Who Created The Conservative Legislative Caucus? Wrong Way Clay!

It’s a very weird week at the Louisiana Legislature right now. Lots of things are happening, not very many of them good.

This morning, for example, the House Education Committee was scheduled to meet. Interestingly enough, Speaker Clay Schexnayder had been claiming for the past several days that no, he hadn’t actually deposed that committee’s chairman Ray Garofalo from his seat.

So Garofalo decided to put that to a test. He showed up and sat down in the chairman’s seat and prepared to run the meeting. But something interesting happened.

Which was that Garofalo and some of the members of the committee sat around for nearly an hour waiting for a quorum, and no such phenomenon was in evidence. Finally, they gave up.

It turned out that Schexnayder sent the vice chair of the committee, Mark Wright, to catch the members outside of the meeting room and redirect them to the Speaker’s office upstairs because he wanted to talk with them. And most of the committee never made it back down to the meeting before Garofalo gave up.

So Schexnayder won’t go public and state that Garofalo is out as House Education chair, but he also won’t allow Garofalo to run the committee. He’s going to drag Garofalo through an entire legislative session with these stupid games until Garofalo finally quits in frustration, and then it won’t be Schexnayder’s doing.

It gets worse. Schexnayder then called the parish president and sheriff in St. Bernard Parish and told them it’s Garofalo’s fault they aren’t going to get a planned $1.2 million expansion and upgrade to the parish prison there. Today happens to be St. Bernard Day at the Louisiana legislature, and he goes and pulls that stunt.

It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. It’s been obvious all session. Schexnayder has been sabotaging conservative legislators and legislation while attempting to mask what he’s doing. And he’s been alienating a whole bunch of the House membership in the bargain.

So yesterday afternoon, this happened…

Conservatives in the Louisiana House of Representatives have unified to form the Louisiana Conservative Caucus. The caucus will focus on supporting the Speaker and the Republican Delegation to steer the legislature in a direction that more closely reflects the fiscally conservative values of Louisiana’s people. The Conservative Caucus is organized to promote Louisiana’s economic prosperity through the conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, protecting the unborn, and ensuring the protection of 2nd Amendment rights.

If needed, the Caucus will be able to withhold their votes to prevent a 70 vote majority that is required to pass many fiscal bills in the House. With 39 founding members, the “invite-only” Conservative Caucus is already positioned to be a dominating force in Louisiana politics.

“With 39 founding members, we can control every tax, budget, and constitutional amendment that the Caucus takes a position on,” said Representative Jack McFarland (R- Winnfield), the newly elected chairman of the Conservative Caucus. He continued, “With that level of influence, we’re going to strengthen our Republican Delegation and ensure that our Republican Speaker knows that he can count on us to advance a conservative agenda.”

Representative Alan Seabaugh (R- Shreveport), a board member of the Conservative Caucus, added, “This group of mostly freshmen legislators will be the dominating force in state politics for the next decade. However, they’re also going to be forced to deal with the shortcomings and broken promises of their predecessors. Collectively, our biggest focus is on responsibly right-sizing our budget. We’ve made no progress in preparing for the ‘temporary’ 0.45% sales tax increase to expire in 2025. Instead, if this year’s budget passes, in just the last two budgets we’ll have increased recurring state spending by almost $600 million.”

Just last week, the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) recognized another $357 million for legislators to spend by July 1 and $320 million for them to spend after July 1. Despite the increase in allowed spending for this fiscal year and next, the state is still forecasting deficits of between a half a billion and a billion dollars in the coming years.

“The abundance of federal money and the increased money from the REC gives us the opportunity to start responsibly fixing our budget. The formation of the Conservative Caucus couldn’t have come at a better time as we now have the ability to enforce fiscal constraints on our state’s spending while ensuring that we’re still taking care of our citizens’ needs,” said @Representative Larry Frieman (R- Abita Springs), a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Caucus.

