This Legislative Session Is More Or Less A Disaster, But It Should Teach Us Who To Dump This Fall

Jeremy Alford’s weekly column at the Baton Rouge Business Report calls the legislature “splintered” and infers that there is little leadership or direction – particularly with respect to things like how to resolve a $1.6 billion budget deficit.

A similar disjointedness was seen on the first day of the session when House Democrats gathered to present their reaction to reporters on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opening address. Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge, in his remarks, suggested, “I don’t see a budget passing without Medicaid expansion on the table.” Others from the caucus said later that James was only speaking for himself and there was no effort underway to hold the budget hostage.

As for Republicans in the House, a few have been convinced by Ways and Means Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, to move revenue-raising bills to the floor due to a promise that all of them won’t necessarily be advanced. Robideaux simply wants to have as many instruments, even a few conflicting bills, on the floor and ready to move in what is a shortened session. But some conservatives are already grumbling about the floor votes they may be asked to make, particularly on taxes. Some are even pushing for the details of an overall revenue plan from the leadership before they’ll agree to take part in a vote.

Whether Robideaux can get strong, anti-tax Republicans like Rep. Lenar Whitney of Houma and others to follow through on the floor will be a major test. A few Democrats, too, like Rep. Robert Johnson of Marksville, routinely oppose taxes and their votes will be needed.

Then there’s the conservative group once known as the fiscal hawks. Three key members admit that the hawks have become more of a “casual coalition” these days, although the right kind of issue, like spending one-time money on recurring expenses, may unite them. Currently, they’re chasing individual issues ranging from Common Core to budget reform, and even future leadership positions, rather than attacking a single topic as a group. That makes them more like fiscal freelancers than fiscal hawks.

From a conservative point of view it’s worse than that.

I was at a function last night at which several legislators were in attendance, and the solid conservatives in that group were largely uniform in expressing a glum attitude about getting anything constructive done.

There is concern that HB 418, the Paycheck Protection bill that cleared the House Labor committee last week, doesn’t have the votes on the floor because there are 10 Republicans so afraid of the teacher unions that they won’t support it.

And there is also a feeling that HB 707, the religious freedom bill protecting the Christian baker from having his business license pulled because he refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding, won’t even make it out of the House Civil Law committee. I’ll deal with the status of that bill in a later post, because there are some developments coming which could change the character of that debate.

It would be a shame if HB 707 didn’t make to the floor, though, because since the budget alone will indicate this session to be an abject failure – and the feeling seems to be that we’ll reach sine die on June 11 without any progress of significance toward closing that $1.6 billion deficit, occasioning a fresh round of agony when a special session has to be called to drag us through the summer – at the very least it would be nice to see how many Republicans would vote against both the bills.

I for one want to see some Republicans on the record as opposing both. We will know then who the top priorities are in the legislature for this election cycle.

We’ll know who absolutely, positively must be driven out of political office.

Frankly, you can’t call yourself a conservative if you can’t understand that getting the state out of the business of serving as the bill collector for the unions is a basic responsibility for you as a member of a state legislature. Stephen Waguespack, Kevin Kane and Keith Courville have made excellent arguments in favor of the Paycheck Protection bill as a matter of policy. I’ve approached the question on the basis of process – when teacher unions give 97 percent of their political donations to Democrats and the state, run by Republicans in both the governor’s mansion and the legislature, is collecting their dues for them, those Republicans are suckers and morons for continuing to give the Democrats the tools to win elections with no discernible public benefit being served.

I don’t know all the names of the 10 Republicans who are opposed to HB 418 at this point; I’m just told it’s 10, and assuming there are no Democrats who would cross the aisle and vote for the bill that number can’t be any more than six – assuming every one of the yeas are in their seats when the vote comes up on the floor next week. But of the names I have been given, most are turncoat Democrats who make no pretense of principle in their voting.

Which is a problem in this legislature. It’s nominally a Republican-dominated body, but that’s as far as it goes. There is a good nucleus of principled conservatives, but not enough to drive the character of the body. So what you get are good votes on the easy subjects and a lot of open palms on the tougher votes. These guys want to be bribed with local projects and other pork for the folks back home, and if you ask them to make a difficult vote that would at least establish their bona fides as actual conservatives what you get is a lot of hemming and hawing.

And for Republicans to beg out of voting for Paycheck Protection out of fear of teacher unions can only be described as pathetic.

Pathetic.

When the Louisiana Federation of Teachers gives 97 percent of their campaign contributions to Democrats, it means they are not your friend; they’re your enemy. They will do everything they can to dislodge you from your office, because they want a Democrat in that chair. And you are stupid to try to make peace with them.

Here’s something else – if you’re a Republican and you represent a House or Senate district, it means there are enough voters to make a majority in your district which opposes the teacher unions, and that means all-out war against the Steve Monaghans of the world is something in your favor. It means you actually stand for something, and you will be rewarded for it.

Put another way, Republicans representing Republican-leaning districts who can’t make an obvious vote benefiting Republicans in the political process because they’re afraid of angering their political enemies had better start considering what happens when they anger their friends. We already know this is a lousy legislature, and we already know who some of the people are who make it that way. Do these people not understand that by voting against this bill they’re putting a target on their back for the business community to shoot at? Do they not understand that by voting against this bill they’re going to insure a well-funded challenger is going to come at them this fall with a very aggressive message challenging their record and legacy?

The reason RINO politicians in Washington manage to survive is that the “business community,” as represented by the US Chamber of Commerce, and the national GOP establishment do everything they can to protect them as incumbents. But RINO politicians in Baton Rouge don’t have that kind of protection. Going to the left of the GOP establishment means you won’t have any friends on Election Day.

It’s really pretty simple stuff. Voting with the majority of your party on a bill which makes it more difficult for Democrats to beat you – because, and the union bosses know this very well even if they won’t admit it – when the state isn’t collecting their dues for them and they actually have to account to their members for where the money is going, they lose lots and lots of members and lots and lots of money that would otherwise go into political contributions to Democrats – is the intelligent thing to do. Voting against the majority ought to, and probably will, make you roadkill.

Democrats, generally speaking, are not this stupid. They will vote for disastrously bad policies which benefit their constituencies and power structure, and they’ll do so knowingly. Democrats aren’t interested in giving welfare to their political opponents, and they usually don’t.

But some Republicans in the legislature are willing to sell out their friends to pander to their political enemies. If so, let’s collect their names – and then let’s collect their scalps on Election Day.



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