Louisiana: The State We're In; 284; Legislative Coverage #2
Production funding for this program was provided in part through contributions to Friends of LPB. Part of the problem in considering this bill is that we haven't come to see the importance of children and to recognize their right, their right to know. If a parent is responsible for a child, until that child is 18 years old, that child should have, that parent should have the right to know what is going on in that child's life. I had 15 years of education at the toughest of all schools, upstairs in the Legislature, and not to take advantage of that little edge, it would be rather stupid on my part. As I promised early on, I would not grow any taller or become stupid in this campaign. [Theme Music]
Good evening. Welcome to this edition of Louisiana: The State We're In. This week the Legislature got down to business and we'll have highlights along with a report on the stormy sex education hearing. On pro/con, we'll look at those Sunday closing laws and we'll profile gubernatorial candidate Sonny Mouton. But first this week's Capitol highlights. Heavy rains and rising rivers caused concern across the state this past week from the Pearl River at Bogalusa to the rising backwaters of the Mississippi River in east central Louisiana, officials and residents had to battle the water. Last weekend's heavy rains touched off the worst flooding for homeowners. And early in the week Governor Edwards took the first steps to gain federal aid. [Helicopter noise] Governor Edwards personally toured the flood-stricken parishes of southeast Louisiana by helicopter Monday. Hardest hit by the heavy weekend rains were the small towns along the Amite River in the Florida Parishes. At the town of Gonzales in Ascension Parish, the worst flooding continued long after the rains stopped, leaving hundreds of residents homeless. Following his tour, Edwards said he would try and get federal disaster aid for the hardest-hit communities.
He cautioned, however, that it wouldn't come overnight. We'll have to expect less because there are four major disaster areas in the South right as I talk to you now. There are only 10 major federal officials assigned to this entire region. We have not even had the first federal agency down here yet because they're so busy in Mississippi and Texas primarily, where there's far more extensive flooding and it's going to probably be worse this year in getting federal aid and assistance than it has been in the past because the last time, for instance, we were the only area within a 500- to 600-mile radius that was having the problem. Meanwhile the Army Corps of Engineers was keeping a close watch on the Mississippi River and its guide levees. The Bonnet Carre Spillway above New Orleans is completely open in anticipation of this weekend's river crest. At the Morganza Spillway 40 miles north of Baton Rouge, officials are hoping to avoid a flooding of the Atchafalaya Basin that would put pressure on Morgan City. However Corps officials are keeping their options open and have warned residents
of the floodway to move their livestock. The 18-member independent legislative study group unveiled their legislative package this week and some of the proposals could spark some lively debate. This is the third year that the independent legislative caucus has introduced their own legislative agenda with bills covering such things as state taxes and spending, educational standards and Parole Board reform. The fiscal proposals would limit the overall tax bite, keying the individual tax rates to inflation adjustments and put a freeze on state hiring. But State Representative Jock Scott of Alexandria admitted it would be a tough trick to pull off in a year when lawmakers have a huge surplus to play with. The fact that with the surplus very little attention if any is going to be given this year as seriously as we'd like to have it done to existing expenditures in the state budget. With all the attention being on the surplus, unfortunately the existing expenditures may be left almost unnoticed. And so whatever duplication, waste, unnecessary expenditures, low-priority items in the budget,
it's going to be a very difficult year to try to eliminate those type of items from our state spending when all the attention's on the surplus. Perhaps the most controversial measure introduced by the conservative caucus is a bill that requires doctors to file a death certificate for an aborted fetus, a proposed law which would include a reporting of the mother's name to state officials. Statistics gathering is just one aspect of it. The first aspect, I think, is to help determine whether the abortion is performed legally or not because the laws under the Supreme Court decision there are certain conditions under which abortions can be performed and some under with which they cannot. So that's the first thing to determine -- whether the abortion is performed legally or not. The House Natural Resources Committee has approved several measures dealing with hazardous waste. The bills would consolidate jurisdiction over waste disposal operations within the State Department of Natural Resources. In a related matter this week, a Pointe Coupee waste pit operator has had his license to operate suspended. The State Health Department acted on complaints from the police jury because a waste site was flooded by heavy rains.
