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Roemer Describes La. Politics

Governor Recounts Battles With Conservative Legislature

By Katherine C. Mayer

Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who is among the Democratic Party's more conservative members, made a hit in Harvard's liberal boutique last night by recounting his many bouts with the state's predominantly rightwing legislature.

During an hour-long speech at the Kennedy School of Government, Roemer spoke with pride of the 45 vetoes he has issued in the last three years.

"We lost some battles," he said, "but we won the war."

During his tenure as governor, Roemer has had to confront the legislature on several controversial issues, including abortion, capital punishment and free speech. In each case, Roemer said, he had "to examine personal values and beliefs like nothing else."

Last year, Roemer gained national attention for twice vetoing what would have been the nation's most restrictive abortion laws. Before the legislature passed those bills, Roemer had vowed to "veto any bill that did not respect the life of the mother and honor the victims of rape and incest."

So when two restrictive bills came before him during the summer, he turned them down, despite strong pressure from constituents.

"The abortion issue should honor women and protect the unborn," he said. "I believe we can do both of those."

Later, Roemer discussed his battles with the legislature over free speech. After the Supreme Court twice over-turned laws banning flag-burning in recent years, Roemer vetoed similar bills passed by the state legislature.

In his speech, he called the proposed Louisiana law a "monster of a bill" and promised to veto it "if it ever reared its ugly head on my desk [again]."

Roemer also recounted how he wielded the veto to block record a labeling bill--one that called for mandatory labeling with legislatively designed standards that placed stiff economic penalities on violators.

According to Roemer, that bill was "arbitrary and clearly unconstitutional." He said he vetoed it to "keep government out of the business of censorship."

In a question and answer session following his speech, Roemer discussed both his initiatives for Louisiana's education programs and his support for Republican fiscal programs in the '80s.

Roemer would not comment extensively on David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan member who now serves in the state house and has said he might run for governor. But Roemer did vow to fight hard if Duke launched a campaign.

"All warriors will paint their faces, and I will take Duke head on," Roemer said.

Early in his speech, Roemer discussed how enjoyed attending Harvard Business School. He called Cambridge his "home away from home.

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