Anti-‘police defunding’ bill falls short in Louisiana Senate

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Mitch McConnell

FILE – In this June 16, 2020, file photo Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a face mask in his hands during a news conference following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Friday, June 26, Vice President Mike Pence said Americans should look to their state and local leadership for modeling their behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The comments only days after President Donald Trump held two campaign events that drew hundreds of participants but few wearing masks. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bid to give Louisiana lawmakers more power to penalize municipalities that too steeply cut their police departments stalled Friday in the Senate during the last minutes of the special session.

Republican Rep. Lance Harris, who is running for Congress in the Nov. 3 election, couldn’t overcome opposition from his fellow Alexandria legislator, Democratic Sen. Jay Luneau, on the final day of the session.

Luneau threatened to hold up the session’s adjournment by continuing to debate rather than allow a final Senate vote on Harris’ bill, which already had won passage in the House in a 68-29 vote Friday.

“I’m going to be here a long, long time, because I’ve got a lot to say,” Luneau said.

Rather than drag out the end of the session, supporters of Harris’ bill pulled it from consideration, keeping it from final passage.

The proposal would have required local governing authorities to notify the Legislature’s joint budget committee if they shrink funding for their police department or sheriff’s office by 25% or more. If the committee decided the financing cut would harm public safety, the municipality would be unable to receive state construction dollars or some sales tax dollars.

Harris said he was trying to protect public safety, though he acknowledged no municipality in Louisiana was proposing to “defund its police.” Still, he cited such debates in other states.

Democrats called it political posturing to help boost Harris’ congressional campaign, and they called it inappropriate meddling in local government affairs.

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The bill is filed as House Bill 38.

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