Failure Theater Is Coming To The Louisiana Legislature

The news today, resulting from that thing we were talking about on Friday, is that Louisiana’s House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Paige Cortez are going to be announcing that the state legislature will go into a special session.

State lawmakers are planning to call themselves into a special legislative session that could begin as soon as next week to discuss issues related to Hurricane Laura recovery and shoring up the state’s dwindling unemployment insurance trust fund.

Legislators have been filing into the Capitol this morning to review the petition a majority of must sign before the call for the session can be issued. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, doesn’t expect a problem getting the necessary signatures.

If the special session comes together as planned, it will be the third time lawmakers have met this year and the second time they have called themselves into a special session.

There’s been some question in recent weeks about whether an October special session was necessary, given that Congress remains stalled on a fourth COVID economic relief package and there may not be any additional federal money for lawmakers to grapple over.

But two existing problems looming over the state’s head—the devastation to school districts in parishes hit hard by Hurricane Laura earlier this month, and the rapidly depleting unemployment insurance trust fund—have prompted lawmakers to decide to act now rather than later, Schexnayder says.

“We’re trying to be a little proactive,” he says. “Hopefully, we can get it done and over with quickly.”

There’s a term to describe what’s about to happen which was popularized at the national level during the days of John Boehner’s House Speakership and before.

Failure theater.

Failure Theater is the process by which the Establishment deliberately fails to do achieve anything, but wants credit from the Dumb Conservatives they’re playing to for allegedly “trying.”

Each of Boehner’s and McConnell’s “defeats” are in fact planned in advance. They are not trying to advance the conservative agenda; they are attempting to con conservatives into believing they have attempted to implement conservative policy, when in fact they were delivering their political deliverables to their Donor Class paymasters all along.

Uneducated, gullible, and easily led: if we stand for this, we are exactly what the Washington Post slurred us as 30 years ago.

Time and again the GOP establishment in Washington played its base by making promises that it had no intention of keeping, and then making excuses for not delivering on those promises. You vote for these people expecting to see some action out of them, and they politely nod, and say “Yes, I agree,” and then they promise to do something about the things you told them were the reason they won their election.

And somehow, magically, those things fizzled before becoming reality.

But when you confronted these people you elected, you were told “Yes, but we don’t have the votes.”

“We need the Senate,” or…

“We need the House,” or…

“We need the White House,” or…

“We need a supermajority.”

This ultimately cost the Republicans the House in 2018. Among other things, people were so sick and tired of Paul Ryan’s empty promises and his inability to play hardball with the Democrat minority in the Senate which was filibustering the real reform measures that it was impossible to turn out Republican core voters in swing districts to continue the House majority. In an election cycle which was already going to be a tough go of it, that made the difference.

You would think a lesson would come from that. Which is that when the people give you political power and a mandate to use it for the ends they declare are priorities, you had better use it.

Not offer failure theater. Use it.

But obviously that lesson hasn’t sunk in to Schexnayder, or to Cortez. Because what’s coming is a perfect example of failure theater.

What are their constituents screaming at the top of our lungs? Reopen Louisiana’s economy. No more Phase 3 restrictions, which are really more like Phase 2.01 restrictions. No more idiocy with bar curfews, live music bans, refusals to allow people to see their loved ones in nursing homes, mask mandates and the rest.

There are in the neighborhood of 45 House Republicans out of the 68 in the body who have already signed Rep. Alan Seabaugh’s petition. Well more than that, as many as 60, expressed private or public support for the petition circulated by Rep. Mark Wright which would do the same thing as Seabaugh’s; the only difference being that Seabaugh’s petition would stop Gov. John Bel Edwards from reinstituting a new COVID-19 emergency with its concomitant economic shutdowns for 60 days and Wright’s wouldn’t.

The governor can’t veto those petitions. Get a majority of either house to cancel his emergency and it’s over.

