From now on we’re going to refer to Louisiana Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder as Wrong Way Clay, because it’s very clear that Schexnayder is not capable of competent leadership or negotiation, adherence to stated principle or even basic loyalty.
You might have heard the latest in the cavalcade of idiocy involving Wrong Way Clay. If you haven’t, here it is…
Rep. Ray Garofalo said late Monday night he has been removed as chairman of the House Education Committee.
Garofalo has been embroiled in controversy for nearly three weeks after a hearing on one of his bills mushroomed into one of the biggest controversies of the 2021 regular legislative session.
The measure, House Bill 564, was touted as a way to stop college professors from teaching “divisive concepts,” including the idea that Louisiana and the United States are racist or that students should feel guilty about their race.
We covered this pretty extensively, and we’ve also mentioned that states all over the South and elsewhere, pretty much everywhere Republicans are in charge of the state legislature, are passing bills a whole lot like HB 564. Tennessee did so a few days ago in the face of a circus put on by its Black Caucus that was every bit as loud and dramatic as the James Gang, which is what we’re going to call Louisiana’s Black Caucus from now on, put forth against Garofalo.
The difference? In Tennessee, the Republican leadership isn’t beholden to Democrats and therefore conducts itself in a manner one would expect from Republicans.
But you don’t get that from Wrong Way Clay.
Let’s do a quick review to get everybody on the same page here.
Louisiana’s voters, who for some reason couldn’t see their way clear to electing Eddie Rispone instead of four more miserable years of John Bel Edwards in the governor’s mansion, sought to simultaneously ameliorate their error at the top of the ballot by electing a House of Representatives with 68 Republicans, two independents and 35 Democrats in it. The voters also elected 27 Republican state senators out of 39.
The voters might have re-elected Edwards by a small margin, but they spoke very loudly about what kind of legislature they wanted. A supermajority in the Senate and just shy of one in the House tells you they wanted conservative governance in that legislature.
So the House GOP delegation met, and it was thought they agreed they’d choose the Speaker in their room. Like it’s done in Congress, and like it’s done in every other legislature in the country. Republicans pick the Republican Speaker in a Republican-dominated House.
Except 22 of them decided that wasn’t good enough for them, and Sherman Mack’s 45 votes in the delegation weren’t enough. Schexnayder and his 22 acolytes did a deal with Edwards and the Democrats in the House to make him Speaker.
This was the worst possible outcome, and not just because Schexnayder, who didn’t go to college (that doesn’t disqualify him where we’re concerned) and reportedly didn’t even finish high school (but that absolutely does) and who apparently has no source of income other than his legislative salary because the tire store he owned flooded in 2016 and hasn’t reopened (which leads to a very precarious ethical position; a dirt-broke politician with the kind of power the Speaker of the Louisiana House has is the very epitome of bribable). It’s the worst possible outcome because you have a Republican Speaker who’s been elected by Democrat votes, who most of the Republican delegation sees as a usurper and he knows it.
There is a deficit of trust between Wrong Way Clay and his own party. And because he’s a Republican there will naturally be a deficit of trust between Wrong Way Clay and the Democrats.
He doesn’t trust them, and they don’t trust him. Nobody does, other than those 22 Republicans who supported him.
Actually, make that 21, because Ray Garofalo was one of them. And Schexnayder has treated Ray Garofalo worse than we have ever seen a speaker treat a legislator.
Garofalo got in trouble, supposedly, because he said he thinks schools ought to teach “the good, the bad and the ugly” about history. And he applied that to slavery. A woke RINO representative from New Orleans, Stephanie Hilferty, whose voting record this session ought to have her censured by the LAGOP (she really ought to be excommunicated, but they haven’t taken that step and don’t really have the power to do it), challenged him by saying “but there was nothing good about slavery” and acted like it was the most offensive thing she’d ever heard.
That gave the Black Caucus ammunition to act as though they were aggrieved, but it was all bullshit. They didn’t like Garofalo’s bill regardless of what he said at the Education Committee hearing when it was debated, and they were going to run a power play on Schexnayder no matter what, because that is how they operate. They do it every single session.
And what happens on Wednesday is Schexnayder’s mostly-worthless “revenue-neutral” tax reform package, or the bulk of it, hits the House floor. He has to have votes from the Black Caucus or he can’t pass it, because tax bills require a two-thirds vote.
So the James Gang has Schexnayder over a barrel two ways. They threatened to pull their support from his speakership with a vote of no confidence if Garofalo didn’t pull his Critical Race Theory bill, and because Schexnayder has never bothered to make things right with the conservatives in the House that threat remains credible in a way it never would have been were Schexnayder to have solidified himself as a Republican Speaker.
And now they have him over a barrel because he’s trying to pass a lousy tax reform plan which is highly likely to do economic damage to the state.
Part of that is a mediocre attempt at unified sales tax collection which wouldn’t become law until it passed in a referendum this fall; that will actually likely help companies in the state who do business in multiple jurisdictions and have to endure a maddening amount of tax bureaucracy. The rest? Essentially, the legislature is picking winners and losers in the economy and not doing all that good a job of it.
As a general example, Louisiana has built a whole bunch of tax breaks and giveaways as a workaround to its atrociously uncompetitive tax code in order to keep people like ExxonMobil from giving the state the brushoff. But by flattening the corporate tax rate and pulling tax breaks without actually cutting taxes, you’re actually raising taxes on companies like ExxonMobil which has already sent signals that they’re going to invest more in their Texas operations.
And to do suspect crap like that he’s putting himself in a position to be begging the James Gang, and throwing Garofalo under the bus.
It gets even more bizarre, because this morning Wrong Way Clay was putting out the word that he didn’t actually fire Garofalo yesterday. Apparently he’s trying to sell this as Garofalo resigning. Which absolutely nobody will believe.
And if the Garofalo fiasco isn’t stupid enough, there’s this…
Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez have formed another entity to accept donations from those willing to cut checks. While the duo already have Leading Louisiana, which was formed to support their policy efforts, they are also now attached to a new group called the Louisiana Historical Capitol Foundation. The group not only has Schexnayder and Cortez attached as officers, but also Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee and President Pro Tem Beth Mizell. The registered agent, according to an April 21 filing with the secretary of state, is Jason Decuir of Advantous Consulting. A golf tournament benefiting the foundation is scheduled for May 24, with sponsorship opportunities ranging from $500 to $5,000. The cost to participate is $2,000 per team. Even though $15 million has already been budgeted for technology upgrades and lawmakers are sitting on their own unspent surplus, the foundation was formed to underwrite remodeling efforts at the Capitol. According to those involved with the foundation, there will be a special focus on getting the old souvenir shop near the top of the Capitol back up and running.
Does anybody really feel comfortable that the dirt-broke Speaker of the House is building all these non-profit organizations that people can write checks to? Doesn’t it look obvious that he’s setting up outlets for bribe-taking? Whether that’s what he’s doing or not, it looks crooked.
Or at least shady.
But that’s all Wrong Way Clay seems capable of right now. He never should have been Speaker.