Last-minute vote in House ruled invalid

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

It wasn’t until later that staffers discovered the maneuver had occurred after the session’s 6 p.m. deadline.


A measure to significantly alter how the House elects its speaker, the chief presiding officer in the lower chamber, was passed with no advance notice and no debate during the waning moments of the recently adjourned regular session. But don’t expect it to take effect any time soon — or ever, really.

With less than two minutes remaining in the session on June 11, the day of final adjournment, the House voted on a motion to both suspend its rules and simultaneously adopt 10 different resolutions, including the one addressing how the speaker should be elected in future terms.

While some in the House were unaware that a vote was even taking place, Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, managed to say “without objection” — after asking the body if anyone opposed the procedural move — with enough certainty that those paying attention believed they deal was done.

They were wrong. And it wasn’t until later that staffers discovered the maneuver had occurred after the session’s 6 p.m. deadline, according to House Clerk Butch Speer.

Few, including Speer, can remember the House ever lumping together so many resolutions for such a vote. And since it came during the session’s final moments, in a duration of time that could only be counted in seconds, lawmakers were unable to investigate the resolutions they were being asked to vote on and many seemed unaware there was even an opportunity to object.

Most of the resolutions, HR 219 through HR 226, were commendation, condolence and recognition measures — meaning they were largely ceremonial. But the others were substantive resolutions that some lawmakers would have surely wanted to debate.

Most notably, HR 228 by Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers, would have allowed for a secret balloting process for nominating a speaker of the House candidate, similar to what was passed by the Senate this session.

HR 229 by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was also part of the package that didn’t pass. It would have directed the state nursing board to make “limited exceptions” to the 80 percent licensure examination passage rule.

While unintentional — Kleckley was working under the assumption that the House had enough time left on the clock — it underscores the complaints that good government groups and others have voiced about the hectic pace of a session’s final moments.

Usually the problems or oversights occur on the final day when compromise bills emerge from negotiations between House and Senate members, a process known as conference committee. Often several pages long, many lawmakers contend there’s not enough time on the session’s final day to thoroughly review such reports.

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said she working on legislation for 2016 that would limit what kind of proposals can be voted on when a session has entered its final day.