Far-right lawmaker, state GOP won’t accept trans youth healthcare ban’s defeat
In an act of political retribution, an ultra-conservative Louisiana lawmaker has attached an amendment to the bill of a fellow Republican who bucked the party line and voted to kill a proposed ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, proposed the amendment Thursday afternoon to Sen. Fred Mills legislation that seeks to expand telehealth services. The change Seabaugh wants would tie Mills’ telehealth measure to House Bill 648, the proposed ban on gender affirming healthcare put forward by Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock.
Mills was the deciding vote against Firment’s bill Wednesday when it went before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which Mills chairs.
During House floor debate Thursday on Mills’ telehealth proposal, Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, asked whether Seabaugh’s amendment was germane to the bill.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, said it was germane because it tied the effective date of Mills’ telehealth proposal to the effective date in another bill, without giving further explanation.
No House members objected to the adoption of the amendment, and the bill was approved on an 80-4 vote.
Rep. Joe Stagni, R-Kenner, who carried Mills’ proposal on the House floor, said he asked his colleagues not to object to Seabaugh’s amendment, as that could have led to the bill being killed outright.
“Believe it or not, we outmaneuvered them,” Stagni said in an interview.
Stagni railed against what he described as Seabaugh’s “political hijinks,” describing the ultra-conservative lawmakers working to kill Mills’ legislation as sore losers.
“I don’t think you should legislate by sour grapes,” Stagni said.
Mills spoke of Seabaugh’s attempt with more forgiveness, saying he views Seabaugh as a friend and isn’t upset by his maneuvering.
“I understand where he’s coming from, and I respect his strategy,” Mills said.
It’s too early to say what’s going to happen with his bill, Mills said, though Stagni predicted the senator will likely ask his colleagues to reject Seabaugh’s amendment when it takes up the bill for concurrence on amendments.
If the Senate approves Mills’ telehealth bill without the House amendment, it sends the legislation to a conference committee, a closed-door meeting of three lawmakers from each chamber. Both chambers would then have to vote to accept or reject the conference committee’s compromise.
Seabaugh said House conservatives would try to add a similar amendment to as many of Mills’ bills as possible to send a message to vote on Firment’s bill.
Firment’s proposal was involuntarily deferred Wednesday in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Mills, the committee chair, cast the deciding vote.
Mills, a pharmacist, was met with immediate backlash from national conservatives and said his businesses have been bombarded with harassing messages. But Republican colleagues in the Senate have also thanked him for scuttling Firment’s legislation, Mills said in an interview.
Even with the Seabaugh amendment attached, Mills’ retains some control over what happens to his telehealth legislation. Mills could opt not to call for a vote on the Senate floor to concur on House amendments, meaning his bill would not pass this session.
The Louisiana Republican Party has urged the Senate to discharge Firment’s failed bill from committee, meaning it can receive a vote on the Senate floor despite failing in committee. The Senate would likely approve the bill if given the opportunity. Even though Mills said he received praised from GOP Senate members, the chamber’s Republican supermajority includes lawmakers who still back the ban on transgender youth medical care
Reviving a bill after it has been killed in committee is unusual. Last year, the House voted to reconsider a proposal to restrict discussion of gender and sexuality in public schools after the House Education Committee had already rejected it. However, the bill was never brought up for vote on the floor.
Some lawmakers have expressed interest in reviving Firment’s proposal, whether that means discharging the bill from the Senate committee or attaching provisions of the ban to another bill still moving through the legislature.
Senate President Page Cortez declined to comment on reviving the bill. A moderate Republican from Lafayette, he has typically maneuvered to avoid controversy.
Mills said he wouldn’t be upset if the Senate overturned his committee decision but added that it may set a bad precedent.
“As the chair, I do have to respect the will of the committee, and we had a two-hour hearing,” Mills said. “This may have ramifications for future bills.”
Julie O’Donoghue contributed reporting to this story