It’s only been a couple of weeks since this legislative session began, but already it’s clear that what we feared from the very beginning of this term has fully come to pass.
We’re in, essentially, a Babylonian Captivity whereby what’s supposed to be the most conservative legislature Louisiana has ever elected is run by people who are not only not conservative but fully on board with old-school populist leftism. And despite having more Republicans in those seats than ever before this legislature is far less effective as a conservative institution than it was last term.
Consider what’s happening with HB 564, Rep. Ray Garofalo’s bill which would combat the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Louisiana’s government schools. I have an American Spectator column up about the fight against CRT within the state legislatures around the country, and I included a little description of what happened yesterday in the Education Committee…
HB 564, brought by Rep. Ray Garofalo, a Republican from the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette who chairs the Louisiana House Education Committee, had its hearing Tuesday. Garofalo’s bill doesn’t say CRT can’t be taught in the schools. All it says is it can’t be taught as doctrine and that competing theories have to get essentially equal time. But when Garofalo brought the bill, the Legislative Black Caucus threw a fit — so much so that they demanded House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who is a Republican, kill the bill before it goes to the House floor.
And Schexnayder is working to do just that.
The bill had a nearly five-hour hearing Tuesday, and Garofalo returned it to the committee’s calendar without a vote. He says he’ll bring it back, but the Speaker is pressuring him not to. And at least one of the Speaker’s GOP allies on the committee, Rep. Stephanie Hilferty of New Orleans, was openly hostile to the bill in the committee hearing. The committee has an 8-5 Republican majority, but it’s not a sure thing the bill can get out.
To which the obvious question arises: what’s the point of having a Republican legislature if it won’t even defend the founding of America against “woke” Marxists?
That’s a question Clay Schexnayder, and lots of other Republicans yet to engage in this existential fight, need to be made to answer. This is serious business, and it’s probably the single most critical litmus test available in America today for who is with us as traditional Americans and who is not.
The word we’re getting from the Capitol is that the Black Caucus told Schexnayder that if Garofalo’s bill went to the House floor they’d bring up a vote of no confidence on him.
And since there are more than enough Republicans who would join them in bouncing Schexnayder out of his chair, he’s kowtowing to them.
If you haven’t followed this whole saga from all the way back in December of 2019 when it began, you’re probably wondering how on earth the Black Caucus would have that kind of power. The answer is that Clay Schexnayder was not elected House Speaker in Louisiana because the Republicans got together and nominated him. In fact, 45 of the 68 Republicans in the chamber backed somebody else, that being Sherman Mack. It was a minority of Republicans, along with all of the Democrats and Independents, who put Schexnayder in that chair.
And this situation is exactly why you never, ever allow something like that to happen.
You now have a Republican legislature in which the real power is held by the Democrat Legislative Black Caucus, who can pull a string and fire the House Speaker any time their feelings get hurt.
Which begs the question why the Republicans, who can run Schexnayder off just as easily, don’t just call the Black Caucus’ bluff and put their own Speaker in.
That question gets larger and larger as this session goes along and the legislative failure mounts.
Garofalo’s supposedly under more pressure to dump his CRT bill now than he was yesterday. Schexnayder has supposedly even hinted that he would lose the chair of the House Education Committee if he didn’t pull it. We’ll see if he stands firm – frankly, if Schexnayder makes that move then Garofalo ought to go to the House GOP delegation and offer himself up as the next prospective Speaker once they get tired of the current RINO safari.
Meanwhile we’ve been told that Rep. Beryl Amedee, whose HB 542 would protect girls’ sports from incursions by biological males, which ought to be a pretty bedrock piece of legislation for conservatives to support, is under similar pressure. That bill is languishing in the House Education Committee waiting for a hearing, and we’re told Schexnayder doesn’t want it moved, either.
Then there’s what happened in the House yesterday…
Riser’s House Bill 293 calls for a “flat” corporate income tax, replacing the current five tax brackets ranging from 4% to 8% for different amounts of income with a single rate. The bill originally proposed a 6% rate; lawmakers amended it Monday to call for a 6.5% rate in hopes of achieving a tax swap that comes closer to bringing in the same amount of revenue.
The tax swap would cost state finances more than $365 million over five years, according to a Fiscal Office estimate based on the 6% rate. The office has not yet created a fiscal note for the 6.5% rate.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports broadening the state’s tax base and lowering the rates, which he tried to do during his first term, but insists the new system should raise as much money as the current structure in order to avoid causing budget shortfalls. Lawmakers also are concerned about running afoul of the terms of the federal American Rescue Plan, which is sending billions to state and local governments but says governments should not use that money to fill revenue holes created by tax cuts.
The federal government has not issued all of the rules governing the ARP.
Some lawmakers said the two bills would cut tax rates for larger corporations but raise tax rates on smaller companies that currently pay at the 6% rate or less, which also would lose their federal tax break in the deal.
“This looks like a fairly significant tax increase to some of our constituents,” said Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.
House members voted 87-12 to send HB 293 to the Senate.
They passed a flat 6.5 percent corporate tax rate after they repealed the corporate tax break for federal income taxes paid. What does that mean? It means that the small businesses in Louisiana who have been absolutely slaughtered over the past year because of John Bel Edwards’ COVID lockdowns will be moving from paying a 4 percent state income tax they could offset with federal income taxes, to a 6.5 percent tax with no set-off.
And why? Because Edwards has said he’s opposed to any tax reform that isn’t “revenue-neutral.”
Bear in mind that corporate taxes are very likely to shoot up thanks to the stupidity of the Biden administration, which means Louisiana probably ought to try to ameliorate the suffering to come of its businesses. Especially when its neighbors are cutting taxes. Here we’re raising them on the folks we need to try to keep afloat (and keep from having them move elsewhere, which we have lots of evidence is a process which is accelerating).
It’s worse than that. Last night the House Ways and Means Committee moved HB 693 by Rep. Paula Davis, which extends Louisiana as having the highest sales tax rates in America through to 2031. This is supposedly a good idea because it pushes some of that money to road construction and maintenance. Of course, Louisiana currently has a $36 billion state budget right now – one wonders why that money can’t be pushed into roads while allowing the people of the state to keep some of our own money.
Since these people want to sell themselves as conservative Republicans, and all.
We warned about this. We warned that sooner or later it was going to be a manifest disaster to elect a Republican House Speaker who owed that Speakership to votes from Democrats wrangled by Bel Edwards, and that disaster is manifest.
Schexnayder and his merry band of incompetents are micturating all over the GOP brand, and if something isn’t done to stop it the voters of this state will conclude there is no benefit whatsoever to put Republicans in charge as opposed to just letting the rotters and moochers of the Democrat Party have their way.
And then many of them will also conclude Louisiana is a lost cause and a waste of time, load up the U-Hauls and get the hell out.
But right now, what is starting to seem obvious after watching this legislative collection flop around in failure ever since the 2019 elections is that Louisiana’s politicians are now every bit the enemies of its people that they’ve ever been.