Thursday, 26 July 2012 16:57
The Succession of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, when frequently absent
Written by 

mansionIn an effort to end up on the Romney ticket as the vice presidential nominee, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been out of the state almost 30% of the time in recent months, crisscrossing the nation speaking and raising money on Romney’s and his own behalf.  He’s rarely been visible in his home state, but voters are getting to know him far and wide in the likes of New Jersey, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, West Virginia, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington State.  So the question is -- who’s in charge when the Louisiana Governor is on the road?



The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate posed this question to Jindal’s press secretary recently.  Her response was, “the Governor remains the Governor wherever he is.” Apparently, her mindset is that the governor is always available by phone or email, so he never really is “away.” Not so, says the Louisiana Constitution, where clear language states:  “When the governor is temporarily absent from the state, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor.” I know a good bit about this issue both as one who helped put this provision in the constitution, and as a statewide official who has held the title of “Governor” on several occasions when the line of succession came to me.


The most recent constitutional convention which was held in 1973 was called by the Louisiana legislature to update and rewrite the state’s founding document. I was an author of the legislation creating the convention, and I also served as an elected delegate for the one year undertaking to draft a new constitution. With little controversy, the convention overwhelming adopted the provisions that transfer authority to the lieutenant governor when the governor is out of state. The intentions of the delegates were quite clear.


In 1973 there were no cell phones, but landlines, of course, were abundant. However, Louisiana had experienced numerous blackout problems during hurricanes. Phone lines went dead during the storms and the delegates to the constitutional convention wanted provisions that under emergency conditions someone on the state level would be in charge. They had the savvy and the foresight to see that regardless of the state of communication systems that the citizenship of Louisiana would be best served by an onsite governor during an emergency.


Granted, communication systems have become much more sophisticated today, but the importance of the provisions still applies. No better example can be found than the Katrina experience. Cell phone and internet service failed, and local television and radio stations were off the air during Katrina. An out of state governor would not have been able to communicate to first responders, the state police or the National Guard. No matter how electronically “tuned in” an out of state governor might be, the delegates had felt that a major emergency needs “hands on” leadership. And they were right.


Was another statewide official ever called on the issue of an executive order from the Governor’s office? Yes. On three occasions, I filled the role as Governor to deal with an anticipated emergency. I was elected Secretary of State in 1979. The office is second in line to the governorship behind the Lieutenant Governor. On three occasions, both then serving Governor Dave Treen and Lieutenant Governor Bobby Freeman were out of the state and I got the call.


The first time was in the fall of 1980. I had been in office for a little less than a year, and I was attending a national convention of Secretaries of State in Atlantic City. My wife was along, and we had tickets for one of the final concerts of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. This was a big event back then, and an event my wife and I did not want to miss.


Late in the afternoon before the concert, the phone rang.  The Governor’s executive counsel, Sonny Mouton was on the phone along with then Commissioner of Administration, Bubba Henry. They quickly told me that both the governor and the lieutenant governor were out of the country, and that they needed me to get to Louisiana immediately to call a much needed special session of the legislature. “I’d be glad to,” I told them, “first thing in the morning.”


No, they told me -- the call had to be signed by midnight. What a dilemma.  Either Frank, Dean and me hangin’ out (well, sort of), or back to Louisiana on a late flight. I reluctantly opted to skip the concert, and fly back to New Orleans. A State Police helicopter met me on the Delta runway, and I signed the needed document minutes before midnight.


A year later, as New Orleans weathered a bus strike, some drivers were threatening violence if substitute drivers were hired. Mayor Dutch Moriel asked the Governor to call out the National Guard to both drive and protect the buses. Again, both the Governor and the Lt. Governor were out of the country. I was spending the weekend at my home in Ferriday. Dave Treen’s Executive Assistant, Billy Nungesser, called to put me on notice that I may be needed to come to New Orleans and call out the National Guard. He dispatched the state plane to fly to Ferriday and be available if the need should arise. The two state pilots hung out at my house watching football and I received regular updates on the approaching strike deadline. As the stalemate continued, Nungesser suggested that I head to New Orleans where the order would await my signature. Off we went, and the strike was averted shortly after we landed in the Crescent City.


Yes, I did get one more notice that I was the top dog in the state. No crisis took place, but I felt that as “acting Governor,” I should do something. I had just published my cookbook titled “Secretary of State Jim Brown’s World Famous Squirrel Stew and other County Recipes, which was bound to be a best seller. So I cooked up a pot of my stew, and invited the state capitol press corps to come up and give it a try for lunch. I received great press, and my cookbook still sells well today.


Should the law be changed to have the governor in charge at all times?  There are pros and cons, particularly in a state that is as disaster prone as Louisiana is. Right now, a succession in command is the law. So when Governor Jindal continues his travels around the country, he needs to know that there is someone back home looking over his shoulder. Whether he likes it or not.



“A governor kind of looses the opportunity of symbolic leadership of being on the front lines when he is out of the state.”   Joseph Marbach, Seton Hall University

Peace and Justice.


Jim Brown


Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at




Is Jindal doing a good job?




Watch videos of  Jindal, read latest articles

Join Group




Want political or elections business?

Post your free or paid listings


louisiana capitol 2

US Political News

Bayoubuzz political blogs

Louisiana Political News

Best political blogs around the state

Jim Brown

Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.  

Login to post comments
  • Cat Fights on the Hot Cement Confederate New Orleans statues
  • Ex-Saints, Bears, Bills, NFL Exec, Jim W. Miller discusses NFL Draft tomorrow
  • Trump's new plan; Curtains on tax returns release; 40% say Trump-Russia; Probing Obama admin
  • Watch Louisiana Governor Edwards talk about CAT Tax failure

catRarely, have I seen few issues that have generated as much raw heat, tension, and passion than the Confederate monuments controversy. 

Just as existed during the real civil war, where brothers battled brothers, social media is the battleground, particularly Facebook, pitting friend against friend.

On one side of the tense divide, there are those who are protecting the New Orleans civil war era monuments.  Burnt in effigy, forever, is the symbol of Mayor Mitch Landrieu for up-ending what the monument protectors consider to be the loving civil society of New Orleans.

Lately, events have turned somewhat militaristic.

Some protectors of the Confederate monuments have been staying vigilant, in person and online, even surveilling during the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the next Mayor Landrieu attack. On Sunday morning, with protections of snipers, masked workers and a dumbstruck audience, the worst of all of the monuments was cut and carried., the Liberty Monument. 

Read More

miller nfl live2 5It’s D-Day or Draft Day tomorrow in the NFL.

More specifically, Thursday represents the first day of the NFL draft 2017.

Read More


trump curtainsThe major President Trump news of the day focuses upon taxes, not only the tax cuts he is proposing but his own taxes, which he obviously, refuses to unveil.


Read More

edwards play money 1

At a press conference today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the CAT Tax did not pass the House Ways and Means Committee.  The Governor, in addressing the media said that "the fate of that bill was decided long before we unveiled it".

Read More


Sen. Appel talks budget, economy


Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1