APPEL: The Legislative Leadership Elections Could Be Decisive For Louisiana’s Future

After the election I read a Tweet by a prominent Democrat. In a nutshell he was stating that African Americans had won the gubernatorial election for John Bel Edwards and that they had demands that they expected to be met.

He is right. The narrow victory of our sitting governor was largely through an incredibly successful Get Out The Vote campaign by African American leaders. It was textbook material; one that will literally become political history. But it was also based upon false promises. Just as that leader had suggested, African American organizers had led their followers to believe that by bloc voting for a Democrat they were setting the stage for political reward. But numbers don’t lie, the 2019 elections were electoral disasters for Democrats.

The House, the Senate, and BESE are now overwhelmingly secure in Republican hands. More importantly, unlike the last twelve years, most of these Republicans now are solidly conservative, pro-growth, small government believers. The likelihood of some undefined rewards for Democrats resulting from John Bel Edwards’ election disappeared in these two elections. The Democratic Party in the Legislature has little prospect of being anything except noisy.

There is one possible exception to that statement. That exception comes about through the nature of the leadership of either or both Houses of the Legislature. In order to understand this, one must realize the significance of the power placed in the hands of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. These Officers appoint Committee Chairmen and members of Committees and they control the flow of legislation, giving them the absolute power to deliver for the governor or to stand against him.

During the last twelve years that power has helped and has hurt conservative Senators as we tried to put the state into a posture where growth and prosperity were our goals. Last term the House declared its independence from control by the governor. But through its leadership, the Senate followed the age-old tradition and ceded its independence and any authority it had had to the governor. This basically gave the governor power far beyond the scope of what is envisioned in our constitution. So, in the name of tradition a majority Republican Senate voluntarily gave up its power to a liberal governor. The result was through pressure from the governor, Louisiana saw a retrenchment of the coveted conservative principles of personal freedom, small government, and strong education outcomes.

This same threat to Legislative independence looms large after the 2019 elections. There are several potential Republican candidates for leadership. All will assure the members that they will be strong, but in fact some come from the same philosophy that getting along with the governor is the best approach to governance. Based upon two reasons I strongly disagree.

The members of the legislature are the closest elected officials to the people, far more representative of the people’s wants and needs than even the governor. The people elected large majorities of conservative Republicans because they believe in conservative ideals. They did not elect Senators and House members to see them, through a bad choice for a leader, just give away their power to implement the ideals that voters trusted them with.

My other point is that, though the notion of compromise as the perfect form of governance is widely promoted by the minority Democratic Party and their media allies, it has seriously retarded the implementation of conservative policies. Through its elected leadership, Republicans traditionally just went along. As a result, to put it bluntly, lowering the bar through incessant compromise with Democrats has resulted in a state last in almost all areas. Its way past time for Republicans to stand up for what are conservative principles of growth and prosperity and not to compromise away our beliefs just to appease the minority Party and the media. We must bring Louisiana up to our standards, not compromise them away by lowering them to liberal standards.

All of this brings to the fore the incredible importance of the elections for legislative leadership positions. Our citizens voted for solidly Republican majorities in both Houses. They did so as a rejection of liberal Democratic policies and as a signal to the elected that change is what they demand. This message must not be lost on members. They should not elect someone because they are nice, because they raised money for them in their election, or because it is their turn.

As members speak to their prospective leaders, they must ask but one question, will you represent your members, or will you represent the governor? And they must trust the that answer is carried through on.

I cannot emphasize the tragedy that would ensue should our majority Republican members sacrifice the people’s trust and conservative principles by anointing leadership who believes that surrendering a legislative body’s independence to the governor is acceptable. That long-standing practice is exactly why we are such a failed state, surrounded by so much success.

We must demand independent leadership in both Houses, and we should scream in outrageous indignation if Republicans do not show the backbone to deliver that through their very first vote.

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