Alford: Jefferson Parish drama underscores need for review of Louisiana’s recall law
The unfolding drama surrounding an effort to recall Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni could have some lessons for the entire state—especially as the state House of Representatives prepares a thorough review of Louisiana’s recall laws—says Jeremy Alford in his latest column.
“There are eight states in the nation that have laws detailing grounds for recalling elected officials,” Alford says. “For example, in Alaska, voters can only trigger a recall for four reasons, including ‘lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption.’ Louisiana, however, has no such legal definition.”
Louisiana voters, however, can boot out a politician for practically any reason as long as they can gather the required signatures to have a recall election scheduled, Alford says, adding they often have an uphill battle to climb.
Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington is hoping to change that and make the recall election process easier for Louisiana voters, says Alford. Last year, Hollis authored a resolution asking the House and Governmental Affairs Committee to study possible changes to these laws, Alford says, noting Hollis has reviewed Louisiana recall drives dating back to 1966 and could only find three or four successful attempts.
“The bar is just set too high,” Hollis tells Alford. “Of the 31 states that allow recalls, ours is the highest for getting signatures, at percent of the voters in the district needed. In California, it’s just 12 percent of those who actually voted. We set the threshold for being the highest.”
House and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to meet before the end of the year to hear Hollis’ findings and to offer up suggestions for the 2017 legislative session, Alford says.
Hollis locked onto the recall policy issue due to an unrelated recall effort in St. Tammany Parish, explains Alford, but it’s the current recall drive unfolding in Jefferson Parish that underscores the importance of Hollis’ original idea for a review process.
That’s where Yenni—who is accused of sending inappropriate text messages to 17-year-old boy—is digging in and appears ready to serve out the remainder of what will be a very uncomfortable term, Alford says.
The FBI has investigated the allegations and Yenni has repeatedly apologized for his “bad decision,” Alford notes. Other elected officials have called for Yenni’s resignation, the Parish Council has offered up a vote of “no confidence” for his leadership and he has voluntarily suspended all of his planned visits to local schools.
“If Yenni refuses to budge, the only avenue remaining for a special election would be a recall petition, which has already begun in earnest,” Alford writes. “Metairie attorney Robert B. Evans III is heading up the herculean task—if it’s a contest between Yenni’s pride and gathering 90,000 signatures, many insiders are giving the edge to Yenni’s pride. For now. If the recall somehow manages to gain some steam, though, politicos are hopeful that the parish president will take a hint and trigger a special election on his own by resigning. That could be a bit of wishful thinking.”