There’s the famous sequence from the old Peanuts cartoons in which Charlie Brown runs up to the football that Lucy is placing in anticipation of kicking it, only to go sailing through the air as she pulls it away at the last minute.
Well, it isn’t just a dumb cartoon scene. It’s also the reality at the Louisiana Legislature, where Failure Theater is all the leadership has to offer to the state’s citizens demanding a reopening of the Sportsman’s Paradise.
In our last update we noted that the Senate Judiciary B Committee passed HCR 9, the legislative instrument which would reopen Louisiana now, on to the Senate floor without objection. There wasn’t even much debate over the measure, a suspensive resolution which would negate the provisions in Title 29 of Louisiana’s statutory code giving Gov. John Bel Edwards the power to declare and manage public health emergencies from the moment of its passage in both houses until 30 days beyond the end of the current special session.
HCR 9 now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. Has one been scheduled yet?
Why no, one has not.
That’s a status a bill is put in when they’re checking it for typos and other glitches. HCR 9 has already gone through such a vetting process in the House.
The Senate next goes into session Monday. Is HCR 9 on the calendar for that meeting?
Lucy has that football, and she’s about to pull it away.
As of right now, we’re told, HCR 9 is intended to languish in limbo until the end of the special session. No vote will be taken, so the public has no way of holding any members of the Senate accountable for their position on reopening the state – or refusing to. Everybody just gets to say “Hey, it wasn’t my call.”
There’s more. Senate President Page “Lucy” Cortez, we’re told, was visited by Gov. John Bel Edwards Monday night at his apartment in the Pentagon Barracks. Word of that conversation is that Edwards complained there were too many instruments covering emergency management and reopening the state moving through the Legislature, and it was too confusing. Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder subsequently met, and on Tuesday when the bulk of those instruments were brought up in Senate Judiciary B, only a small number of them, most notably HCR 9 and HB 4, Rep. Mark Wright’s emergency management reform bill, were sent out to the floor. We’re told that was at Schexnayder’s request to the committee members of Judiciary B.
Is HB 4 on Monday’s Senate calendar? Yes. So is SB 29, Cortez’ own emergency management bill which was heavily amended in the House. Cortez appointed three members of the conference committee on that bill – himself, co-sponsor Patrick McMath and Democrat Senator Gary Smith, who chairs Judiciary B. The Senate rejected the House amendments to the bill. In all likelihood the House conferees will be Schexnayder, Rep. Stephen Dwight, who handled the bill as the chair of the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, and a Democrat to be named later. That wouldn’t bode too well for those House amendments.
As of right now, here’s what the insiders we talking to predict will happen: the conference report on SB 29 will bring the bill back more or less to the version the Senate passed, and the House will either pass the conference report or it won’t. HB 4 is either going to be greatly watered down or rejected on Monday.
And HCR 9 will be ignored, destined to lay on the table until the special session ends.
In the meantime, Edwards let loose on the Legislature this afternoon, calling it a “partisan effort” to reopen the state and extending his Phase 3 order for another four weeks with no further loosening of his mandates and restrictions. He said he would allow “protocols” by which fairs and festivals might be able to operate with less than 500 attendees, and state officials would perhaps approve applications on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, he’s offering nothing.
Which means that John Bel Edwards is not in the least bit worried about the Louisiana Legislature acting to reopen the state. If he was, he would be busy trying to negotiate some fallback position that would keep the wolves at bay.
He’s not scared of the wolves. He thinks they’re sheep.
This is very likely to end up where it started – with members of the House being faced with the decision to sign a petition to void Edwards’ emergency declaration and therefore reopening the state. What’s more, in the event the Lucy-style SB 29 passes, which would require both houses to sign such a petition, Edwards likely signs it immediately. If he does before a majority of the House members were to sign that petition, the petition would then be useless without 20 Senators signing on.
This entire special session, and Edwards’ caterwauling surrounding it, would then be an exercise in Failure Theater. And those Louisiana citizens watching their livelihoods melting away amid a totally, completely and disgracefully unnecessary economic shutdown would look to the Legislature’s Lucy leadership, rather than Edwards, as the proximate cause of the problem.
If our sources are correct, there will be hell to pay, and a well-deserved political bloodbath to come.