If he champions so much an increase in the minimum wage, why would Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards advocate the least likely way to accomplish it?
In his 2019 state of the state address, Edwards stumped for SB 155 by Democrat state Sen. Troy Carter, which would put into the Constitution a minimum wage increase with perhaps more to follow. Louisiana is one of a few states with no state minimum wage, and one of 20 that in practice enforces the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for most workers.
He didn’t mention HB 422 by Democrat state Rep. Royce Duplessis that would unlock local governments to mandate their own increases. Nor did he give rhetorical backing to legislation, not on offer so far this regular session but commonly on the docket in past years, that would put an increase or several into statute.
Either approach makes for an easier lift than SB 155, because these would require only simple majorities to bring to fruition. Besides being bad form – why add to the country’s longest constitution with yet another small detail that optimally the law should address, as well as following a path only three states – constitutional amendments require two-thirds agreement.
Given Republican healthy majorities in each legislative chamber, passage by simple majority seems unlikely. While the public as a whole might favor an increase (and therefore could pass the necessary amendment), the public also as a whole shows little knowledge or sophistication about the issue, and better-informed GOP legislators know all about the ill effects of pricing labor artificially above its contribution to society.
Still, if you don’t play, you can’t win, and if Edwards really wanted something like this on the books, he could hope to get lucky with a few Republican defections. For example, somebody like GOP state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, who has displayed some minor Republican-in-Name-Only tendencies in the past and faces a conservative challenger this fall, might want to stimulate Democrat voter support for her by assenting to a minimum wage hike. Work hard, collect a few GOP votes, and Edwards might pull it off.
But there’s no way Edwards could flip around 30 representatives and a dozen senators to support a constitutional amendment. SB 155 is dead in the water, and Edwards knows it.
However, putting the hike into the legal code isn’t his objective, because, from a campaign perspective, it wins only a few votes he already wouldn’t have gotten and likely would alienate more voters by damaging his potemkin strategy of appearing more to the political center than his actions and beliefs place him. Yet he can win the same number of votes without the risk of losing so many simply by paying lip service to the notion, without it becoming reality.
The real payoff from this strategy, as identified by MacAoidh, comes from maintaining an image amenable to the far left donor base among national Democrats while softening it at home. Following this playbook turns on the taps of money by making him appear sufficiently radical, through signing on to the same economically suicidal path embraced by people’s republics in Seattle, San Francisco, and the like. At the same time, saying it but not doing it provides the least encouragement to other elites at the state level to work against his reelection.
With the red meat already tossed, look for Edwards hardly to mention publicly the issue over the remainder of the session, but to reference it frequently in private to potential donors after the blackout phase of organized campaign fundraising lifts at session’s end.