House votes to rename school after Jimmy Long

BATON ROUGE — After an hour of debate, House lawmakers voted 56-43 on Monday to approve legislation that would rename the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts after former state representative Jimmy D. Long.

Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, returns to the Senate for concurrence on House amendments. The Senate approved the bill 31-2 on May 17.

The legislation was amended through what Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, called a compromise. The amended legislation would rename the school the Jimmy D. Long Sr. Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts. However, the school could use the original name for other purposes, like diplomas or transcripts, as determined by the board.

“This was what everybody agreed to,” Harris said. “As with any legislation that has touched a nerve like this, you can’t make everybody happy.”

Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, said he wondered if it was a compromise between Thompson and Long’s brother, Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield. The two watched the debate from an aisle next to the House floor.

Despite some lawmakers asking for the bill to be returned to the calendar for a full review, the amendment was eventually approved with no objection.

Several lawmakers said they received countless text messages and emails from those supporting the change and alumni who opposed it, even while the bill was being considered. Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, said none of the emails she received on the bill came from her district.

Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said she received emails that threatened funding for the school, along with lawmakers’ bills being held hostage.

Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said Sens. Thompson or Long have not threatened the funding of the school.

Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie, read a letter from a 15-year-old student planning to attend LSMSA who questioned the renaming effort despite major opposition from alumni.

Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches, handled the bill on the House floor. He said the legislation received so much debate and attention that it could be mistaken for House Bill 1, the budget bill.

Reps. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, James Armes, D-Leesville, Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, Hill and Frank Howard, R-Many, supported the measure.

Reps. Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff, and A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles, opposed it. Rep. John Guinn, R-Jennings, was marked as absent.

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