Voting reform bill reintroduced after Pennsylvania governor’s veto

The prime sponsor of a vetoed voting reform bill said Friday he reintroduced the measure after Gov. Tom Wolf shifted his public opinion on some components of the legislation over the summer.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said House Bill 1800 would bolster voting rights “through three broad concepts of increased access, increased security and modernization.”

“We know access and security are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

Grove began circulating a cosponsorship memo for his bill, dubbed the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act, after Wolf told the Philadelphia Inquirer he “pre-judged” a prior version and refused to negotiate on it because he doubted GOP leaders’ sincerity.

Wolf also told the newspaper in July he’s not opposed to broadening the state’s voter ID law – just not in the way Grove envisioned it in the now-vetoed House Bill 1300.

“As I say, we have voter ID now,” he said during the interview. “And I’m okay with that, the way we do it, you know, and I’m sure out there there is a reasonable voter ID solution to say, you know, you need to show that you should be voting here. And I’m fine with that. The formula in 1300, in my mind, was not it.”

The vetoed legislation mandated residents show ID each time they cast a ballot, expanding upon existing law that only requires it of first-time voters at a polling place. The acceptable forms of ID, Grove said, were intentionally broad to both enhance security and access. Voters who showed up without any form of ID could sign an affidavit swearing to their identity, for example.

But Wolf, echoing sentiments of Democrats nationally, said he doubted that Republicans had any intention of negotiating “in good faith” after some spent months questioning the results of the November 2020 election.

“If you think the other side is negotiating in good faith, I’ll always be happy to negotiate,” he told the Inquirer. “If you think the other side is basically just going through a sham, just trying to, you know, go through the motions but really doesn’t mean it, that’s not a real negotiation. And I didn’t get the sense that supporters of 1300 were actually serious about it.”

Grove has said the governor made too many assumptions about his intentions, based on a misguided “national narrative .” He maintains the administration never read the bill, let alone considered any revisions to it.

The Center Square reached out to the administration on Friday for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. Lyndsay Kensinger, a Wolf spokesperson, told The Center Square in July that the voter ID component wasn’t the only deal breaker in Grove’s bill.

“The governor will not agree to a bill which increases restrictions on popular voting options, including limiting drop boxes, making it much more difficult to vote by mail, and limiting early voting,” she said.

The Legislature is also pursuing a constitutional amendment on the matter. The Senate approved a bill in June that would, if approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions, allow residents to decide whether an ID should be required each time a voter casts a ballot.

Governors can’t veto proposed constitutional amendments. That’s why, Grove has said, HB 1300 represented the “best deal” Wolf is going to get for the remainder of his term.





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Voting reform bill reintroduced after Pennsylvania governor’s veto

The prime sponsor of a vetoed voting reform bill said Friday he reintroduced the measure after Gov. Tom Wolf shifted his public opinion on some components of the legislation over the summer.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said House Bill 1800 would bolster voting rights “through three broad concepts of increased access, increased security and modernization.”

“We know access and security are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

Grove began circulating a cosponsorship memo for his bill, dubbed the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act, after Wolf told the Philadelphia Inquirer he “pre-judged” a prior version and refused to negotiate on it because he doubted GOP leaders’ sincerity.

Wolf also told the newspaper in July he’s not opposed to broadening the state’s voter ID law – just not in the way Grove envisioned it in the now-vetoed House Bill 1300.

“As I say, we have voter ID now,” he said during the interview. “And I’m okay with that, the way we do it, you know, and I’m sure out there there is a reasonable voter ID solution to say, you know, you need to show that you should be voting here. And I’m fine with that. The formula in 1300, in my mind, was not it.”

The vetoed legislation mandated residents show ID each time they cast a ballot, expanding upon existing law that only requires it of first-time voters at a polling place. The acceptable forms of ID, Grove said, were intentionally broad to both enhance security and access. Voters who showed up without any form of ID could sign an affidavit swearing to their identity, for example.

But Wolf, echoing sentiments of Democrats nationally, said he doubted that Republicans had any intention of negotiating “in good faith” after some spent months questioning the results of the November 2020 election.

“If you think the other side is negotiating in good faith, I’ll always be happy to negotiate,” he told the Inquirer. “If you think the other side is basically just going through a sham, just trying to, you know, go through the motions but really doesn’t mean it, that’s not a real negotiation. And I didn’t get the sense that supporters of 1300 were actually serious about it.”

Grove has said the governor made too many assumptions about his intentions, based on a misguided “national narrative.” He maintains the administration never read the bill, let alone considered any revisions to it.

