Veto Override fails

Reperesentative Montgomery has abandoned his attempt to bring the legislature back into session to override Blanco’s recent vetoes. This morning’s Advertiser story on this issue makes it clear that the Montgomery’s purpose was to resuscitate HB 699, BellSouth’s state-wide video franchise bill.

Earlier stories on the attempt to bring the legislature back into session have been vague as to why the attempt was being made. If you didn’t understand clearly that Montgomery sponsored BellSouth’s bill it was hard to understand why he was pursuing a veto session.

Montgomery quit because he no longer has the votes:

[Montgomery] had commitments from enough legislators in the House to hold a veto override session, but, if such a session was held, he was uncertain he could obtain the necessary two-thirds vote to override the veto.

That’s telling–apparently once those legislators got back home and talked to local mayors and police jurors they got an earful. Support for HB 699 has understandably waned. If the mayor of the biggest towns in your district start bad-mouthing the job you’re doing up in Baton Rouge, you’re in trouble.

Likely that is not all that is going on. Blanco vetoed a lot of pork projects across the state and every legislator who had their particular ox gored would have loved another bite of the apple. But the legislators know the score even if earlier reporters on the potential veto session did not. They’d already watched Montgomery push BellSouth’s bill through during the regular session and knew that he thought a veto session should benefit HB 699. But they wanted their own pork bills too. It’s not hard to imagine that they said so plainly and demanded a clear price for their votes: passage of their vetoed bills. It’s not that this sort of thing doesn’t take place all the time. But this time, with only BellSouth’s bill driving the dealing it would have been crystal clear that votes were being traded. With local government finally rallied to the cause you can bet that a lot of politically savvy local people would be watching the sausage being made. Media coverage of the veto session, unlike the regular session’s focus on hurricane recovery issues, would be focused on what is, in the end, a bill to strip local governments of control of the public’s rights of way in in order to profit BellSouth. Faced with the prospect of a messy session and visibly fading support Montgomery, wisely, bailed.

Montgomery tries to put a good face on it all:

[Blanco] “has asked them to work together to see if they can come to some agreement,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to give that a shot up until the next session.”

But, bravado aside, the next session is a fiscal session–unless BellSouth has some very creative way to make this into a tax or expenditure bill it won’t be considered in the 2007 regular session. (Proponents of Lafayette’s fiber to the home project should not that this will give the city a year’s respite from the worst of the battles in the state legislature.)

HB 699 is dead.

Update: The Advocate also has a short story today on Montgomery’s attempt to bring the legislture back in session and his decision to abandon the effort. It contains some interesting tidbits about the process that brings a veto session into being and centers attention on Montgomery’s claim that Cox’s recent rate increase motivated his attempts. I’ll say it again, attempts to construct this bill as a battleground between Cox & the cable companies and BellSouth/AT&T are symptomatic of lazy reporting. BellSouth promoted the idea that a vote for HB 699 was a vote against high cable prices because it was a much easier sell than saying honestly that they only want to serve the most profitable segments of every town and new ritzy suburbs and local government was refusing to rent them land for that purpose. The media (and the legislature) bought BellSouth’s line because it fits in with everyone’s prejudices so nicely. But the real opponents are BellSouth and local governments with Cox a sometimes, tepid, ally of first one side and then the other depending on whether it is trying to secure its short-term or long-term interests at the moment. The history of this bill makes it clear: It’s local government vs. BellSouth.