Do? As in vetoing legislation that was designed to torpedo a renegade lawsuit by a supposedly apolitical legal entity the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, created because of the damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina, against almost 100 oil and gas companies? Should he instead sign the legislation (SB 469) that over 79 (and counting) law professors throughout the nation have urged Jindal to veto? Or should he punt--neither veto nor sign, but let the legislation pass into law by default?
The eyes of Louisiana are turning to Baton Rouge to see how Jindal handles what could be his defining moment.
Or, his “Roemer abortion law moment.
Yes, back in 1990, then Governor Buddy Roemer was involved in the very heated debate over whether to sign Louisiana legislation that was designed to be toughest law in the country. Over serious and boiling discussion, he vetoed that legislation; his veto was then overridden by the legislative body, an act, never done in Louisiana politics. That one decision had serious consequences. Roemer, who had been involved in a blistering political fight against David Duke, continued to be viewed as out-of-step with Louisiana voters and became so weakened that he failed to win the runoffs during his re-election bid
Since then, there has not been any single political-legislative issue and decision that has taken on such importance for the career of any Louisiana Governor.
Governor Edwin Edwards, Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco have made major legislative choices, but none of them as consequential and potentially politically explosive as the one now in front of Jindal.
On the one hand, he has the major oil companies and related organizations, as well as the hand-picked President of LABI, Stephen Waguespack (a former Jindalista), pushing him to sign the legislation, or, at worst, let it pass into law without his signature.
On the other hand, virtually every media outlet in Louisiana, most of the state’s good government groups, those law professors, and others are urging his veto.
The political downside for Jindal, if he were to veto the legislation, would be the oil companies feeling betrayed by a governor who has already shown his ability to do a “I was for it before I was against it” John Kerry-styled flip-flop. Evidence? Exhibit 1, Common Core.
The upside of his veto would be to delay the legislation for another day.
For example, he could veto the bill and call a special session in the future on this issue alone. Some believe that the legislature will need to be called into session anyway because the state just might need to find money to pay for Jindal’s public-private healthcare venture should the feds continue to deny his funding scheme.
Even if he decides to wait until next spring’s session to do the oil industry’s bidding, he has a chance to get the legislation right. Alternatively, by that time, the courts might find a defect in the lawsuit and dismiss it, with all of this legislative and veto fuss going for naught.
Not that he would be any more involved in the process then than he was this spring.
The stories are now legion about how he failed to show up for this year’s legislative session and others, although he’s had some good excuses for a few of his prior absences.
For instance, back in 2010, when he was heading the BP War after the massive spill, he had a good excuse for being AWOL from governing. He was ultra-busy. He had his daily helicopter rides with the national media and those afternoon press conferences. He also had to be available for those private interviews with the likes of ABC, CNN and so on, designed to connect with the top national media talkers. Back then, he was not really well known (but for his Kenneth the Page imitation post-Obama national address). Thus, he needed to revive his reputation and to build momentum for his book to help launch his anti-Obama national tours to gain audience. Remember? The book he said he was not going to write because it would be inappropriate to financially benefit from a tragedy, such as an oil spill. The one that was supposed to be a book on policy to introduce himself to the world--until the spill, when the focus changed as well as the book’s name to capitalize on his daily struggles against BP and the administration.
This year, however, his attention has been diverted, and he has had no emergencies to excuse his absences. With only months before he must really get a campaign together for a Presidential run, he has spent much more time out of the state than up on the fourth floor of the Capitol. After all, speeches at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), the Liberty University commencement, kissing up to Duck Dynasty watchers, and other appearances of national-political importance outweighed his own personal focus on probably the most important legislation item being debated during the session. He had already opted to have few matters on his legislative plate, except for maybe the all-so critical problem facing Louisiana citizens, namely combating “human trafficking”.
In addition to touting his focus on human trafficking issues, Jindal has made it apparent that the levee district lawsuit is one of his three top legislative priorities and that something had to be done to stop those “greedy attorneys” from wrecking the state’s economy.
Unfortunately, while his attention has been away due to his travels, his weekly columns in national publications (including one this week bashing Obama for foreign policy failures), and activities like his need create a national healthcare plan--at the time when Louisiana still has one of the poorest health-care records in the nation (49th), has been center stage for Jindal. Meanwhile, the already-suspect legislation that would retroactively nullify a lawsuit went through the legislative sausage grinder. Unfortunately, the finished meat has holes so wide that one can drive a bus full of 79 esteemed law professors through it.
In short, Jindal blew it. Without much of any legislative agenda, other than his own personal road to the White House, he took his eye off the ball which is now squarely in his court, but not on his own terms.
Presently, he is being told that if he fails to veto this legislation, he could let BP off the hook for billions of dollars of damages and that the federal government could reduce funding for our coastal protection. Worse, there is a possibility that his legislation did not even achieve the intended goal of knocking out the offending levee district lawsuit, due to inadequate legislative language.
So, what’s a governor with a obsessive national political agenda, to do?
Perhaps his own legislative past will foretell the future.
A few years ago, the other legislation that was causing Jindal any real political heartburn was the matter of the legislative pay-raises. The state populace was so angry at the legislature and him that after days of saying he would not veto the pay-raise bill, he did exactly that, but only under his breath during a press conference so few would notice. Unless one had a scorecard of the legislation, one never would have known that he was getting himself off the hook with the veto.
Now he runs the risk of being the certified worst governor, not just possibly the worst governor, in modern Louisiana history.
Should he not veto the legislation, he runs the unspeakable risk of letting BP and other oil companies off the hook for billions of dollars of past and future claims because of the frailty of the bill’s language. The potential damage to Louisiana would arguably be a bigger economic hit than the disastrous Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and the BP assaults, combined.
Can Jindal afford a Hurricane Bobby given his need to have a good national face for another race?
The answer to that question is easy. In fact, it is a no-brainer.
Update: Immediately after the publishing of this column, Bayoubuzz publisher, Stephen Sabludowsky, was notified that the Governor signed SB469, upon receiving the following:
Gulf Restoration Network Statement on Gov. Jindal Signing SB 469
Governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 469 into law on June 6, 2014.
This legislation is governance at its worst: poorly written, for the worst of reasons, with no public benefit, and having potentially staggering unintended consequences. Governor Jindal, in his zeal to please the oil and gas industry and further his political ambitions, has abandoned the hundreds of thousands of Louisianans facing another hurricane season with inadequate storm protection and a disappearing coast.
Everyone involved in the passage of this bill owns the consequences, but no one is more responsible for shielding the oil and gas industry from accountability than Governor Jindal. He has undermined the efforts of everyone working to restore coastal Louisiana. Not only has he refused to ask the oil and gas industry to live up to their legal obligations, or contribute to coastal restoration in any meaningful way, he has actively blocked others from simply enforcing the law.
The result is that Louisiana taxpayers will pay for the oil and gas industry’s damage to our coast, if we can afford restoration at all.
Steve Murchie, Campaign Director,