The Center Square reached out to the administration on Friday for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. Lyndsay Kensinger, a Wolf spokesperson, told The Center Square in July that the voter ID component wasn’t the only deal breaker in Grove’s bill.

“The governor will not agree to a bill which increases restrictions on popular voting options, including limiting drop boxes, making it much more difficult to vote by mail, and limiting early voting,” she said.

The Legislature is also pursuing a constitutional amendment on the matter. The Senate approved a bill in June that would, if approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions, allow residents to decide whether an ID should be required each time a voter casts a ballot.

Governors can’t veto proposed constitutional amendments. That’s why, Grove has said, HB 1300 represented the “best deal” Wolf is going to get for the remainder of his term.



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Terry McAuliffe Won’t Say if He’d Veto Radical Abortion Bills

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee is portraying himself as an advocate of the status quo in Virginia, but he’s backing an extreme amendment that would enshrine a right to abortion.

Richmond, Va.




NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE

I
n January 2019, Virginia Democratic delegate Kathy Tran caused an uproar when she admitted that a bill she introduced to codify Roe v. Wade would allow abortion to be performed in the last moments of the ninth month of pregnancy if a single doctor asserted that the abortion was being performed to protect the mother’s mental health.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018 and is now seeking another term in this fall’s gubernatorial election, initially said that he opposed Tran’s bill. Later that spring, however, he changed his mind, saying on a local radio





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Illinois lawmakers override Pritzker’s ambulance veto, fail to agree on ethics changes

Lawmakers went around Gov. J.B. Pritzker to enact a law about paying for ambulance services, delivering the first veto override of the governor’s term.

They also failed to agree on changes to an ethics bill the governor made.

All of Pritzker’s bill vetoes from this year and from the previous General Assembly have stuck, except for House Bill 684 .

Illinois State Ambulance Association’s Chris Vandenberg said the bill ensures services are paid for, not by funds through managed care organizations, but through fee-for-service.

“We can’t continue to pay the EMTs and the paramedics the wages they need in order to do this,” Vandenberg told WMAY before Tuesday’s legislative session.

Without the bill, Vandenberg said some EMTs might find higher pay at fast food restaurants rather than being a frontline first responder, which he said is a real health crisis.

Pritzker vetoed the bill, saying it would diminish the quality of service.

Before overriding the governor nearly unanimously Tuesday night, state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, and sponsor of the bill state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, debated.

“The MCOs just were simply not paying their bills,” Gabel said.

“Well, that’s a problem, the monies that we are giving them. That’s the problem,” Flowers said. “That is the problem.”

“That’s why we want to take the money away from them,” Gabel said.

“Let’s take the contracts away, thank you,” said Flowers, who was the only “no” vote on the override.

When lawmakers override a veto, the measure becomes law.

Later in the night, Democrats failed to put enough votes on the board to agree with technical changes to an ethics bill the governor sent.

Pritzker wanted to remove a component of Senate Bill 539 he said would hinder the work of the Executive Inspector General.

The Illinois Senate accepted the changes.

When it was called in the House, where it previously passed with 105 votes, it stalled.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, supported the measure in May, but noted Republicans sent the governor a letter asking that he use his ability to change bills by giving more freedom to the Legislative Inspector General.

The current watchdog announced their resignation saying the measure takes two steps back for an office they said is already a “paper tiger.”

Bourne said Republican requests were disregarded.

“Choosing to vote to uphold this weak amendatory veto is doubling down on the fact that the ethics reform that you passed takes away the ability to have a true and independent watchdog over this body,” Bourne said.

Republicans that supported the bill in May turned to opponents.

The bill was pulled for the record. Later in the evening, when the vote was eventually called, there weren’t enough Democrats in the chamber to get the three-fifths majority to concur with the governor’s changes.





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Liberals call for veto of Norfolk-Haldimand’s acting medical officer appointee

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The Ontario Liberals are calling for the health minister to veto the appointment of the new acting medical officer of health in Haldimand-Norfolk because he is against COVID-19 lockdowns.

But a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says Dr. Matt Strauss’s appointment did not need ministerial approval because he is merely acting medical health officer, and the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health has not sought to bring him on permanently.

Nonetheless, Liberal health critic John Fraser says Strauss cannot be allowed to continue in the role, describing the doctor as opposing “life-saving public health measures.”

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The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit announced Strauss’s appointment to the role in a statement Friday, saying the board of health voted for him unanimously.

Strauss, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Queen’s University, has tweeted repeatedly about his opposition to lockdowns, arguing they’re not effective at preventing COVID-19-related deaths.

He has also described business owners who open in violation of public health orders as “heroes.”

Strauss and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2021.



