BEAM: Jindal’s Still Calling The Shots This Session

Many legislators are bemoaning the fact that Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have an ambitious agenda for the current session. They say he brought up only a few issues in his opening address, and they weren’t the usual controversial topics.

Maybe so, but don’t count Jindal out yet. There is a major reason for his low-key stance. The governor has bigger fish to fry, and he doesn’t want anything to detract from his pursuit of bigger and better things.

Jindal is headed to New Hampshire to fulfill some speaking engagements, and that has fueled the ongoing speculation he is going to enter the presidential race in 2016. He will deny it, but the governor isn’t kidding anyone.

Looking back over his first six years, it’s obvious he hasn’t traveled throughout this country in search of better vacation spots. The presidency may have been his goal since the first day he occupied the governor’s mansion.

With less than two years left in office, why wouldn’t he accelerate those out-of-state travels in advance of the presidential election? It gives Jindal a golden opportunity to enhance his national conservative image.

Economic development, a central theme of the governor’s opening remarks, is perhaps his major achievement. He deserves credit for much of the $60 billion in economic enhancements that are coming to Southwest Louisiana and other parts of the state. And it sells well to a national audience.

Jindal is a pro at getting the most mileage possible out of subjects that strike a chord with voters. During the first four years he was in office, the governor traveled to every nook and cranny of this state telling his story. It paid dividends when he won a second term in the primary with 66 percent of the vote.

The governor hasn’t lost his touch. He still knows how to get the maximum effect talking about issues near and dear to conservatives.

Take the war he declared Tuesday on human sex trafficking, for example. It’s an extremely worthwhile goal, but one we haven’t heard much about in recent years.

Jindal touts his education and ethics reforms, but never admits they haven’t worked out as well as he had hoped. No distractions are allowed in his playbook.

We heard a number of legislators complain that Jindal didn’t mention Common Core, the extremely controversial education program instituted by John White, the governor’s hand-picked state superintendent of education.

The explanation is simple. When parents, teachers and others began to complain, Jindal started talking about a federal takeover of the state’s educational system. It was as if he never had anything to do with its adoption when it earlier fit his education reform agenda.

The odds are we won’t hear anything from the governor when Common Core bills surface in a few weeks. However, that doesn’t mean he and his team won’t be working behind the scenes to save the program with support from his legislative allies.

Democratic legislators have an ambitious agenda for this session, but how far will they get?

They want more money for K-12 and higher education, an expansion of Medicaid, a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women, honest, reasonable and legal budgeting practices and more transparency in government.

More transparency is something the media has been trying to achieve from the Jindal administration since it took the reins of state government. I am reminded of an event that occurred the first day Jindal took office in 2008. He had just finished speaking at a legislative luncheon.

A number of us were waiting behind a media area roped off in the corner of the room. TV cameras were ready to roll, and we were awaiting some choice comments from the new governor.

Unfortunately, Jindal was ushered by his entourage right past us toward the exit.

“Can’t you give us a 30-second sound bite?” one TV reporter hollered.

His press secretary said he had other commitments and didn’t have time to stop. It was a sign of the six years to come for an administration that has been more insulated in a controlled environment that any in recent Louisiana history.

News conferences are staged for full effect, and Jindal always has the right people in his supporting cast. He handles emergency situations extremely well, but doesn’t stick around too long at other press conferences.

Some of those are other Democratic goals are also desirable, but the governor isn’t going to sit still and let a liberal agenda become law. And he will get support from many Republican lawmakers without having to appear in person.

Democrats also want Jindal to stay home this year, but forget it. In fact, we may see less of the governor than we have in the last six years. Even so, give the Democrats credit for trying in the face of almost insurmountable odds.

Those lawmakers who complained about Jindal not having a detailed program to offer have said that means this will be a legislators’ agenda-driven session.”

Wow! Wouldn’t that be a welcome change of pace? It’s something we will have to see to believe.

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