Legislative Updates: Conservative Bill Would Force National Anthem To Be Played at Public Sporting Events; Police Reform and Housing Legislation Also Considered

Respect” by modenadude is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Should Athletes Be Forced To Sing National Anthem That Includes a Racist 3rd Stanza?

Over the strong concerns of several Black members, the House Judiciary Committee today passed out SB 124 by Sharon Hewitt that would mandate that the National Anthem be played or sung at every sporting event at any venue paid for by public dollars.  

The third stanza reads: 

“And where is that band who is vauntingly swore, That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion A home and a Country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  

Hewitt said she proposed the legislation as a simple tribute to veterans. Though she came to realize that the third stanza includes language that could be considered offensive, Hewitt said no state senators found fault with her bill.

“I don’t know what the author intended when he wrote the third stanza. I am talking about the traditional (first) verse as a way to recognize the sacrifices veterans made. It is a unifying opportunity,” Hewitt said. She referenced the country’s 9-11 tragedy and how people came together in a very patriotic fashion. “At the first sporting event I went to after 9-11, people stood up and sang loud and proud. It was a unifying moment.”

Hewitt believes that this legislation is another opportunity to unite people. “We all have different ideas on how to make our country better but it’s still the best country in the world.”

Playing or singing the National Anthem at these events is strictly voluntary. Hewitt expects the law to be self-regulated. She believes that people generally know if a venue is publicly funded. There are no penalties if the law is not followed.

State Representatives Frederick Jones, Edmond Jordan, Randall Gaines and Jason Hughes of New Orleans – all member of the Legislative Black Caucus – question Hewitt on her motives. 

Gaines acknowledged that he was a proud veteran but wondered if it was “legal to mandate an act of patriotism.” Jordan thought the legislation was “overly broad” and wished there was a better way to accomplish the bill’s goals. Jones questioned whether the instrument “has the potential to harm our young athletes.”  

Hewitt seems to be targeting young athletes in playground leagues who might be more impressionable.

Hughes voiced the loudest concerns and tried to show the arbitrariness of the legislation. Observers might conclude that Hughes thought the bill was indeed unnecessary. To make his case, Hughes first questioned why the instrument only targeted sporting events. 

He suggested that if the anthem had to be sung at athletic events, why not also make it mandatory daily to be sung in the house and senate chambers. Why not make it mandatory for every event at the Superdome.  

Since the anthem is already played at most athletic events, Jones asked why it was necessary to mandate it. Hewitt responded it was easy to describe a sporting event, that’s why she selected that constituency to impact rather than concerts or other type of activities. 

Hughes recalled his youth at Mildred Osborne Elementary School in New Orleans where the students said the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Hughes felt that the Pledge met the standard for instilling. Hughes said he had many ideas on how to amend the legislation and would be bringing suggestions to Hewitt prior to the legislation being heard the full House. Hughes is smart and tenacious. With some luck, he might be successful in derailing the bill which would force young kids to be patriotic whether they want to or not. 

V.O.T.E. Wins Another Round With SB 34 by State Senator Cleo Fields

Supporters of the formerly incarcerated were pleased today when legislation by state. Senator Cleo Fields that they were lobbying for passed. SB 34  better defines how law enforcement officers are allowed to interact with the public. 

The legislation requires additional training on de-escalation, bias policing recognition, crisis intervention training and sudden in-custody death. It requires body cameras and dash board camera be used whenever available and prohibits choke holds and carotid holds except when deadly force is authorized or the officer reasonably believes he or another person is at risk of great bodily harm.

The bill also sets new guidelines for the use of no knock warrants and requires that most warrants be executed during daylight hours from sunrise to sunset. The bill passed out of committee unanimously with little discussion. Obviously its supporters have put a successful coalition together that should serve them well on the House floor. Several members of VOTE including Norris Henderson were in the audience prepared to speak on the legislation if they had been needed.    

Landry Convinces Male Legislators Her Bill Deserved Approval

It’s not easy getting progressive legislation passed in Baton Rouge. State Rep. Mandie Landry has fighting that uphill battle for two years now. Today she got a break with HB 241 which would obligate landlords who have warrants in possession for tenant’s eviction to pay an additional $20 fee. The bill is a pilot program in Orleans Parish only where record keeping on evictions are thorough and complete.

The fee would raise approximately $75,000 annually – enough to hire a full time lawyer through Southeast Legal Services to represent the tenants being evicted. Landry projected that 250 clients would be served which could prevent 125 evictions or give families more time to find new homes. 

Landry also believes the legislation would help reduce homelessness. The State of Louisiana spends $300,000 annually to house homeless individuals. Only 6% of defendants who appear in First City Court on eviction matters are represented by counsel, Landry explained. 

State Rep. Jason Hughes applauded Landry for her hard work. Landry responded that a larger fee is actually needed so that more tenants could be served. A representative of the Apartment Association of New Orleans spoke out against the bill noting that landlords have suffered millions in losses during the pandemic. “Landlords never want to evict people. They don’t want homelessness,” the spokesperson said.   

Three male Republican State Representatives – Alan Seabaugh, Mike Johnson and Sherman Mack – who support landlord rights questioned Landry about her intent. They complained that landlords already have to pay the costs of evicting people and tried to make the case that all tenants facing eviction deserve to be evicted. Landry countered that sometimes tenants fail to pay rent because the landlord has not properly maintained the unit.

Though the conservative make-up of the committee and their previous lack of support for her legislation could have caused the bill to be defeated, Landry persuasively leaned in to secure the necessary votes. Having more female and legislators of color in the State House would go a long way in getting progressive legislation passed into law.

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