Miller authors bill to restrict felons seeking office

Legislation would keep them out of office up to 15 years

Determined to prevent a technical error from overriding the will of Louisianans, Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, pushed a bill to affirm a constitutional amendment preventing convicted felons from holding public office for 15 years.

“We have enough mistrust with people and government. Do we need convicted felons holding office?” Miller said. “The people have a right to determine what qualifications of office should be, and give people the right to vote on this again.”

Miller’s bill 275 has cleared the House 79-19 and gone to the Senate committee on governmental affairs. If passed, it would give Louisianans the opportunity to vote on the measure again.

In 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court threw out a 1997 state constitutional amendment that prohibited convicted felons from running for public office based on a lawsuit filed by Derrick Shepherd, a former representative and senator, was convicted of money laundering in 2008 and sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Derrick successfully got the provision overthrown arguing the language on the legislation and voter-approved referendum differed, which invalidated the move because constitutional changes require approval of both Legislature and referendum.

The move would not have helped Derrick regain office immediately because he was a convicted felon who served prison time.

The Legislature-approved measure stated felons sentenced to probation could run for office as soon as their probation ends while felons who were incarcerated must wait 15 years.

The voter-approved measure excluded the part about probation, which meant all felons must wait 15 years.At the time, Attorney General Jeff Landry maintained an administrative error should not deem the measure invalid, particularly when voters were saying they didn’t want felons to hold public office.

Miller agreed and he said the people of Louisiana did, too.The Louisiana Supreme Court is expected to review the decision, but he said it is expected to affirm its decision.“I had a visceral reaction when I read this and thought it was settled law,” Miller said. “I sought to correct this.”

 

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