It’s one thumb up so far for Louisiana House Republican Speaker Clay Schexnayder, with the possibility of more to come.
Schexnayder courted controversy by nabbing the speakership by picking up every non-Republican vote in the chamber but a minority of his own party. Also, his GOP supporters, while conservative on fiscal issues, tended to be less so than those who voted against him. This led to questioning just how much support he would give to conservative issue preferences in cobbling together committees.
He began answering that question Thursday by releasing the compositions of the two most important committees in the chamber: Appropriations, which makes budgetary decisions; and Ways and Means, which deals with tax matters. He installed on them as chairmen two strong fiscal conservatives, Republican state Reps. Stuart Bishop and Zee Zeringue, respectively. Moreover, he placed Republican majorities on each about reflecting the nearly two-to-one advantage the GOP has in the chamber.
Not all Republicans are faithfully as conservative on fiscal issues as others, but a review of scores on the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry voting record index over the past four years, which measures fiscal conservatism on money and regulatory issues, shows that on Appropriations the eight Republicans that had served more than a year averaged 89 (where 100 denotes maximal conservatism). On Ways and Means, its five GOP members meeting that standard averaged the same. These scores are slightly higher than the mean of the caucus.
Three members across the two who only served last term scored a mean of 83. And while the dozen GOP newcomers (save Republican former state Sen. Neil Riser whose score was counted among the veterans) across both don’t have records, a few during their campaigns engaged in conspicuously fiscally conservative rhetoric.
Thus, it appears unlikely that a non-conservative coalition could emerge to take control of these panels. Republicans essentially have two-to-one margins on the pair, and in essence it would take four defectors on each (assuming all members present) to prevent passage of conservative measures or to champion non-conservative ones.
Other assignments wait, but these were the most crucial. Given Senate committees with a strong conservative tilt, almost all of the non-fiscal measures Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has touted over the past four years are dead on arrival, but the question loomed whether he could continue a tax-and-spend agenda. These assignments suggest that tax cuts have a good chance to head to his desk and that he won’t find it easy to continue making increased spending commitments.
As such, Schexnayder will have turned down the volume on suspicions of whether he would sell out the strong Republican and conservative majorities in the chamber, although with further evaluations to come.