Some Louisiana conservatives thought new GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder would take three strikes. Instead, he hit three homers.
When Schexnayder nailed down the speakership with a majority of Democrats (all in the chamber) supporting him, doubts grew about how much fidelity he could maintain with a conservative agenda in the chamber he would lead. Recent actions of his should erase those.
First, he stacked the two most important, fiscally-related, committees in the House with enough Republicans and conservatives that not only will the tax-and-spend agenda of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards find no traction, but also a real chance exists for tax relief. Next, he backed that up by trying to induce caution and prudence into the revenue estimating process. He (as well as Republican state Sen. Pres. Page Cortez) lost that battle when thwarted by Edwards’ mouthpiece Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, but are winning the war to date because no additional revenue became recognized at this time, which to some degree accomplished the same purpose.
And he completed the triple crown upon releasing the final set of House committee assignments earlier this week. Democrats’ reward for backing him? One additional chairmanship than last term, but no majority on any committee and close on only three. Two of those, Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs and Judiciary, are two of the three least important with the former having moderate Republican state Rep. Joe Stagni as vice chairman who could flip on votes to produce a tie. The third, Health and Welfare, also contains Stagni who, with no party Roy Daryl Adams, could flip results away from conservative outcomes. This bodes ill for reforms such as managed care for waiver program clients, patient responsibility measures, and fraud detection enhancement.
But that essentially is the only whiff Schexnayder made. Some consistent conservatives who backed his speakership opponent Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack (who landed a vice chairmanship on Judiciary behind Democrat state party official Randal Gaines) who might have had leadership positions found themselves sidelined, but even here opportunities arose. For example, conservative stalwart GOP state Rep. Alan Seabaugh didn’t land a leadership position and drew some low-profile assignments, but from his perch on Labor and Industrial Relations he can pursue elimination of governments spending taxpayer resources to collect union dues.
The lineups produced by Schexnayder shove Edwards to the brink of irrelevancy. He has no chance to push through almost all of his assumed legislative agenda and his tax-and-spend strategy faces considerable headwinds. About all he has left is threats of line item vetoes to keep every House Democrat and his two no party allies from defecting on votes that not only could send a torrent of conservative reform legislation to his desk, but also prevent his inevitable vetoes from sticking.
In sum, Schexnayder’s recent actions make very likely that Edwards will have to play defense and defense only for the next four years, curbing his destructive agenda. That’s good news for Louisiana. The great news is these moves put the state in the position actually to make progress over the next four years, instead of its fiscal health, economic opportunity, and quality of life for its people eroding further relative to other states.