2023 Louisiana Legislation Watch
Analysis & Talking Points
Current law provides for parish governments to establish library boards, consisting of five to seven community members, with staggered five-year terms (so that the entire board is not replaced all at once).
HB628 proposes to MAKE AN EXCEPTION for Livingston Parish, where recent attempts to ban books have been unsuccessful, despite a hostile Parish Council and the resignations of both the Director and Assistant Director. Not content with ousting one board member, the Council, working with Rep. Hodges, now wants to appoint a total of nine new members (four more than currently serve) in order to push through their agenda.
Most of the language of this bill was originally proposed as HB 360, which is still an active piece of legislation. Originally introduced by Rep. Hodges a few weeks ago, it received a tremendous amount of backlash from the community, however, prompting Rep. Hodges to introduce this bill with almost identical language, minus a few key exceptions.
FIRST, and most importantly, the language requiring the immediate termination of the entire library board of control has been removed. This was presumably done because so many citizens wrote or called in their opposition to the bill, and rightly so! However, the fact that Rep. Hodges doesn't intend to fire the library board with this particular piece of legislation doesn't change the intent of the bill itself - to "stack" the board with more appointees who will be more in line with the Parish Council's political beliefs, and therefore more willing to make decisions that reflect the Parish Councilmembers personal political ideologies. For this reason the bill MUST be defeated, because if the library board is put there simply to be a stand-in for the Parish Council, and not an independent body of citizens, WHY DOES IT EXIST AT ALL? The library board MUST be able to act independently in order to function properly, or it ceases to function for all intents and purposes.
The second part of the legislation that was removed was the language referring to how the library board appointees would roll into their terms. In HB360, it is proposed that the appointees serve one, two, three, four, and five year initial terms in order to roll off the board at different times. This part was, at least, in line with prior state law. However, HB628 changes that language to "shall serve initial terms as determined by the parish governing authority." In other words, once again the Parish Council retains the power to say exactly how long each term is for each appointee. So, for example, if an appointee has shown a history of voting in some way that displeases the council, or perhaps isn't in line with their political expectations, they can simply end their term that year, effectively terminating them without cause. It's a terrible system that transforms the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control into a useless, frightened, puppet mouthpiece for the Parish Council.
As stated before, this is obviously a blatant attempt to rig the system and cause further havoc at the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control, simply because those in favor of censorship and book bans have not been able to achieve their goals. There is absolutely no cause to waste the Legislature's time changing the makeup of this board other than to accomplish legislatively what they simply could not politically. It's a farce, frankly.
1. Current law already provides for parish governmental entities to establish library boards. There is absolutely no reason to make an exception for Livingston Parish, and certainly no cause to raise the number of board members to match the number of council members. Other parishes do not need this and neither does Livingston. This is a waste of both the legislature's time and the taxpayer's money.
2. Simply losing a vote or an election is not justification for deciding to rewrite the rules or firing an entire duly appointed board. This is antithetical to the democratic ideals of the United State of America. Stacking a board with extra seats in order to achieve one's desired political outcome is not only dishonest, it's undemocratic.