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Governor Jeff Landry delivers an address during the start of the special session in the House Chamber on Monday, January 15, 2024 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Gov. Jeff Landry’s signature issue as a candidate was crime. His TV ads painted a dystopian picture of Louisiana’s majority-Black cities as violent hellholes where criminals roam unchecked because local district attorneys don't do their jobs. He promised to “hold them accountable.”

He also promised to call a special legislative session focusing on crime.

Landry’s crime session is expected to begin Feb. 19 and end no later than March 6. That’s 17 days, if it runs that long, which is more than twice the length of his first special session, which began Jan. 15.

It will be interesting to see if Landry’s second special session focuses on one topic or includes last-minute surprises, as his first session did.

A federal judge required the first session when she ordered the Legislature to create a second majority-Black congressional district by Jan. 30. Lawmakers complied, finishing the task in just four days.

Rather than asking them to focus solely on the congressional remap, Landry added a dozen more items to the session’s agenda — without giving lawmakers or the public any advance notice. It was an egregious overreach by Landry, and it did not end well.

The governor’s 14-item “call” included several controversial proposals, such as ditching Louisiana’s popular “jungle” primary system for a restrictive — and highly unpopular — “closed” party primary system.

Other items included changing the makeup of the state Supreme Court, changing campaign finance laws and changing the state’s Election Code — none of which lawmakers anticipated or appreciated.

Led by the state Senate, they?refused to consider most of Landry’s agenda, and they seriously diluted his closed-primary proposal. He called it a victory, but few others saw it that way.

Lawmakers’ rejection of Landry’s overreach sent him a clear message: Don’t take us for granted. Respect our independence. And don’t ambush us with a surprise agenda.

Did Landry get that message?

If he did, there’s no need for the “crime” session to run 17 days.

Truth is, as Louisiana’s irritant-in-chief Bob Mann noted on his blog, “Something Like the Truth,” we don’t need a special session on crime. In every Louisiana city except Shreveport, violent crime dropped significantly in 2023 — as it did nationwide, only more so here.

Moreover, the criminal justice reforms enacted in 2017 dealt exclusively with nonviolent criminals, and citizens continue to support those reforms. Even the conservative Pelican Institute think tank found no correlation between the reforms and sporadic increases in violent crime.?

In the face of objective evidence that the reforms are working, will Landry propose scrapping them?

So far, he has announced his intention to expand the ways the state can execute people on death row. Like many other arch-conservatives, Landry’s pro-life principles don’t extend beyond the womb.

Meanwhile, his Crime and Public Safety Transition Council last week unveiled a host of recommendations that telegraph an ambitious agenda for the crime session. The council recommended a combination of sweeping tough-on-crime initiatives as well as reforms to the bail system,?expanding drug courts and finding ways to better fund regional crime labs and the public defender system.

The report suggests Landry will seek to lengthen prison sentences, even though Louisiana already has the country’s highest incarceration rate, and possibly roll back some criminal justice reforms, such as repealing the law that raised the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults (from 17 to 18).

If Landry includes all of his transition council's recommendations in his official call, lawmakers would be quite busy for most if not all the special session's 17 days.

Will he also include other items in his call for the session — and keep them under wraps till the session begins — as he did in the previous session?

We’ll know soon enough if the governor got lawmakers’ message.

In the interest of transparency, and for his own political sake, Landry should give citizens and lawmakers lots of advance notice — and details — about the next special session agenda. And he should avoid overreaching.

If he doesn’t, lawmakers should send him the same clear message again … only louder.

Clancy DuBos is Gambit's Political Editor. You can reach him at clancy@gambitweekly.com.