Next week the House Appropriations Committee begins work on the state's proposed $3.9 billion budget. But before addressing the Governor's spending bill, the lawmakers took care of their own. The price tag for running the Legislature this year is set at $14.4 million, or about the same amount paid last year. About half the money is for the direct cost of running the House and Senate, while the rest pays for the support staff which operates all year. As the House Appropriations Committee OKed this year's legislative budget, they also voted a 10 percent pay raise for their employees, a figure that corresponds to the Governor's proposed raise for most other state workers and teachers. On other financial matters this week, the full House approved a $30.8 million deficit funding bill to bail out several state agencies that overspent during the past fiscal year. Taking the biggest chunk, $22.7 million, was the Department of Health and Human Resources. And for almost two hours, House members bitterly attacked the top management at that agency. You're telling the Legislature that you have a problem. But unless we try to correct that problem, Mr. Reilly, ourselves, they're going to continue
having a deficit every year. Well, Mr. Bella, obviously you weren't listening when I told you exactly about the same thing that you just said, that we do have a serious problem, that we will run a deficit next year, unless we can cure the middle management problem. What I said was the dilemma that we are in as a legislative body is we are not in a position to go in there and run that agency. We're not in a position to do that. Now we can, we can authorize positions. We can give them all the help and money that they need or we think they need, but we can't run it for them every day, day in and day out. Neither you nor I can do that. House Speaker Bubba Henry has joined forces with state education superintendent Kelly Nix to weed out so-called incompetent teachers. Henry, a candidate for governor, wants to establish a professional practices board and end the social promotion of students. Briefly there were these other legislative actions this week. The House approved a dual office holding bill that would restrict elected officials and public employees from holding more than one public job. But on the code of ethics bill for lawmakers, the House voted to send the measure
back to the committee for more work. In committee action this week a tougher version of the state open meetings law was approved, despite efforts to water it down. And in the House Commerce Committee, several bills aimed at tightening up state regulations of insurance companies were approved. One of the most overused words in describing political issues is controversial. But this week we have an in-depth report on an issue that makes controversial as a descriptive adjective seem inadequate: sex education. The need for, the lack of, the ban on, there is more confusion and indeed controversy over this issue than almost any other. This week the House Education Committee passed a bill that would allow limited sex education in the schools, but only within an existing core such as health and hygiene. And only if the local school board and individual parents approve. In fact the sponsors of this bill say that this information can already be taught under existing law. But there is so much confusion that teachers don't know what to do. Well, for those opposed to sex education, that argument carried no weight. They remained opposed to any bill throughout the hearings that lasted all day and into the
evening. Those of you in favor of reporting the Johnson bill with amendments, will vote yes, those opposed will vote no. Secretary, call the roll. The vote was 9 to 5 in favor of a compromise bill eight years in the making. But that decision did not come easily. After nearly eight hours of sometimes emotional debate, the House Education Committee took the first step toward lifting the ban on sex education in Louisiana. There were two bills considered in the committee. The first, by Representative Alphonse Jackson, would have allowed a separate course on sex education to be taught in the schools. That bill was rejected. But two conservative legislators, Representatives B.F. O'Neal and Lanny Johnson, put forth a measure they said was designed to put to rest the confusion in this area and return to the school boards the option of including sexual information in existing courses. Although the outcome was different in committee this year, the arguments and concerns were the same as in past years. Part of the problem in considering this bill is that we haven't come to
see the importance of children and to recognize their right, their right to know, their right to understand, their right to have the opportunity to remove ignorance. In Caddo Parish in 1977 there were 1300 illegitimate births, 624 of them were to girls under, under 19. A large number of them were to girls under 15 -- 32 percent of all of the illegitimate births that occurred in 1977 occurred to women or girls or babies under the age of 19. I positively support sex education not just so that people may understand their bodies, but so people's bodies may function to their happiness, to their betterment. Our state