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Illinois Republicans ask Pritzker to veto legislative maps

Illinois Republicans want Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto the legislative maps Democrats passed this week.

Maps drafted in May were passed by majority Democrats at the statehouse. Despite calls from civic groups asking that lawmakers wait until the final Census data was released, Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted the maps. Republicans criticized the governor for going against his campaign promise to veto partisan legislative maps.

Democrats said they drafted and passed maps based on estimates to meet a constitutional deadline of June 30 for the legislature to act. Final data from the Census wasn’t released until mid-August, months tardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A special session to revise the maps was held Tuesday in Springfield. A status hearing was held Wednesday in the federal lawsuit Republicans filed this summer challenging the legislative maps.

House Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, noted on the House floor Tuesday Illinois’ population decline. Those remaining, he said, were left out of the process to draw new political lines for the next ten years by the Democratic majority in the House.

“Seventy-three people went behind that closed map room door and 12,812,435 other Illinoisans were literally shut out,” Demmer said.

But there’s one person Republicans say can block the maps: Gov. J.B. Pritzker. They’re again urging the governor to abide by a campaign promise to veto maps drawn by politicians.

“I hope that Gov. Pritzker rights your wrong with a veto of this politician-drawn map, but unfortunately given the recent history I’m not confident of that, because this Democrat majority continues to prove over and over again that you care more about your personal power than the people you represent,” Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie said on the Senate floor.

Pritzker’s office didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said all Republicans have done is sue Democrats.

“We’ve never seen any of your plans, we’ve never seen any of your maps produced by the minority party,” Harmon said. “Where are those maps?”

Republicans say they didn’t draft maps in May because final Census data wasn’t available. They also contend it’s beyond the June 30 deadline for lawmakers to act and a bipartisan commission must take over the process.

Change Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek said in a statement the organization hopes the courts will “force the correction of lawmakers’ callous political mapping calculations.”

“Twice in a matter of months, Illinoisans have seen their overwhelming pleas for independent and transparent mapmaking utterly ignored by those elected to represent them,” Doubek said. “Their maps make a farce of democracy and their mapmaking process was a charade. Illinois lawmakers have effectively demonstrated the clear and compelling need to end gerrymandering once and for all.”

Democrats said the maps are fair, in bounds and represent the diversity of the state.





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Heckler’s Veto at SUNY Binghamton May Have Violated First Amendment – Reason.com

From Tuesday’s decision in Young America’s Found. v. Stenger, by Judge Lawrence E. Kahn (N.D.N.Y.) (bold added):

[In late 2019, YAF and the SUNY Binghamton College Republicans organized a] lecture by renowned economist and presidential advisor Dr. Arthur Laffer titled “Trump, Tariffs, and Trade Wars” ….

On the day of the Laffer Event, YAF and College Republicans met with UPD [the University Police Department] and certain SUNY-Binghamton administrators. Stenger, Rose, and Pelletier were not present at the meeting, but the officials present were acting at their direction. At this meeting, UPD told YAF and College Republicans that UPD was aware of threats to disrupt the event by student and non-student groups. UPD criticized YAF and College Republicans for hosting a public, as opposed to private (ticketed) event.

Additionally, the SUNY-Binghamton administrators told YAF and College Republicans that they were unilaterally imposing two conditions on the Laffer Event. First, SUNY-Binghamton decided to increase the UPD police presence and move the event to a lecture hall with more readily available egress routes for Dr. Laffer, if needed. Second, SUNY-Binghamton provided College Progressives a lecture hall adjacent to the Laffer Event (and which had connecting doors to the event’s lecture hall) to protest. YAF and College Republicans objected to SUNY-Binghamton’s conditions, but the administrators refused to change their position. YAF and College Republicans also requested that SUNY-Binghamton announce in advance of the Laffer Event that its own written SUNY free speech policy required students and visitors to permit the Plaintiffs’ free speech, and they again sought assurances that if there was a disruption, UPD would remove the disruptor and not the speaker. The administrators refused to agree to make a public statement about its free speech policy or to provide any such assurances.

When Dr. Laffer and his aides arrived at a nearby airport, YAF and UPD greeted them. UPD informed Dr. Laffer that it had concerns about the Laffer Event and that the University would prefer that Dr. Laffer return to his plane and cancel the event. Although Dr. Laffer told UPD that he wanted to proceed with the event, UPD showed him social media posts regarding the planned disruption of the event.

Approximately one hour before the Laffer Event, the two agents hired by YAF met with UPD. At this meeting, UPD stated they were aware of College Progressives and PLOT’s [Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow’s] planned disruption of the Laffer Event. Pelletier told the agents that if protesters approached Dr. Laffer’s podium then he would order the agents to escort Dr. Laffer out of the event. UPD also informed Dr. Laffer’s driver that he should stay with the vehicle since Laffer may need to make a quick getaway.

