Gov. Edwards faces what’s likely the biggest decision of his political career: Signing or vetoing Sen. Talbot’s tort reform bill, and the stakes for everyone are huge.

Louisiana State Sen. Rick Ward, R – Port Allen, the lone Republican to fail to support Sen. Kirk Talbot’s tort reform measure in the 2020 Louisiana Legislative Session.

Minutes after Gov. John Bel Edwards declared, “How sweet it is,” on the evening of Saturday, November 16, 2019, as he celebrated winning a second term in as Louisiana Governor, Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns, frustrated beyond words at a second term being served by an individual with such an incredibly hostile approach toward private businesses, published this Facebook post.  Since we know we have many subscribers who simply refuse to join the social media world, we’ll provide the Facebook post below:

During Gov. Edwards’ last appearance at the Baton Rouge Press Club (BRPC), Burns reminded Gov. Edwards of his stand on the $50,000 jury trial threshold, which is a major target of tort reform with Kirk Talbot’s SB-418 seeking to sharply reduce that threshold to $5,000.  Let’s take just a moment to view Edwards’ reiteration of his support of that threshold which he uttered on March 2, 2020:

Appearing before the BRPC on March 2, 2020, Gov. John Bel Edwards reiterates his stand on the $50,000 jury trial threshold.

As everyone not living in a cave knows by now, Sen. Kirk Talbot’s bill passed the Senate with a seemingly-veto-proof majority of 29-8.  Twenty-six votes would be required in the Senate to override a veto by Edwards.  Likewise, the measure passed the House by a seemingly-veto-proof majority of 72-28; furthermore, that was with Rep. Valarie Hodges being unable to cast her vote.  Had she been able to do so, that would have made it 73 votes in favor.  Seventy votes would be required in the House to override an Edwards veto.

The bill was returned to the Senate for concurrence with some House amendments, and those amendments were overwhelmingly rejected, prompting the bill to be presented to a Conference Committee comprised of the following members:

House:  Garofalo, Gregory Miller, and Magee.
Senate:  Talbot, Peacock, and Ward.

As this feature is being produced, the measure is awaiting consideration in the full Senate regarding the final bill form as emerged from the Conference Committee outlined above.

Needless to say, the stakes are huge entailing the political careers of everyone serving in the Legislature as well as Gov. Edwards regarding this bill.  There was a clear mandate sent across this state in last year’s Legislative races that citizens are fed up with the abusive tactics of “soft tissue trial lawyer exploitation,” and they’ve basically said, “Oppose this and you’re a dead duck in the next election.”

So far, the only Republican to oppose the tort reform measure is Sen. Rick Ward, R – Port Allen, and Ward is term-limited and ineligible to seek re-election in 2023 (though he can run for a House seat and attempt to move over to that Chamber).  Accordingly, as we indicated that we would, we are issuing a public tentative apology to Rep. Paula Davis, whom we predicted would fail to support an override of a veto by Gov. Edwards.  She has tentatively been removed from the preceding webpage (and has been replaced with Sen. Ward) which will highlight ALL Republicans who fail to support an Edwards veto override of Talbot’s bill should Edwards opt to veto the bill.  If Edwards does veto the bill, that webpage will be updated with any Republican legislator who fails to support a veto override.

Make no mistake:   The political stakes are huge for Edwards himself.  He can sign the bill, but doing so will bestow upon him the wrath of the trial lawyer cabal who bankrolled both of his election victories.  He can always say, “The handwriting was on the wall, and I couldn’t risk my entire second term being a lame duck, which is what would have happened to me had I not signed the bill and it became law anyway.”

Alternatively, he could veto the bill.  That action would surely please his trial lawyer cabal; however, if a veto-override turns out to be unsuccessful, the wrath of a majority of Republicans will likely unite together to ensure that he gets absolutely noting of his own initiatives of his second term in office passed through the Legislature.  For anyone old enough to remember the utter futility former Gov. Dave Treen endured from 1979 – 1983, to use some bad grammar, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” should a veto-override vote fail to win approval.

So, get ready folks, it’s about to get very interesting over at the State Capitol!

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