The state Supreme Court has denied an appeal from the City of St. Martinville, meaning an appeals court ruling in the issue of the mayor's veto power will stand.
In March, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling that said the mayor doesn't have veto power. Today, the state Supreme Court denied a writ from the city asking for a review of that decision. That means the appeals court decision stands.
In May 2021, a state district court judgedecided that the mayor did not have veto power. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal decided this month that the mayor does have veto power.
At issue is whether or not the city's charter mentions the veto. In Louisiana, smaller municipalities - who don't have their own charter - are governed by the Lawrason Act, which lays out how the government will work. In general, it is a strong-mayor, weak-council model.
But St. Martinville adopted its own charter in 1898. In general, it is a strong-council, weak-mayor model. Charters are laws which set up the government of a city or parish. In Louisiana, there also is a law that says any issue that isn't addressed in a city's charter is decided by the Lawrason Act rules.
In 2020 the St. Martinville City Council passed an ordinance that would make the mayor's position part-time when the next mayoral term began. At a meeting, the current mayor informed the council that she had vetoed that ordinance. The council asked a judge to decide the issue.
The Council says that the mayor doesn't have veto power, because the city charter doesn't provide for that. The mayor says that, because the charter doesn't specifically state the mayor doesn't have veto power - the state law comes into play and the mayor does have veto power, because the Lawrason Act gives the mayor veto power.
The Third Circuit focused on the state law that applies the Lawrason Act to issues that a city's charter is "silent" on. At issue is what constitutes "silence."
The Appeals Court looked at the state law, which was passed in 2010, and concluded that the legislature intended to change things with that law.
"The construction of (the state law) shows the legislature intended to change the existing law and wanted to make it clear that it recognized the distinction between a charter being silent on an issue versus conflicting with the Lawrason Act," the appeals court ruling states. "Therefore, the legislature specifies that if the charter is silent, the Lawrason Act applies, but if the charter merely conflicts with the Act, the charter applies."
The appeals court also opines that the city's charter is silent on the issue of veto.
The court also reversed the state court's ruling assigning the costs of the matter to the mayor, instead ordered the bill be paid by the city.