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2024 Louisiana Legislation Watch

Take Action on These Bills
HB 640 & HB946
Sponsored by Rep. Jay Galle
Analysis & Talking Points

 

Analysis

Text of the Bill (HB640)

Text of the Bill (HB946)

 

Current law (RS 25:211) prohibits the abolishment of any entity whose creation is required by law.  Louisiana Law requires that a parish shall create, establish, equip, maintain, operate and support such a public library when not less than twenty-five per cent of the duly qualified property tax payers resident in such parish or municipality shall petition the governing authority thereof to establish such a public library for such parish or municipality.  

 

A 2001 Attorney General Opinion found that a governing body was bound by the term of appointed board members where a term was specified.  Library board member terms are specified in RS 25:214 (five years).

 In 2023, the Attorney General Landry wrote a counter opinion (23-0015): that because the law didn’t rule out removal of library board members at will, the governing authority could therefore remove them at will.  He left out these words in his opinion: “Where the provisions of this Part could be interpreted to conflict with the provisions of R.S. 25:211, et seq. relative to parish and municipal libraries and their boards, the provisions of R.S. 25:211 et seq. shall prevail.” Additionally, Landry’s opinion did not reference section G of RS 33:415 that also speaks of removal of board members and specifically excludes parish libraries.  

 

It is noteworthy that our state library board members may be removed for cause (RS 25:2) The members of the board shall serve without pay and shall not be removed except for cause shown during their terms of office. Though we agree that some mechanism should be in place to remove board members who act with malfeasance, giving parish governments the blanket authority to remove entire boards simply because they disagree with their political ideology is antithetical to a functioning democracy. 

 

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). HB640 proposes to maintain the terms, however adds a provision that the governing authority can remove for cause or no cause at all  any library board of control member.  The only difference between this bill and last year’s HB25 is that the terms are maintained so that board members wishing to continue to serve would need to be reappointed.

 

It is important to note that HB640 is attempting to change LA R.S. 33:1415, which deals with parish governing authorities role in overseeing local boards, while HB946 will change LA R.S. 25:214, which is the law specific to library boards. Both bills accomplish the same thing, but using different statutes.

These two bills, filed separately, are geared toward one goal - removing library board of control members without cause, simply because of political & doctrinal differences.

If that's the case, why have the board at all? Why not just let the parish governing body run the library directly? Because in effect, that's exactly what this law will do if changed.

​ The assumption that politicians are more capable than trained, professional librarians of running a library system is illogical.   The mechanisms and laws that have worked for decades are NOT suddenly somehow "broken," because Jeff Landry and his followers declare it so. Our library staff members know very well how to run our public libraries, and do a great job every day!
 
Would we hand the keys to the police department over to a roomful of politicians and say, "You trained law enforcement officers should get out of the way and let the politicians show you how it's done!" Would we do that with the fire department? Of course not! It makes just as much sense to give the keys to the public library to parish government officials.  This is why we have professionals in all capacities, in every field - we trust them to do the jobs for which they were hired.
 
Second, this proposal is dangerous overreach. Do we really want to give the parish government direct power over the community's hub for learning and information? How easy would it be, at that point, for the parish government to do away with reconsideration policies, and simply decide to ban any book that has a complaint lodged against it? Or, worse still, decide to ban books the
mselves, simply based on "lists" they find on the Internet?  Or use the budget to stack the shelves with books representing their point of view?

​ 
Our government functions properly, in part, because of the separation of powers. On a smaller scale, that model works even on the local level. When one governmental entity, empowered by law, begins to exert total control over another governmental entity, gobbling it up like a corporate takeover, it's time for citizens to stand up and say NO

 

Talking Points

  • Elected officials of a parish’s governing body, neither trained or educated in librarianship, most often do not have the time to add this time-consuming enterprise, and most of them probably do not wish to.  Those that do wish to be involved in the decisions about policies at a library are most likely the members who wish to control the ideas and viewpoints parish residents have access to.  

  • Narrowing our collections to limit viewpoints is deeply problematic and violates our First Amendment Rights and the access to materials we, as citizens of Louisiana, have a right to view (RS 25:31 Subpart B. Louisiana Public Library Resources Act).  This act asserts several rights including: (5) Louisiana citizens have a right to a wide range of services provided by professionally trained librarians and support staff.  It does not mention the parish council anywhere as a partner.

  • The library board should be autonomous amidst political turmoil.  Our rights as readers should not expand and contract based on political views of the moment.  

  • Allowing a parish governing authority the power to summarily 'take over' parish library systems, with the power over employees and materials development, is step down a slippery slope toward the dangerous road of totalitarianism, when only a single viewpoint is allowed, and other, less "desirable" viewpoints are outlawed.

  • Articles of Note:

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