Cenla sheriffs speak on legislation to limit their terms in office

HB199 failed to make it out of House Judiciary Committee
(KALB)
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 4:34 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (KALB) - On April 21, 2022, the House Judiciary Committee took up House Bill 199, which looked to create a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms sheriffs are allowed to serve.

State Rep. Mandie Landry (D-District 91), the bill’s author, received a lot of pushback, with lawmakers questioning whether she was alluding to a lack of voter trust. That idea was one State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-District 27) emphasized in an exchange with Landry.

“We are an ant compared to the importance of a sheriff, when it comes to life and death, drug problems and crime in our parish,” said Johnson. “And, I would just rather let the people decide for as long as they want to because you mess up, you get out.”

Multiple sheriffs, including Rapides Parish Sheriff Mark Wood and Grant Parish Sheriff Steven McCain, emphasized that point as well.

“I’ve had the opinion long before I was elected that the voters have the option to limit someone’s terms every time that we get to go to the ballot box,” said McCain.

However, Wood argued that, unlike legislators who typically have other jobs, being sheriff is the point you work to reach in your career as a law enforcement officer.

”You always strive to be the top or best of what you can do in your profession,” said Wood. “Law enforcement is a profession, and we strive to do better and better and better.”

St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne, who testified before the committee, highlighted the responsibilities of the sheriff as a key difference between their position and that of other elected officials. As sheriffs, they are directly responsible for the lives, safety and property of their constituents.

”Look law enforcement is a calling, just like preaching or anything else,” said Wood. “I never thought that I would do this, but once I got here, I love it... So, Central Louisiana is my passion to keep it safe. It’s what we do.”

”The only reason that I’m here is to provide a service to the people of Grant Parish, that’s it,” said McCain, who has been in the position for 11 years. “That’s who I work for, and I truly believe that they deserve the very best service that we can give them.”

McCain said he manages everything in his parish from programming, to emergencies and employee oversight, in addition to being the chief law enforcement officer.

While Landry did not disagree that a sheriff’s experience matters, she also held that the bill is a “good governance measure,” and said the majority of voters favor term limits for elected officials, citing a poll of voters from multiple states on congressional term limits.

However, voters will not be able to make the decision on sheriffs this year. The committee voted the measure down, 9-2.

On a similar note, Landry has another bill, House Bill 288, which would create a 12-year term limit on the tax assessor’s office. It passed through the House Ways and Means Committee in a 7-6 vote.

If it passes favorably out of both chambers, it will end up on the ballot for voters to have the final say.

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