Louisiana Politics: Speaking Of Speakers

We do everything a bit differently in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I think you’ve already noticed. Incoming Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards seems to be engaging in what pundit Jeremy Alford calls an experiment in bi-partisan government. I prefer to call it coalition government since former GOP Goober candidate, Jay Dardenne, will be Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration; one of the most important jobs in state government. It’s the post tasked with budgetary issues and, in addition to resembling Mr, Bean, Dardenne has considerable experience in that area. The Edwards administration’s first budget is going to be a bear, so it’s politically wise to have a Republican take some of the heat. Besides, Dardenne endorsed Edwards early in the run-off. His dubious reward is this powerful but difficult job.

The quirks of our poltical system also manifest themselves in how the Gret Stet is governed. The Governor’s office is very powerful and the legislature has customarily been submissive to the Gret Goober’s will. So much so that modern Governors have traditionally picked the Speaker of the House. PBJ selected a Republican to preside over a majority Democratic House and the favor is being repaid by Goober-elect John Bel Edwards. JBE is backing New Orleans Democrat Walt Leger as his Speaker-to-be. It’s a good pick. Leger is relatively liberal but plays well with the other legislative children, even biblethumpers from Palookaville. The Leger anointment is also the main reward New Orleans has gotten thus far for its overwhelming support for Edwards.

The House Republican caucus is not amused. They’ve unleashed the hell hounds of the Louisiana Republican party to sound the alarm as well as to raise money off this issue. Here’s a rather hysterical email the GOPers fired off last week.

Demand a Republican Speaker of the House!

Last month, Louisiana voters elected historic Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

Now, our next battle is to ensure that our Republican legislators elect a Republican Speaker of the House.

Governor-elect John Bel Edwards is strong-arming Republicans and urging them to choose liberal Democrat Walt Leger as the next Speaker.

Here’s the thing…the Speaker wields the power to set the agenda for the House of Representatives. With John Bel Edwards and Walt Leger calling the shots, all conservative reforms will be dead on arrival. 

We won’t even get to vote on conservative tax reform, expanding school choice, or much-needed tort reform. Instead, we’ll be voting on tax increases, restrictions on our Second Amendment rights and policies that will put liberal unions back in charge.

Join us and tell our Republican legislators to commit to only voting for a REPUBLICAN Speaker of the House.

OMG, elections have consequences. Imagine that. In this case that means the Governor gets to have his cowboy in the saddle as it were. Leger seems to have the votes, but the looming partisan bonfire could make that somewhat problematical.

In the abstract one might say: legislative independence yadda, yadda, yadda. Deep Blog begs to differ and urged me to weigh in on:

The full-court press that the Forces of Evil and World Domination are mounting on behalf of Cameron Henry to become House Speaker. Henry was the anointee for Speaker of Diaper Dave, who, last time I checked, lost the governor’s race.  Yet, the GOP Caucus in the House voted to back him for Speaker.  (Quietly, around 20 of them have defected, which explains the full court press.)  If Henry wins it would effectively make Vitter the governor in the House.  Henry and the GOP would bring Washington-style gridlock to the Gret Stet.
The enclosed email says it all.  Gene Mills actually had an office on the 4th Floor of the Capitol (the Goober’s office) while PBJ was guv and had Grover Norquist-like power over Jindal in terms of which bills to sign and which to veto. Literally, I heard stories that virtually all bills were vetted by him before Jindal would sign.
Gene Mills is the head of the extreme right-wing group Louisiana Forum. He also weighed in on the Governor-elect’s early moves by calling him a lying liberal. Here’s what Mills has to say about the Leger-Henry Speaker choice:
Now, news outlets are reporting that Edwards is backing State Representative Walt Leger to be the next House Speaker. Leger is a very talented and affable guy, but he is neither pro-life nor pro-family. Leger has earned a grade of 65% with Louisiana Right to Life, but his poor score does not begin to tell the whole story. The grade does not take into account that Leger strategically opted to abstain in 9 out of the last 15 major pro-life votes. Over that same time frame, Leger voted for government-funded abortions (Amendment 87A of HB 1247 (2010)), against defunding Planned Parenthood (HCR 11, (2012); HCR 54 (2011)), and against conscience protections for health care providers who wish to opt out of participating in abortion procedures (HB 517 (2009)). On other social issues, Leger has been hit or miss as well, receiving a 45.6% lifetime rating from Louisiana Family Forum. Earlier this year, he voted for voluntary sex education for third graders (HB 359 (2015)).
 In my book these are reasons for Leger to ascend to the Speakership. Mills, however, is shitting himself at the prospect of losing his sway over the Gret Stet House of Reps. He should consider borrowing one of Bitter Vitter’s diapers. Here’s the Millsian ode to Cameron Henry:

Meanwhile, the other prospective candidate for House Speaker, Rep. Cameron Henry, has a perfect 100% lifetime grade from Louisiana Right to Life and a 93.3% with LFF. And yet… a “pro-life” governor-elect has chosen a pro-choice speaker of the house. Puzzled? Me too. Especially when the other candidate is 100% pro-life.

Sadly, these decisions are not in line with the honor code or the platform that John Bel Edwards ran on.Instead, they are in line with a political code that we are all too familiar with: say whatever is necessary in order to get elected.

The sky is falling: a Democrat not only won the election, he’s planning to govern without consulting with the Louisiana Family Forum. Gene Mills is losing power and influence and that’s a helluva good thing.

Reports indicate that 20+ Republicans will bow to the incoming Governor’s will and support Leger for Speaker. All Gene Mills can do is to rain fire and brimstone on them. John Bel Edwards will have the hammer, especially in regard to prioritizing the state’s spending on construction projects. In short, legislative wingnuts will have to subsist on a pork-free diet unless they play ball and elect Leger Speaker. Leger will drag the Gret Stet House kicking and screaming into the 21st Century whereas Gene Mills is the guy who gave us creationism in public schools.

That concludes today’s episode of How the Gret Stet Turns.