Louisiana AG says civil servants can attend Trump rally

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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry released an opinion Tuesday afternoon giving civil service employees the green light to attend President Donald Trump’s campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone Thursday night in Bossier City.

Landry issued the 3-page opinion in response to a request from Rep. Alan Seabaugh seeking clarification, after he and fellow legislators were inundated with calls from first responders who say they were told that, under civil service law, they were not allowed to attend the rally.

“It is the opinion of this office that the mere attendance at a rally under the above described facts is not a prohibited activity,” Landry says, adding that a violation of the state statutes governing fire and police civil service employees involving “political activity” occurs only when there is a violation of one of the specifically designated prohibitions.

Among other things, those specifically designated prohibitions include seeking or attempting to use any political endorsement in connection with any appointment to a position in the classified service, paying dues or subscriptions for political organizations, being a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or an officer or member of a committee of any factional or political club or organization, be a candidate for election to public office, make any political speech or public political statement in behalf of any candidate seeking to be elected to public office, or manage any political party or campaign for any candidate for public office, “except to privately express his opinion and to cast his vote.”

Read the full opinion here.

Landry’s opinion notes that there is no cost or donation required to attend the rally and that it is open to the general public with free tickets that “are not limited by political party.” He also notes that “attendees are not paying any assessments, subscriptions, or otherwise making a contribution to a political organization or purpose.”

Not only does the Louisiana Attorney General believe that civil service employees would not be breaking the law by attending the event, but in a Twitter thread Tuesday afternoon, Landry emphasized that “Any action taken to direct or coerce firefighters, police officers, or other civil servants into not attending @realDonaldTrump‘s rally could violate the law.”

LA Dist. 4 Rep. Mike Johnson said in a post on his Facebook page earlier Tuesday that he’s heard from many firefighters and police officers upset that they have been warned that they cannot attend, even in plain clothes.

BREAKING NEWS: I have been contacted by many, many firefighters and police officers who want to attend the Trump rally…

Posted by Mike Johnson on Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Johnson also noted that he has been in touch with Dodie Horton about the issue. Horton has been vocal in her opposition to the state law prohibiting political activity in public, noting that the Louisiana House of Representatives failed to support HB 346, her proposed constitutional amendment that would lift what she calls the “Little Hatch Act,” noting that “Louisiana is 1 of only 4 states that has this archaic law on the books.” In a Facebook video posted November 8, Horton vowed to reintroduce the legislation in the next session.

Horton also shared the response she received via email on November 7 from State Examiner Adrienne Bordelon when she asked about first responders attending the Bossier rally.

In that response, Bordelon confirmed that “no municipal fire and police civil service employee may attend President Trump’s rally. He is coming to Louisiana to support a candidate for Governor, as such this would be perceived as supporting the republican candidate and a violation of Article X, Section 20 of the Constitution, as well as RS.S 33:2504 and R.S. 33:2564.”

Local firefighters and police officers say they have received that same information in response to requests for clarification from their local department administrations.

It’s not clear yet exactly what Landry’s opinion means for police officers and firefighters who want to attend Thursday’s rally but remain concerned about disciplinary action under or risk violating state law.

According to the Attorney General’s website, “Opinions of the Attorney General are advisory only; they do not have the force and effect of the law; and they are limited to the facts presented by the official or officials requesting the opinion. Further, the opinions may be changed or recalled due to subsequent court decisions and/or legislative enactments.”

Rispone is challenging incumbent Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Voters will decide the race on Saturday.  

The rally will take place at the CenturyLink Center at 7 p.m. Tickets can be requested by clicking here.

The seating is first-come, first-served, so attendees are advised to arrive early.

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