At least one hour before the Laffer Event was scheduled to begin, College Progressives and PLOT members were lined up outside the lecture hall and packed into the adjacent lecture hall provided by SUNY-Binghamton administrators. Once the doors to the Laffer Event were opened, hundreds of students and non-students, many of them members of College Progressives and PLOT, flooded in and packed the room. Many of these individuals remained standing in the rows, side aisles, and back of the lecture hall. At the insistence of College Republicans and YAF, UPD made one statement about the size of the crowd and SUNY-Binghamton’s fire code and asked those standing to take their seats. UPD took no further action when the crowd refused to clear the rows, aisles, and back of the lecture hall.

The Laffer Event started promptly at 7:30 p.m. EST with John Restuccia, the then-president of College Republicans, providing a brief two-minute introduction of Dr. Laffer. Dr. Laffer took the podium and, just a few seconds in, a member of Defendant College Progressives and/or Defendant PLOT stood up in the second row and began shouting accusations at Dr. Laffer. The majority of those present greeted these accusations with applause, and the disrupting student was soon handed a megaphone and urged to continue. College Republicans, who were sitting in the first row, stood up and displayed “Free Speech” signs in response to the disruptors.

The disrupting student spoke through the megaphone for nearly two minutes before UPD took any action to restrain him. During these events, Pelletier directed the agents to remove Dr. Laffer from the lecture hall, and the agents complied with the directive and escorted Dr. Laffer out. Eventually, the disruptor with the megaphone was removed, but he handed off the megaphone to others. College Progressives and PLOT and their supporters continued to occupy the lecture hall, surrounding hallways, and the area outside of the lecture building for more than one hour. Stenger and Rose took no action to disperse College Progressives and PLOT.

The court began the analysis by concluding that the lecture hall at SUNY-Binghamton was a limited public forum, because it had been opened up for speech by outside speakers, so the government couldn’t engage in viewpoint discrimination; and it went on:

Even as a limited public forum, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are able to sustain a First Amendment claim because it is plausible that State Defendants’ conduct constituted viewpoint discrimination. [Brian Rose, SUNY-Binghamton vice president for student affairs] had previously said that College Republicans “intended to be provocative” and State Defendants were on notice that there was a planned disruption to the Laffer Event. Before the event, State Defendants provided demonstrators a lecture hall adjacent to the Laffer Event (and which had connecting doors to the event’s lecture hall) to protest. Also, UPD informed Dr. Laffer that the University would prefer that Dr. Laffer cancel the event.

Finally, [John Pelletier, chief of the University Police Department] told the private agents hired to protect Dr. Laffer that he would order them to escort Dr. Laffer out of the room if protestors approached the podium, which is exactly what happened. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs, the Court finds it plausible that State Defendants’ actions effectively amounted to a cancellation of the Laffer Event and that such cancellation was not viewpoint neutral. Therefore, State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is denied.

The tension between student activism and freedom of speech on college campuses is not a new phenomenon. SUNY-Binghamton officials had clear forewarning by social media and the tabling incident that protestors planned to disrupt the Laffer Event.

At this stage of the case, while the Court recognizes that the protestors have a First Amendment right to protest, SUNY-Binghamton officials facilitated the protest and did practically nothing to protect Plaintiffs’ free speech. In effect, SUNY-Binghamton officials sanctioned the protest to [deteriorate] into suppressive conduct, or “enforced silence.” See Whitney v. California (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring) (“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression.”) (emphasis added).

By removing the speaker from the lecture hall instead of the unruly protesters, State Defendants were not only plausibly violating this basic constitutional right, but also preventing fruitful discussion—not the role of an enlightened university. “Our Founding Fathers recognized the occasional tyrannies of those in power and, in doing so, amended the Constitution so that free speech and a free press should be guaranteed.” In preserving the inalienable right to freedom of speech, the Founding Fathers were especially concerned with protecting unpopular speech. See Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (1988) (“[I]f it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection.”).

There are also other speech restrictions discussed in the case, related to the College Republicans’ speech promoting the event and to the SUNY Binghamton student government’s suspension of the College Republicans, but the court didn’t go into the substance of those questions in detail, focusing instead on some procedural features; you can see them discussed here.



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Pennsylvania Republicans to Introduce New Election Overhaul Bill After Governor’s Veto

Pennsylvania state House Republicans will make another attempt at passing a voting overhaul bill after Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf signaled he would support a measure that includes voter identification provisions.

