Something To Watch For In The Next Few Days…

…is the fate of Sen. Eric Lafleur (D-Ville Platte) as the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Lafleur was the sole “No” vote in Senate Education yesterday on Gov. Jindal’s school choice and teacher tenure bills. The last time a Democrat with a leadership position voted against a part of the Governor’s education reform package, Rep. Harold Ritchie found himself bounced out of his vice-chairmanship of the House Insurance Committee – which has created no small stink among many in the state’s legacy media and their friends on the Democrat side.

And with Senate President John Alario’s history and reputation as a leg-breaker par excellence when it comes to moving legislation – that being one of the reasons Jindal braved the disapproval of many of his supporters in supporting Alario for the job – it’s not a bad bet that Lafleur’s vice-chairmanship at Senate Education will be in the crosshairs.

For that matter, floor votes are scheduled early next week for Jindal’s education bills.

Rep. Kirk Talbot’s HB 969, which would offer tax rebates to individuals and businesses who fund private-school scholarships for needy students and was the subject of Ritchie’s consequential “no” vote last week, comes up for a vote on the House Floor on Monday. On Tuesday or Wednesday, HB 974 (teacher tenure reform) and HB 976 (school choice) by Rep. Steve Carter are likely to hit the floor.

Those votes could be telling for a number of leadership positions currently held by Democrats who will no doubt be cognizant of Ritchie’s fate. Among them…

  • Rep. Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine), chair of the Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee;
  • Rep. Andy Anders (D-Vidalia), chair of the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans), chair of the Judiciary Committee;
  • Rep. Mike Danahay (D-Sulphur), vice-chair of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee;
  • Rep. Herbert Dixon (D-Alexandria), chair of the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee;
  • Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro) chair of the House Appropriations Committee;
  • Rep. Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans), vice-chair of the Criminal Justice Committee;
  • Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans), chair of the Civil Law and Procedure Committee;
  • Rep. Girod Jackson (D-New Orleans), chair of the Municipal Committee;
  • Rep. Robert Billiot (D-Westwego), vice-chair of the Municipal Committee;
  • Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), vice-chair of the Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee; and
  • Rep. Patrick Williams (D-Shreveport), vice-chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

Will all of them vote for the three bills? Probably not. But it’s instructive that on last Tuesday’s vote in Ways and Means, the three other Democrats who voted against HB 969 – Regina Barrow, Wesley Bishop and Robert Johnson – had nothing to lose. Williams and Danahay were in that committee and both voted yes.

And in House Education’s mammoth session Wednesday, there were five constant votes against HB 974 and HB 976 – Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans; John Bel Edwards, D-Amite; Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge; and Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge. None of them hold any leadership positions. Patrick Jefferson, the freshman Democrat from Homer who serves as the vice-chairman of House Education, was for both bills and is assuredly voting yes on the floor.

In other words, we have a pretty good body of votes to date in the House, and Ritchie is the only example of a Democrat in the leadership to buck the governor. And Ritchie lost his leadership position. We have eight Democrats not in leadership positions who have voted against bills in the package, while two Democrats – Mickey Guillory of Eunice and Major Thibaut of New Roads – voted for HB 969 without being in leadership positions. And so far we have three – Jefferson, Danahay and Patrick Williams – in leadership who have been “yes” votes.

We’ll see what happens to Lafleur, and we’ll see what the effect on Democrat voting patterns is when the bills go to the House floor.

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