Schexnayder has fought those petitions for months, which is the only reason one of them hasn’t gotten a majority in the House and busted Edwards’ emergency. He thinks he’s doing right by the state in stopping them, but his reasoning has been sketchy at best. Schexnayder actually made the argument that stopping Edwards’ COVID-19 emergency would keep Edwards from declaring a hurricane emergency, which is abject nonsense. And he’s made a bogus argument about federal dollars, when Louisiana has already taken $3 billion from the federal government to prop up its bloated state government and flushed the lot down the tubes. That was another example of failure theater from this legislature – they got elected promising smaller government, and then didn’t use a perfect opportunity to make real cuts to bloated state agencies the taxpayers can’t afford to support. Instead they just plugged in one-time COVID money to fill the holes.

The state is hemorrhaging money because its economy has been destroyed, and it’s borrowing money from the feds to keep its insolvent unemployment insurance fund afloat, something which will ultimately require a massive tax increase on businesses in Louisiana that they cannot afford to pay.

You will literally see what’s left of our economy dry up and blow away to other states. It’s foreseeable and preventable with one obvious remedy: reopen the economy so that those unemployed can go back to work.

We already know that COVID-19 will not overwhelm Louisiana’s healthcare system. We know that our doctors are getting better at treating the virus so that people don’t die and recover far more quickly. We are approaching some level of herd immunity which is the key to getting past it. And the shutdowns have not stopped the spread. They never were going to do that. All they do is drag out the spread of the virus, which is not a good thing when you know the hospitals aren’t going to be overwhelmed.

As Shane Evans pointed out here at the site on Thursday, the cure is worse than the disease in terms of lives lost in collateral damage among these shutdowns.

By any moral sense, these shutdowns must stop. The legislature, and in particular Clay Schexnayder as the Speaker of the House, has the power to make them stop. But instead of taking a bold action to protect Louisiana’s economy he is choosing to give us failure theater.

Here’s how this will play out: in this special session, there will be bills brought to limit the governor’s emergency powers in a public health crisis. Perhaps one, which has been discussed, would give the governor a 30-day free ride on a public health emergency but then force him to ask the legislature for a resolution to continue it past those 30 days. That’s a perfectly good bill and we’re all for it.

Edwards will veto the bill, though. He’s going to have all kinds of arguments for why. He’ll say that the Legislature doesn’t have the information he has, and that they lack the expertise in the workings of state government to recognize the nuances of this or that. It will be very professorial and every word will be bullshit, but that’s what he’ll say.

And Clay Schexnayder doesn’t have the votes to override Edwards’ veto.

So, failure theater.

“We need two more Republicans in the House,” or…

“We need the governor’s mansion.”

There’s a way to do this which might not be failure theater, but it’s every bit as brash as the Seabaugh petition – actually it’s even more brash, which is why we would be awfully surprised to see it materialize.

Namely, this: someone could bring a suspensive resolution in this special session of the legislature which terminates, for a year, the governor’s healthcare emergency powers. Suspend the statute that enables them. Pass it in the House and Senate with simple majorities, 53 House members and 20 Senators, and Edwards cannot veto that resolution. It’s the law of the land until next year.

Then you can pass your bill changing the law on public health emergencies, having it say exactly what you want it to say – let the legislature kick in approval of an emergency after 30 days, forbid the governor from imposing economic restrictions on business without due process of law or legislative approval, whatever. Edwards would then have no choice but to sign that bill, because without it his COVID-19 emergency is gone and so would his ability to declare one for the flu, or for Ebola, or for Captain Trips. He can’t sulk and whine and take his ball and go home; he no longer has that choice.

If you won’t do a petition, the suspensive resolution from the legislature is all you have. And you’d better orchestrate it just right, because if you pass the suspensive resolution and then your new public health emergency legislation turns out to be significantly flawed, you have then broken the process.

And at this point anything else is failure theater.

Nobody should believe Clay Schexnayder is playing 3D chess with John Bel Edwards right now. It’s more appropriate to believe he’s engaging in failure theater without even realizing what he’s doing.

Let’s hope there are 53 House members willing to buck Schexnayder and turn in a petition canceling the emergency regardless of his special session call. Wolves don’t need leadership to do what they need to do; only sheep need that. We need some wolves in the Legislature to counter the one in the governor’s mansion if we’re going to save what’s left of Louisiana.



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