This week in not cool: Rep. Steve Pylant’s double-cross

by Walter Pierce

GOP co-sponsor with Dem Rep. Terry Landry to abolish death penalty says after casting deciding vote to kill it that he simply “wanted to get my message out” — that Louisiana isn’t executing enough people.

Landry, left, and Pylant

State Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, might have set a precedent in the Louisiana Legislature: co-sponsoring a bill he never intended to see become law simply to make a point.

Pylant, a former sheriff, co-sponsored with Rep. Terry Landry, a Democrat from Lafayette and the former commissioner of Louisiana State Police, a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Louisiana. The reasoning for the bill was less about inhumane conditions on Death Row at Angola State Penitentiary or the racial inequalities in administration of the death penalty and more about the cost to the state of batting down appeals by those sentenced to death — and the fact that Louisiana’s highest-in-the-nation violent crime rate has never been deterred by the death penalty.

But, as The Associated Press reports, when the bill came up for a vote in a House criminal justice committee, Pylant cast the deciding vote against the measure, killing it 9-8. Pylant told reporters after the vote that was his plan all along — he simply co-sponsored the bill to be heard:

“My position has never changed,” Pylant told reporters after the vote. “I co-sponsored the bill because I wanted to get my message out — the fact that we’re not doing it. We’re spending $10 million defending people on Death Row every year and we’re not executing anybody. We say we can’t get the drugs to do it, but Arkansas has executed (four) in the last month. ... If I wasn’t (the co-sponsor), y’all wouldn’t be talking to me, right?”

Landry told reporters he was stunned by Pylant’s 180. “The mere fact that he didn’t share with me that he wasn’t going to (support it), it would have changed my strategy,” Landry told reporters after the vote. “I don’t think that’s the way I would have conducted business with a colleague.”

Pylant’s surprise theatrics rippled through the Senate as well: An identical bill sponsored by a Republican in the upper chamber was pulled when its sponsor, Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, realized that even if his bill passed the Senate it would meet the same fate as Landry’s in the House.

Louisiana has executed two people since 2002.