divorce percentage reflects, I believe, something in that area. No person or group has a moral, nor should it have the legal, right to force its ethical views on others. They were coming for information that they should have received in their home. But they did not receive there. I could not give them that information because of the fear of what might happen to me as a non-tenured teacher or even as a tenured teacher on my job. I have seen cases of students who, I taught in an all-boys school, who have had to drop out of school in their sophomore and the junior and the senior year to go work because they had to marry a young lady who, because of their activities, became pregnant. So where do they, where do the children get most of their sex education? And I think you can verify this with many studies -- they get it from their peers. The second they're getting it from, of course other people that they come in contact with, and of course
in Louisiana they're not getting any of it in our schools. And I feel like this. If a parent is responsible for a child until that child is 18 years old, that child should have that parent should have the right to know what is going on in that child's life. Now I graduated from Louisiana public schools in 1974 and I will tell you I had VD training. We had these live births, showing us how to deliver babies in emergency circumstances so all the stuff we hear about we don't have it. That's bull. We do have it. And as far as not pertaining to the actual act, I'd like to know how can you get pregnant or have an abortion if you haven't done the actual act? How can you explain it? I just can't figure that one out for anything. But you see me right here and you can believe what I'm telling you. You're going to take my life because my children are not going to be taught sex education in the school, in a school system where ERA has not passed in the United States yet and already they say that you can't segregate them because of sex. What are they going to do if it's passed? I'm not going to let my
children be taught how to have sexual intercourse. OK? Now this morning when I got here there were a whole bunch of students out here that had a badge on there and they said, "I'm for sex education." Now I will tell you what. I'll be the first one to tell you that I would have been with those kids when I was in school. Because, man, I wanted to learn me something about sex education, sex education. That's fun. I want to know all there is to it. OK. And if I'm in a classroom where it is taught and they start showing slides and going through pictures and everything and tell all about the nitty gritty and so forth and everything, you can believe my pants are going to get a little tight because I'm going to get excited about that. Now what do you expect these boys to do in that class when they're taught all about sex education? They're going to want to have sex. For once in their life they're gonna want to do homework. The sex education program was an attempt to eradicate the Christian culture by actively promoting a psychologically destructive program, the elimination of all
moral restraints, which leads us into the moral spiritual warfare that we're engaged. And you shouldn't have to teach him sex. We do not teach it to dogs and cats. Why should we teach it to boys and girls? For they'll learn on their own. And the best place for them to learn is at home from the parent. If we are going to teach sex education, I wouldn't want anyone teaching my kids sex education and I have six. And I wouldn't want anyone teaching them sex education because some individual might be a sexual prevert (meant pervert) and they don't need that. Not only that I don't want it for my kids. I don't want it for anyone else's kid and I'm not only speaking as a parent. I am speaking as a pastor also. We are living the day of substitutes. Sometimes the bill is called a family bill. And next time I hear it, it's called a sex education bill. And when we say family living or
family life, it sounds like a bill to give an individual a right to shack up. When you say sex education, it sounds like preversion (meant perversion). Most of those in opposition to Representative Jackson's bill were equally opposed to the compromise offered by Representatives Johnson and O'Neal although both lawmakers insisted their proposal merely stated the present law in a positive fashion. So we decided, and several members of the committee, to introduce this bill that would put it in a positive manner. But we knew that we did not want a bill that made sex education a separate course in our schools. And, as you know, our current law allows all the things that we want to be taught in the school system to be taught now. The only prohibition, or maybe there's a couple of more, but the main prohibition is that you could not teach the sex act itself. In the end the Johnson-O'Neal measure won approval from the committee which in years past has
rejected any measure. But the long committee battle left Representative Johnson visibly tired, and his opponents such as Babs Minhinnette hinted angry and promising political revenge. And it's very shocking to me that the so-called conservatives are the ones who are now promoting the sex education. And this will allow it to be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade. And any teacher can teach whatever they want with no repercussions whatsoever. And we will fight it, and we will defeat at the polls any legislator who votes in the affirmative for this. The only intention of it was the dissemination of factual material to those, to those youngsters that are not afforded an opportunity to hear about those things that they need to know while they are growing up. We have many youngsters in our communities that are never taught or told anything regarding sex education as such. I hate to say that word sex education. Were you surprised at the, the depth of emotions, the feeling here today? It seems to be terribly emotional.
