(The Center Square) — The Louisiana House passed legislation to ban government agencies from contracting with companies that limit business with firearm manufacturers, despite a veto by Gov. John Bel Edwards of a similar bill last session.
The lower chamber voted 71-26 on Tuesday to approve House Bill 978, sponsored by Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, to prohibit government business with large companies that have policies that target the firearm industry. The bill requires contracting companies to provide written verification they do not have policies that discriminate against a firearm entity or trade association and will not discriminate against the same.
The provision would apply to contracts with a value over $100,000, or those that meet three criteria: Paid with public funds, involves a company with at least 10 employees, and is entered into after Aug. 1, 2022.
“This legislation simply states that with very limited exceptions large companies that have overreaching policies of discrimination against the firearms industry may not contract with state and local governments for goods and services,” Miguez said.
A similar bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with overwhelming majorities during the previous legislative session but was ultimately vetoed by Edwards.
Edwards wrote in a July 1 veto message that the legislation would “prevent the state and local governments from complying with long-standing procurement laws which require that public contracts be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder.”
Language added to the bill in the Senate last session would have rendered the law inapplicable if the requirement was “inconsistent with the entity’s constitutional, statutory, or fiduciary duties,” Edwards wrote, but the reference was later removed in conference committee.
“If the bill had been sent to my desk with that amendment, it may have been acceptable as it would have allowed for governments to avoid any significant financial consequences resulting from this legislation,” Edwards wrote.
HB 978 only provides exceptions for sole-source provider contracts and circumstances where the public entity does not receive any bids from companies that promise not to discriminate against firearms companies.
Miguez argued that concerns about the legislation increasing the cost of government have proven false in other states, and suggested the vast majority of Louisianans agree with the bill’s premise that they shouldn’t be forced to support businesses that oppose their Second Amendment rights.
“I can say my Second Amendment rights are not for sale. I’m confident that a vast majority of Louisianans agree with this,” he said. “This bill has been in effect for more than eight months now in Texas with no evidence of increased cost to government, we’ve actually seen a decrease in those costs.
“It is working precisely as it was intended,” Miguez said. “The hope is that these companies that do have these discriminatory policies will scrap them and get back to doing what they do best: Making profits for their shareholders, and not try to develop public policy.”
Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, suggested the bill amounts to government interference in private business, but Miguez countered by pointing to a myriad of existing consumer protection laws that regulate important industries like insurance and banking.
Miguez waived off further questions before closing on the bill, which he said is supported by the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation. The Louisiana Bankers Association is neutral, he said.
HB 978 now moves to the Senate for consideration.