Even before the Louisiana Legislature convened last week, lawmakers were busy embarrassing themselves and all Louisianans by trotting out proposed bills that made national headlines — for all the wrong reasons. The bill that's received the most attention is House Bill 561, the "Louisiana birther bill," crafted by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, and Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell. HB 561 would require candidates for president and vice president to present a birth certificate before being allowed on the Louisiana ballot. Both Crowe and Seabaugh have said their bill has nothing to do with the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama or those around him somehow faked his U.S. citizenship, but it's obvious where they came up with the idea.
The "birther" conspiracy, which largely faded after Obama's election, bubbled up again in recent months, and Obama defused the whole thing April 27 when the White House released a photostat of the original document. Seabaugh and Crowe then pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves, chiding Obama and complaining the whole exercise had been "time-consuming" (true, but that was hardly Obama's fault) and saying they'd been subject to "attacks by certain members of the media." Their statement concluded, "We look forward to moving forward with this important legislation this session."
The irony here is that Seabaugh and Crowe, who champion smaller government, are proposing a wholly unnecessary and duplicative law. Candidates for president and vice president already must prove their eligibility by filing the necessary documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Crowe has said passage of HB 561 would "clarify the Constitution." That's rich. The Louisiana Legislature "clarifying" the U.S. Constitution would be like a sitcom writer "clarifying" Shakespeare.
Meanwhile, Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, is making national news for his House Bill 587, which Mother Jones has dubbed "Louisiana v. Roe" — a direct assault on the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. LaBruzzo's bill would ban all abortions in Louisiana — no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother — and charge both doctor and patient with feticide. (LaBruzzo now says that goes too far; he intends to have the language changed.) No state law can nullify a Supreme Court ruling, but LaBruzzo is frank about his intentions: He wants to mount a court challenge to Roe v. Wade.
LaBruzzo, who faces re-election in a new district that has a voting majority in New Orleans, is only 20 years late on this one. Louisiana lawmakers passed a "no exceptions" anti-abortion bill in 1991 — and the federal courts wasted no time striking it down as unconstitutional. Doing the same thing now would be a waste of time, legislative attention and money. That doesn't seem to faze LaBruzzo, however. His abortion bill is similar to some of his other ideas, including paying poor women to be sterilized and making everyone who wants to receive state assistance take a drug test, purportedly to save money — though he admitted he didn't know how much the program would cost.
Perhaps what LaBruzzo really hopes to accomplish is to distract voters from remembering that he was among the legislators who voted to more than double his own pay — immediately — in 2008. He also signed an affidavit accepting the raise despite voters' protests. When voters filed a petition with the Secretary of State to recall him, LaBruzzo pulled an about-face and desperately begged Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the raise he had previously worked so hard to pass. He apparently remains in damage-control mode as the election approaches.
While Crowe, Seabaugh and LaBruzzo puff, posture and pander, the state faces a $1.6 billion anticipated shortfall starting July 1. In his opening-day address to lawmakers, Jindal made it clear he'll veto any tax hikes. If LaBruzzo, Seabaugh and Crowe were serious about helping their constituents, they'd spend more time figuring out how to keep the state afloat and less time grandstanding on behalf of spurious bills that have no chance of surviving constitutional challenges. Their shameless attempts to garner headlines for themselves at election time only serve to embarrass Louisiana. We hope their colleagues quickly consign these bills to the legislative trash bin.