It really is. Of course we've been here since 9:00 o'clock. It's really been a drain, a drain on us and somehow I wish that we could have got everybody together and, as you know, we attempted to get a lot of the opposition on our side by amendments, but the committee would not go along with those amendments. As you can see, Ron, emotions were certainly running high during that debate and Mrs. Minhinnette, who's opposed to the bill, said that her supporters will rally at the Capitol on Monday. It's clear the debate is really far from over on this bill, but it did seem apparent that for the first time some traditionally conservative legislators have decided that there is a problem in the public's perception of what the sex education law is and a real problem in what the schools should do about it. And what can be taught these days. Not all the issues are as highly emotional as sex education. For instance, the Sunday closing laws or blue laws as they're sometimes called. This week they're the topic of Pro/Con. Louisiana's Sunday laws date back to 1886 when the Legislature said that no store, shop, saloon or
plantation store could remain open on Sunday. In the years since then, the law has been amended to allow food, drug and other specialty stores to remain open. But even in those stores on Sunday, many items like a box of nails are illegal to sell. Our Pro/Con issue this week: Should the Legislature eliminate the Sunday laws that govern merchants? It's an obsolete law. It's a law meant for harassment because the law has never been enforceable. Right now you can go out and buy almost anything you want. But what happens is a merchant doesn't really know what he can sell you because many times a sheriff in one area will enforce a law and say, well, you can't sell panties for babies. Whereas another sheriff will say you can sell it. Some people seem to refine laws so much that it becomes a harassment rather than a law. And this is one of those laws. If you want to have an exemption for a law like this what you should do is have that exemption nationwide. The way the exemption stands now, if a city enforces the law they cross the city lines and go into the parish and buy. If a state enforces the law,
they cross that state line and go to the next state and buy it. So it's an unfair law, unevenly enforced. It should be evenly enforced, and only way you can do it is if it were a national law. However, in our case, we have to go by the mandate of our members and the majority of which have now said that they want to keep Sunday closing as is. So that's been our position. Do you have a problem? A lot of testimony alluded to the fact of there was no enforcement even of existing laws. Well, there is a problem around the state. We understand from, in fact this last Christmas season, holiday season, there were several areas that enforcement of the law, strict enforcement was put into effect and, of course, it made a lot of people upset. The law's on the books and, you know, consistent enforcement is necessary. And I think that may then eliminate some of the problems. But how do we achieve that? Again, I don't really know the answer. This week in our continuing series on the candidates for governor, we profile Edgar "Sonny" Mouton, politician, lawyer, father, grandfather. A man that some may disagree with but
nearly everyone enjoys being around. In fact that may be the key to his political success. You must be able to communicate with the Legislature. A governor who can't handle that Legislature, can't handle this state. And that's a fact. Knowing how to play the political game is a specialty of State Senator Edgar Mouton. And this year he's hoping to parlay his 15 years of legislative experience into a four- year lease on the Governor's Mansion. For eight years, the Lafayette attorney has been a floor leader for Governor Edwards and he is widely respected in the Senate as much for his intelligence and wit as for his leadership ability. But in this day of package candidates, some wonder if the diminutive Cajun from Lafayette can compete. He says he can and that his Southwest Louisiana base and moderate politics make him the candidate to beat Republican hopeful Dave Treen. Senator Mouton, let's begin with why you decided to run for governor. You seem to enjoy your time in the Legislature. You seem to really relish being in the Senate. Why? Why make this
race? It's a hard question to answer. I purely and truly love the Senate, and I've had 16 good years there. But I think I've reached that point in my political and governmental career where I either have to move up or move out. I think I could be re-elected in Lafayette. I was on the polls last time. The main reason was I believe I have something to offer. I think I have the knowledge of government. I have the technical talent to deal with the Legislature as a governor must deal. And I have certain ideas of my own I'd like to implement from a higher position. I worked 16 years under two good governors in my judgment and more often than not had to work within a certain framework to accomplish various things that sometimes I would have liked to have changed quicker. And as governor I think I can bring in some innovative ideas and get them to the Legislature. It's a challenge like everything else. Obviously the next question, of course, a lot of reporters ask and certainly supporters ask is: Can you be elected? And following on that
we always say: Are you electable? And what does being short have to do with your campaign? Really this campaign or any campaign is not a popularity contest nor a beauty contest. There isn't anything cosmetic about government. Government is pure hard work and the most important fact of any public servant is from the neck up. The rest doesn't much count. If he has them or he or she has the mentality, the intellectual ability, the knowledge of government and then regardless of how tall or short or how handsome or ugly they are, really makes no difference to the public and shouldn't. And I've gotten a very warm reception in every place I've gone and I've used the short and ugly routine more as a, as a, as a gimmick, if you can use that phrase. And I get a very warm response from it. My daughters and wife get upset because they think I'm one of the great charmers of the world. I agree with them. I have a certain charisma and a lot of humility, you know. But size has nothing to do with it, nor do billboards and all the handshakes necessarily. The fact that I am now speaking to you does not make me qualified to be
