APPEL: A Legislative Earthquake Hit Louisiana Yesterday

Did you feel it? Earthquakes almost never occur in Louisiana, but mid-morning we were visited with a pretty strong one.

When the House opened on Monday Representative Miguez proposed a surprise resolution. It was a House Concurrent Resolution that would override the Governor’s authority to continue the imposition of his control over the state’s economy through Executive action.

Because it is a Concurrent Resolution it must follow a prolonged legislative process. With leadership support, the normal time to passage for such resolutions would be about two weeks, about the same time that the governor has set for beginning to end the shutdown. There is a chance that it could happen more quickly, but not by much. Therefore, this resolution takes on a different nature than just an end to the Executive Order.

The governor has proposed a staged reopening, presumably starting on May 16th. Then, based on certain metrics, there would be further levels of “openness,” until sometime in the future when the whole economy would be reopened. If the Resolution passes it could end the staged re-opening process, and we would move to an across the board re-opening.

I do not know if the Governor is right, nor do I know if Representative Miguez is right; I doubt that anyone will ever know. I do know that we are in deep economic trouble and there is a possibility that re-opening will be met with the stark realization that we have entered a new form of economy, one that will be very weak and will result in massive job losses and diminished state and local revenues.

In the long view none of that caused the earth shaking. The rumbling really has nothing to do with the virus or the economy. The seismic event was in itself just the potential of passing such a resolution.

Assuming the measure makes it through the process, for the first time in memory we will have seen a legislature assume its rightful role as a co-equal branch of government. We all know our history; governors almost always have found in one or both houses of the Legislature allies willing to slavishly bend to his or her will. The result has been a state, though rich in resources, who remains mired in last place in outcomes; a state where over-reliance on government largess has left large numbers of citizens mired in poverty.

As a co-equal branch of government, the Legislature should always have assumed the role of focusing the collective intelligence, and perhaps more, the collective experience, of its members to develop policy to move the state forward. Unfortunately, it never did, practically speaking in major policy areas always deferring to the governor. The tradition in most cases of just blindly following a governor has left the state vulnerable to the political will of a person whose life experience generally was limited to just being a politician. And professional politicians certainly do not provide the credentials to run a $32 billion per year ship of state. The end results of our pseudo-autocratic government are plain to see; a state run based on politics, by politicians, for politicians.

Louisiana is, after all, a republic with democratically elected leaders. Never was it the intent of our Constitution that we should grant virtually unfettered power to a single person. Never was it intended that a governor be handed so much authority over the lives of the people with no real check or balance. Far better for our people had it been that we enjoyed a government within which the power structure is truly balanced between the governor and the legislature. As intended, we would be a state in which personal political gain would become the exception and strong, pro-growth government would be confected through compromise between the governor and the Legislature.

Representative Miguez’s resolution would have some impact on re-opening the economy. But, far more importantly, it would mark the end of pseudo-autocratic rule and the rise of true co-equal government. That aspect of his resolution is the most significant benefit, and it means far more to the economy and the people than what the actual verbiage of his resolution states.

With the introduction of his resolution the first earthquake was moderate, but upon passage of his Resolution the next earthquake will shake down the very foundations of bad government that has resulted in Louisiana always tenaciously holding on to last place.

That will be the most welcome earthquake in history.



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