Tuesday, 12 January 2016 18:09

No Louisiana House Independence Day, a lesson for Jon Bel Edwards and the parties

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BARRAS 5Before we celebrate January 11 as Louisiana House Independence Day, let’s call it what it was—a political putsch.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I know the Republicans are claiming credit for finally standing up to the principles of powers, but it’s time to dismiss such mush.  The House Speaker vote mission was not really about being “free at last”.  It was all about controlling the legislative agenda after losing at the November ballot.

Not that the new Louisiana Democrat  Governor Jon Bel Edwards had reason to expect anything other than a mini-revolt on his new watch.  He and his party had complained plenty during the past eight years of the Jindal Reign of Terror.  They demanded that the former legislature not cave into the demands of the then-governor.  The incoming governor and his party stood on the side of power trying to slam their choice down the throats of a hostile legislature.  As a result, they failed to deliver and now look somewhat foolish with the results. 

Edwards could have beaten the drums for reform but on this issue, stood up for the principles of status quo.  As a result, the GOP blow-back filled the air with a vengeance.

 If the issue were really about independence, the political parties would have stayed home.  The Republican Party would not have threatened the lives of the first-borns for those party members who were to go astray and voted for the Democrat and Edwards’ choice, Walt Leger.  Likewise, the Democrats and Edwards would not have promised the store for those remaining loyal to their own cause.   

Also, if the issue were really about independence, as it so maintains, the Republican Party would have complained thus, during the recent years when Republicans held the keys to the mansion and the legislature.  They did not and as a result, Jindal called the shots for the legislature and the GOP legislators followed at his command.

Before etching that date into the capitol stone as the year that the legislature demanded its own sovereignty, it’s time to speak the truth:  In November 2015, the Louisiana Democrats won back the mansion and in January 2015, the republicans gained control of the legislative chambers. 

There were no Louisiana Thomas Jeffersons, John Adams or Ben Franklins demanding our freedoms.

The House race tolled the bells of party, not of liberty.


Yesterday’s House vote was full of suspense and for many, truly a shocker.

When Democrat Representative Neil Abramson’s name was placed into nomination to compete with fellow Democrat Leger, you sensed a whiff of backroom smoke filling the air.  You sensed that things were about to spin out of control.   It did.

On the first ballot, Leger fell short with only 49 votes.  He needed 53.  However, even if you include the two votes going to Abramson (including his own tally), Leger did not have the numbers.

When conservative, pro-David Vitter supporter, Cameron Henry, dropped out, you could sense the handwriting on the wall.  For weeks, all we knew, the contest was Leger vs. Henry.  After that first ballot, Henry led Republican Taylor Barras by two, 26 votes to 24.

But, since Leger fell short after the initial vote, you knew the obscure republican from New Iberia, Barras, would emerge the surprised victor and the new speaker.   

He did.


Now that party and politics and plenty of inaugural party, food even more politics are now history, it’s time to clean the dust and get down to work . 

As promised during his inaugural address, today, Governor Jon Bel Edwards will accept the Medicaid Expansion.  This could be his second major error, the first, of course, trying to be House kingmaker in a hostile environment.  While Medicaid Expansion is very popular among Democrats and it will fill a roughly $300 million dollar hole of a $2.6 billion dollar shortfall over the next two years, by unilaterally making this decision by executive order, he will be singularly blamed should the expansion fail down the road.  Getting the legislature to approve expansion would be the safer route to go, assuming that body were to agree there would be no choice but to do so.   Also, failing to negotiate with the Obama administration over conditions, will take the bi-partisan aura off of the money. 

Also, yesterday, some republican critics of Jon Bel Edwards’ speech complained of intellectual inconsistencies—how could the Governor possibly discuss budget woes from one side of his mouth, yet from the other side, promote a bigger government involvement?   

For now, he can’t and still maintain full credibility.

Instead, Edwards will be forced to govern from the middle.

With a Republican Speaker of the House emerging, Edwards has cover he could not claim if Leger had won.  Barras, a banker, a numbers guy, while conservative, is not an extremist.  He will be expected to cross party lines.  For this state to emerge from this incredibly deep money hole, Barras likewise will need to show his own independence from the Republican Party.  In doing so, he will need to acknowledge that his own party and its leader, Governor Bobby Jindal played a major role in causing the collapse in the first place.   

It is time for everybody to be honest.  Louisiana will raise revenues.  The candidates in the governor’s race warned us last year.  We can play Jindal and Grover Norquist games and pretend that raising revenues is not raising taxes.  But, whether it is via reduced tax credits, deductions or exemptions, or by out of pocket at the pump, somebody somewhere is short.  It quacks like a tax, it is a tax.  For those who insist that we can cut government only, with oil prices dropping further and further, I say, put up or shut up.  Give us specifics, not political rhetoric.  What do we cut and how much? 

Now, with Jay Dardenne, a Republican, at the Commissioner of Administration switch and with former Democrat-now-Republican “switcharoo” Senate President John Alario calling that body’s shots, we have the makings of an administration working in concert with the legislature.

While Edwards lost the first battle, with Republicans Barras, Alario and Dardenne having strong voices in the process, the chances are better that the middle will be the road taken to fix the structural problems causing our monetary woes.  Had Edwards gotten his way in the House and if the budget were to worsen, the new Democratic Party governor would certainly be the easy target for the GOP.  Now, whether by design or by fate, Louisiana goes into one of its worst money crises in its history with somewhat of a coalition government.  Both parties have a large piece of the pie. 

If the state does emerge from the budget battles, sizeable slices of praise can be shared across party lines.  We all would win.  If we place party over governing, all of us can smear our faces with the whipped cream topping of blame.

We all lose.





Last modified on Thursday, 04 February 2016 00:15

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