefs: Requiring the National Anthem at sports events; ending the pause on new offshore drilling permits and more

SB124 by Republican Sen. Sharon Hewitt, which requires the National Anthem to be sung at sports events, passed the House by a large margin Wednesday. Photo by Robert Buckman

House OKs bill requiring National Anthem before sports events

After nearly an hour of debate Wednesday, the House passed a bill by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, which requires the National Anthem to be played before sporting events at publicly funded facilities.

The vote on SB124, was 74-11, meaning an unusually high number of the 105 representatives, 20, ducked the vote, even though 90-100 members had voted on other bills. 

The text of the bill is short and sweet: “No athletic contest may be held in a venue, the construction of which was financed wholly or partially by the state or a political subdivision of the state, unless the contest is preceded by the playing or singing of the national anthem.”

The bill passed the Senate 34-0 on May 3. Its House sponsor, Rep. Gregory Miller, R-Norco, took several barbed questions about the bill, especially from Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, who objected to the idea of forcing people to participate in the National Anthem.

“The bill does not mandate that you stand or put your hand over your heart,” Miller said. “It gives veterans and others who enjoy the National Anthem the opportunity to do so.”

Rep. Royce Duplessis, asked Miller point-blank if the bill was a response to professional athletes taking a knee during the anthem. Miller said he wasn’t sure what prompted Hewitt’s bill, but said he believed it was more in response to veterans and others.

Among the Lafayette delegation, Democratic Rep. Vincent Pierre was the only member voting against it. Democrat Marcus Bryant and Republicans Beau Beaullieu, Jean-Paul Coussan, Julie Emerson and Jonathan Goudeau voted for it, and Republican Stuart Bishop was among the absentees.

House rejects Pierre’s resolution on long trains

Anyone who has ever been late for a meeting or an appointment because they had to wait on Johnston Street or Kaliste Saloom Road while a 300-car freight train rumbled past can empathize with Rep. Vincent Pierre’s unsuccessful concurrent resolution for the Department of Transportation and Develop to conduct a study of the “length and danger of longer freight trains.”

“Trains are getting longer, and they are blocking roads and may restrict the passage of emergency vehicles,” Pierre, D-Lafayette, argued in the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon. “This is just a resolution to make sure the people of Louisiana are safe.”

Pierre’s HCR68 contends that freight trains have increased in length by 25% since 2008 and that the average length by 2017 was 1.2-1.4 miles.

But Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, rebutted Pierre, saying that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to regulate interstate commerce, adding that the estimated $250,000-$500,000 for the study would be “a waste of time and money.”

“It’s not unconstitutional to ask for a study,” retorted Rep. Gregory Miller, R-Norco, a lawyer.

“The DOTD says it will be really, really crucial and critical to have this study,” Pierre told the House in closing.

Yet, HCR68 was defeated 43-57. In the Lafayette delegation, Republican Jean-Paul Coussan and Democrat Marcus Bryant backed Pierre’s resolution, while Republicans Beau Beaullieu, Stuart Bishop, Julie Emerson and Jonathan Goudeau voted against it.

Resolution calling for end to pause on offshore leasing unites parties

If there’s any issue that can unite Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana, it’s the importance of oil and gas to the state’s economy.

Consequently, the House on Wednesday approved, by a vote of 91-0, a concurrent resolution by Rep. Mark Orgeron, R-Larose, that urges the Biden administration to “immediately end the pause on offshore oil and natural gas leasing.”

“This pretty much mimicks Gov. John Bel Edwards’ testimony in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago,” Orgeron said of HCR71. He received no questions.

The resolution cites an Obama administration report by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that “greenhouse gas emissions would be little affected and would increase globally in the absence of new offshore leasing due to increased foreign imports.”

It also argues that the ban on new leasing will lead to increased imports of foreign oil and result in “substantial and irreplaceable job losses” and loss of state and local tax revenues.

‘Election processes’ audit resolution clears House

There was more of a partisan divide when the House passed a concurrent resolution directing the legislative auditor to include an audit of “election processing” in its next regular audit of the Department of State. 

HCR81 by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, passed 73-24, largely along party lines. All 24 “nay” votes were from Democrats. Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, whose District 96 includes a swath of eastern Lafayette Parish, was one of the few Democrats voting for it. Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, voted against it.

The resolution contends that “most states” require post-election audits to verify the accuracy of election results. It states that Louisiana citizens “require assurance that the entire election process is sufficient to provide for the integrity and security of all elections held within the state.”

Senate approves ‘ready-to-drink’ booze deliveries

The prospect of having “ready to drink” alcoholic beverages delivered to your front door cleared its last major legislative hurdle Wednesday when the Senate approved HB219 by Rep. John Ivey Jr., R-Ridge, 34-2.

It passed the House May 10 95-0. The liberalization of the liquor statutes is a likely outgrowth of the Covid-19 shutdown, during which restaurants switched to home delivery but couldn’t deliver mixed drinks along with their food.

It doesn’t mean a bartender will be allowed to mix a margarita, pour it into a container and seal it up, like the old days of drive-thru daiquiri shops. The bill defines “ready to drink” as “pre-packaged, pre-measured and pre-mixed, to be sold in a manufacturer sealed container ready for immediate consumption.”