House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove on Wednesday told other lawmakers in a memo that he’ll reintroduce a bill that Wolf vetoed last month. Other than proposing new voter identification requirements, the bill would move up the voter registration deadline, limit drop-box usage, and would allow for the precanvassing of mail-in ballots.

Grove, in the memo, noted that Wolf recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he isn’t opposed to voter identification requirements—namely for mail-in voting.

“While this revelation would have been more welcomed a month ago as the General Assembly was moving HB 1300 of 2021 through the legislative process, it is a productive development,” Grove said, referring to the governor’s interview. “The Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protection Act is solely predicated on the House State Government Committee’s extensive election oversight hearings, the most extensive election oversight work in the entire country,” the York Republican added.

Current law only requires voters in Pennsylvania to show identification when they vote for the first time, whereas the new bill proposes mandatory voter identification for every election. And, according to Grove’s statement, the bill will also include $3.1 million in state funding to create and manage a Bureau of Election Audits.

State Senate President Jake Corman, a Republican, told WHYY that he’s encouraged by Wolf’s recent comments about negotiating and said voter identification laws are supported by “a strong majority of Pennsylvanians.”

Although Wolf signaled he’s open to discussions, other Democrats pushed back against Grove’s latest proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat, told local media that he has “serious concerns” about the voter identification provision and described it as a measure designed to make it more difficult for people to vote.

“Based on our experience, the last time the majority in the General Assembly tried this, it lacked broad accessibility and discriminated against vulnerable segments of the population,” Costa told the Capital-Star newspaper. “So I stand by our position on HB 1300 as it was passed as well as the effort in 2012 that was found unconstitutional.”

On Wednesday, Wolf’s office sought to clarify his remarks to local outlets. A spokesperson said Wolf only would support a GOP-backed measure with voter identification requirements if the bill makes it easier for people to vote.

“His comments were not a seismic shift in policy,” Wolf spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger said. “They simply reflect a willingness the governor has expressed for well over a year to engage in good faith to try to find common ground.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Wolf’s office for comment on Grove’s proposal.



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Louisiana Senate Fails to Override Governor’s Veto of Permitless Concealed Carry Bill

The Louisiana Legislature on Wednesday ended its first-ever veto session failing to override any vetos by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, including a bill that would have nixed the current permit and training requirements for carrying a concealed handgun.

Just three votes shy of the two-thirds needed to overturn Edwards’ veto of the SB 118 “constitutional carry” bill, the Louisiana Senate voted 23–15 in favor of the failed override. The bill would allow any resident who is 21 years of age or older and who is not prohibited from owning a firearm by state or federal law to carry a concealed gun without a permit. It also sought to repeal a requirement for Louisiana residents to pass a nine-hour course with live-fire training before being able to apply for a concealed carry permit.

Three Republicans, Sens. Patrick Connick, Louie Bernard, and Franklin Foil, voted against the override after backing the bill in the regular session, according to The Advocate. Bernard said he pulled his support for the bill after talking to law enforcement officials.

“I wouldn’t want to go to bed at night knowing I had created any additional layer of risk” for police, Bernard said, according to The Advocate.

Edwards, who has described himself as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an “enthusiastic outdoorsman and hunter,” vetoed the bill on June 24, and on Wednesday expressed relief that his veto was upheld.

“At the end of the day, the Legislature got it right and I’m immensely thankful for that,” Edwards said at a news conference after Wednesday’s adjournment of the special voting session, which also failed to overturn the governor’s veto of a bill banning biological males who identify as female from competing on school sports teams of their identified gender.

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on April 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Gun-rights advocates criticized the senators who changed their positions on the permitless carry bill. In a statement on Tuesday, the National Rifle Association (NRA) called it a “betrayal at the Capitol,” while vowing to push the legislation again next year.

“We cannot, and will not, let others pick and choose which parts of the Bill of Rights they would like to follow, and we will continue our fight next legislative session to ensure we keep that freedom,” the gun-rights group stated.

Gun Owners of America (GOA) denounced the move in a statement, suggesting there would be political consequences for the senators who voted against the veto override.

“Their betrayal of gun owners speaks VOLUMES, as they only voted ‘pro-gun’ earlier in the session when their votes didn’t matter,” GOA said in a statement. “Gun owners will remember this backstab at the ballot box.”

Joshua Barnhill, Louisiana Director for GOA, said in a statement that, “While this is not the outcome GOA and its members fought for, or that the people of Louisiana deserve, one silver lining is that it has shed light on who in the Senate actually supports Constitutional Carry and who was simply trying to score political points thinking there would be no veto session.”

Had the veto override been successful, it would have made Louisiana the 22 state to enact so-called “constitutional carry” legislation.



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