governor. The fact I can find Rocky Branch, Louisiana, does not make me any stronger a candidate. I must have to convince the public between now and October 27 of all those in the field, I have the three magic ingredients of honesty, concern and qualifications. Of course one of the consummate politicians in Louisiana, Edwin Edwards, says that this is not going to be an issue- oriented campaign. The Governor and I are close friends and I respect him as a very brilliant man and he has been a great governor. I disagree, in that I've been in the field quite a bit and, to a great extent, the public is interested in issues. Now they may not be interested in the broad spectrum of issues. They may be specialized. Some elements are more interested in education than they are on hazardous waste and vice versa. Someone want higher education and transportation. Somebody because so much fiscal responsibility. But in every element that I go to, I get very intelligent questions asked. Not on my height and my beauty, but do I understand government? And they get specific about it. What can you do in these areas? How will you handle nuclear power problems? What is your
plan for education? And it's going to be an issue-oriented campaign. I can't afford the luxury of not letting it be a short campaign. I have 15 years of education in the toughest of all schools, upstairs in the Legislature. And not to take advantage of that little edge, it would be rather stupid on my part. As I promised early on, I would not grow any taller nor become stupid in this campaign. How do you see yourself politically in the spectrum? Are you moderate, more liberal? Where do you place yourself in relation to the other candidates? It's hard to place a label on any person especially when when you've been there as long as I have. In some areas I'll be labeled liberal. Now some people interpret liberalism is as being way, way to the left, you know, and always get good things. When it comes to human services and peoples' rights, I believe in the ERA, I believe in equal pay for equal opportunity for job employment. I believe we are all people and therefore should have the same opportunities and the same responsibilities and also the same, same equal treatment. When it comes to fiscal affairs, I would say
I'm a moderate. And the one word that does not fit in my vocabulary and politics is the word never. No government official can ever say with responsibility, I will never vote for a tax measure. I will never vote for a rate increase. I will never do this or that because government is dynamic. It's not static. It's in flux constantly. The needs change. As needs change, then you must be at least flexible enough in your political thinking and in your responsibility to address yourself to the need, not for your political expediency, but for the problem itself. And sometimes if you don't have vision, the vote you cast today may look very well for you politically and otherwise today. But if you have vision, it may be a very bad vote for the state of Louisiana. One the most agonizing votes I think you cast is concerning right to work. Oh, yes. How is that coming back to you now? Well, I voted for right to work and I will admit frankly there was a lot of pressures placed on me and a lot of emotions involved. And one of my main problems with right to work was that I felt I had been somewhat abused.
I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, but I was led to believe that we'd get full support for another Constitution and I would also led to believe that you need stability in right to work and the statute was not it. So I use my green stamps and my limited talents to help pass our members of the Constitution or the Senate. Then I discovered from the powers that be, the deals had been cut along before but not told to me by the proponents that they would never vote for anything else but the statute. Had they told me that then I would have faced much less agonizing hours and not been nearly as upset as I was. I don't like to be used. I put my politics on top of the table. I will tell you straight up and down how things are and how I'm going to vote etc. I'm not. They say I'm devious. I'm not devious. I'm just very careful. Mouton is not only a careful politician, he is at times a disarmingly candid one. But above all he is known for his sense of humor and it's that humor that may serve him well on the campaign trail. When I decided to run for governor, the Lord and I had a talk. Because the Lord and I get along very well. He's been very
kind to me and my family. So I said, Lord, I'm running for governor. The Lord said, Sonny, have you looked in the mirror? I said, Yes, Lord. The Lord said, Sonny, you're 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches tall. I said that's right, Lord. He says, your full name is Edgar Gonzague Mouton, Jr. That's correct, Lord. You know, that's a tough name. And you know you're losing your hair. I say that's right, Lord, but prayer can overcome everything. And he said, well, Sonny, I can't make you grow because that's a miracle and that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the field. I said, ah I'm with you, Lord. And he said, I can't change your name because that'd mess up Social Security. And I said I agree there, too. I said, Lord. Work on the hair. And he says, ok, pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed and the Lord gave me brains and gave the rest of the field hair. And they take the joke as a joke. Next week we'll profile another of the candidates for governor, and we can assure you that this is one candidate with plenty of hair on his head. And we'll be back with a look at what the Legislature has in mind for the regulation of nuclear power plants. Until then, I'm Beth George for Ron Blome. Good evening.
- Episode Number
- Legislative Coverage #2
- Producing Organization
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- Contributing Organization
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- Louisiana: The State We're In is a magazine featuring segments on local Louisiana news and current events.
- Sex Ed; profile Mouton; Pro-con Sunday closing laws
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Media type
- Moving Image
Producing Organization: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Identifier: LSWI-19790427 (Louisiana Public Broadcasting Archives)
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- Chicago: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 284; Legislative Coverage #2,” 1979-04-27, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-902z46b3.
- MLA: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 284; Legislative Coverage #2.” 1979-04-27. Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-902z46b3>.
- APA: Louisiana: The State We're In; 284; Legislative Coverage #2. Boston, MA: Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-902z46b3