Yesterday, New Orleans Democrat and Congressional candidate state Rep. Juan LaFonta nearly managed to sneak through a concurrent resolution in the Louisiana House of Representatives which would have asked Congress to investigate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for a “slow response” to the Gulf oil spill.
The bill, HCR 144, which would normally have gone through a committee but for some reason did not, reached the floor yesterday amid a host of other bills gaining little attention from the assembled legislators in the House. And for some reason House Speaker Jim Tucker, not to mention the rest of the Republican delegation in the House, found himself asleep at the switch and was caught unaware when LaFonta’s bill came up – as a result, no one knew what they were voting on when the bill passed, 91-0.
The summary of the bill states:
Memorializes congress to direct EPA to investigate the governor of La.’s refusal to timely declare a state of emergency in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Immediately after the vote, Jindal aides approached several leges and informed them they had just voted to ask Congress to investigate the governor. A few dropped jaws later, a motion by House Speaker Pro Tem Joel Robideaux (I-Lafayette) to reconsider the vote was made and quickly brought to a vote by Tucker.
Things then became even more interesting. As soon as LaFonta’s bill passed, he bolted from the floor, ostensibly to “drop off a bunch of papers in his truck.” As such, he wasn’t on the floor for Robideaux’s motion to reconsider, and when Tucker called it for a vote Rep. Rick Gallot (D-Ruston) – a member like LaFonta of the House Black Caucus – objected, saying that House tradition dictates a bill can’t be reconsidered unless its author is on the floor.
Tucker chose to resolve the controversy by noting there is no written rule dictating that a bill’s author must be on the floor, and thus the vote proceeded and the bill was reconsidered by a 60-32 vote.
LaFonta then reappeared on the floor and made a stink, suggesting that the House was disrespecting its traditions by voting on a reconsideration of his bill while he was gone. He was joined by the House Black Caucus members at the back of the chamber. Tucker eventually gaveled down the protest.
Video of the exchange can be found here. The LaFonta bill comes up around the 10:25 mark, and at the 50:30 mark you can see the fireworks begin when Robideaux’s motion to reconsider comes up.