by Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of Louisiana Business and Industry
For almost three years, the state Capitol has been absolutely, positively one thing: chaotic.
The 6th special session during this time-period begins this week and will once again pit the Administration’s desire for tax revenue against the Legislature’s lack of consensus on that very topic. This plotline should sound familiar by now.
Why is Governor John Bel Edwards having so many problems with the Louisiana legislature? Is he simply a weak administrator who--for one reason or not--cannot get the Republican dominated legislative bodies to support his agenda? Or is he a strong governor who simply faces a recalcitrant republican-controlled legislature and GOP-based business community, who are using their political clout to limit his power for political purposes? Or, are there some other reasons?
Political parties are at a low ebb both in Louisiana and throughout the rest of the country. Public opinion often dips below 40% approval rating in numerous national and statewide polling. Voters continue to lose faith in how both Democrats and Republicans govern. When asked why people belong to a certain party, the negative views of the opposing party are often given. In other words, “I’m a Democrat because I can’t stand the "Republicans” and visa versa.
The 2018 vintage of the Louisiana legislature has been in session now since February 19 2018. Initially, it met in an extraordinary fiscal session called by Governor John Bel Edwards to grapple with the then-one billion dollar budget shortfall. That two week endeavor ended in failure. Essentially nothing was passed.
Legislators being in session for essentially the first half of each year for the past series of springs has become a regular occurence, primarily due to major budgetary issues. The individual lawmakers are tired. Nerves are frayed. The everyday grind focuses upon minutia. They are underpaid. And perhaps worse of all, nothing seems to be getting done. Bills are getting killed.
Christopher Tidmore essentially calls it a game of legislative chicken. Which is what the House, the Senate and the Governor appear to be playing this Louisiana legislative session with the budget. In a recent interview with the political columnist for the Louisiana Weekly and radio talk show host, Tidmore and with JMC Polling and Analytics, John Couvillon, the lawmakers must somehow fill a still-gaping hole in which House Republicans have basically taken taxes off the table after passing a budget protecting the popular TOPS program while shortchanging the health care and higher education vital services.
Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Twistlock CEO Ben Bernstein announced that the company will establish a Global Solutions Engineering Center in Baton Rouge. Twistlock is a cybersecurity firm, Twistlock will create 20 new direct jobs with an average salary of $90,000, plus benefits. Additionally, Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 23 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 40 new jobs in Louisiana’s Capital Region.