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A Louisiana state representative has switched parties, giving the Republican Party its first supermajority in both governing bodies.
Longtime Democrat Representative Francis Thompson has served Northeast Louisiana for fifty years. The 81-year-old lawmaker changed his party registration to Republican on Friday, March 17, making him the 70th Republican member of the state House. Republicans had already held a supermajority in the state Senate.
In a statement, Thompson said the current Democrat leadership, both statewide and nationally, no longer lined up with his morals and values as a practitioner of the Christian faith.
“The push the past several years by Democratic leadership on both the national and state level to support certain issues does not align with those values and principles that are part of my Christian life,” Thompson, 81, said.
The move comes after Thompson crossed the aisle in 2021 to join Republicans in calling for a veto override session, which would have been a first for the southern state. Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards rejected a slate of bills which included one that would have banned boys who identify as girls from competing in school sports. Another eased concealed carry restrictions for handgun owners.
The veto on the transgender issue ultimately failed.
The vote on Senate Bill 156, two shy of the 70 needed, was a blow to Republican leaders, who called the first-ever veto override session with the goal of overriding the Democratic governor’s vetoes on the transgender bill and a permitless concealed carry gun bill, which failed to get enough votes for an override in the state Senate.
Senate President Page Cortez told his Senate members that overriding a governor’s veto was intentionally set high. The Senate voted to override the transgender sports bill, but the House did not. “That’s the process,” Cortez added as senators collected their belongings.
Republicans picked up a seat in 2022. With Thompson’s flip, the supermajority now has enough GOP votes to meet the override threshold.
Another version of the bill protecting girls in sports eventually did pass, with the governor refusing to use his veto powers. CNN reported on the ban of “transgender women and girls” in athletics at the time, claiming there is no “direct or consistent research” that boys who identify as girls have any physical advantage over girls in athletic competition.
Louisiana banned transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at all public and some private elementary and secondary schools and colleges on Monday after the state’s Democratic governor declined to take executive action on the controversial measure.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision not to veto or directly approve SB 44 means that his state’s Republican-led legislature succeeded in passing the ban nearly a year after the governor had killed a similar version of the legislation last June, calling it discriminatory. Per state law, the governor needed to take direct action on the legislation before Monday in order to have a say in its fate.
Louisiana now joins a growing list of states that have enacted such bans in recent years, including at least six in 2022 alone. In pushing such measures, conservatives have argued that transgender women and girls have physical advantages over cisgender women and girls in sports, though a 2017 report found “no direct or consistent research” on any such advantage.
Louisiana Democrat Sam Jenkins issued a statement on Friday expressing disappointment at Thompson’s turn. He claimed to find the move unsurprising, saying Thompson has previously caucused with the GOP.
“While Rep. Thompson’s decision (to switch parties) is disappointing, it is not surprising. He already caucused with Republicans,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Sam Jenkins said in a written statement Friday.
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