The Conservative Caucus has extended an invitation to Republican Delegation Leader Blake Miguez (R- Erath) who was recovering from an emergency surgery during its formation.

The Conservative Caucus can be found at https://www.facebook.com/LAConservativeCaucus

Below is a complete list of the 39 founding members of the Louisiana Conservative Caucus:

      • Jack McFarland (R – Winnfield) – Chairman

      • Ray Garofalo (R – Chalmette) – 3rd Term Vice Chairman

      • Beryl Amedee (R – Houma) – 2nd Term Vice Chairman

      • Larry Frieman (R – Abita Springs) – 1st Term Vice Chairman

      • Rhonda Butler (R – Turkey Creek) – Secretary

      • Debbie Villio (R – Kenner) – Treasurer

      • Raymond Crews (R – Bossier City) – At Large Board Member

      • Polly Thomas (R – Metairie) – At Large Board Member

      • Gabe Firment (R – Pollock) – At Large Board Member

      • Alan Seabaugh (R – Shreveport) – Board Member

      • Tony Bacala (R – Prairieville)

      • Daryl Deshotel (R – Marksville)

      • Phillip DeVillier (R – Eunice)

      • Michael Echols (R – Monroe)

      • Rick Edmonds (R – Baton Rouge)

      • Kathy Edmonston (R – Gonzales)

      • Julie Emerson (R – Carencro)

      • Bryan Fontenot (R – Thibodaux)

      • Foy Gadberry (R – West Monroe)

      • Jonathan Goudeau (R – Lafayette)

      • Valarie Hodges (R – Denham Springs)

      • Paul Hollis (R – Covington)

      • Dodie Horton (R – Haughton)

      • John Illg (R – River Ridge)

      • Mike Johnson (R – Pineville)

      • Sherman Mack (R – Albany)

      • Danny McCormick (R – Oil City)

      • Nicholas Muscarello (R – Hammond)

      • Richard Nelson (R – Mandeville)

      • Joseph Orgeron (R – Larose)

      • Bob Owen (R – Slidell)

      • Chuck Owen (R – Rosepine)

      • Thomas Pressly (R – Shreveport)

      • Troy Romero (R – Jennings)

      • Rodney Schamerhorn (R – Hornbeck)

      • Laurie Schlegel (R – Jefferson)

      • Phillip Tarver (R – Lake Charles)

      • Bill Wheat (R – Ponchatoula)

      • Mark Wright (R – Covington)

A few things are worth pointing out here.

First, how effective the conservative caucus will be is going to depend on how closely it holds together. All the usual stalwarts like Seabaugh, Edmonds, McCormick, Amedee and Chuck Owen are in there, but there are a few others who were a little surprising. In the event the Conservative Caucus starts trying to make big moves, like, as Jeff Sadow suggests, making a move on Schexnayder and Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee, can they get all 39 on board?

If so, they need 14 more people. Can those be found without having to do a deal with any Democrats?

And who’s the leader the Conservative Caucus would put forth to replace Schexnayder? This group is made up of a lot of the folks who voted for Sherman Mack, so perhaps he would be the candidate.

Can Mack get to 53 votes now? That’s debatable. McFarland, most people think, could cobble together 53. People at the Capitol will tell you McFarland is most likely the House Speaker in January of 2024 when the job is next scheduled to be voted on. But he’s a second-term representative and it’s almost always a third-termer who’s the Speaker. Will the third-termers vote for him? Also debatable.

Second, you’ll notice that the initial list of caucus members doesn’t include Blake Miguez, who chairs the House Republican Delegation. But as soon as the caucus announced its formation, it made a point to invite him to join. Miguez spent most of last week recuperating from a gall bladder operation, but last night he put out this statement…

Like everyone else, I recently learned about the Louisiana Conservative Caucus. I’m encouraged and emboldened by their formation! This group of outstanding Republicans have always supported the Republican Delegation in their individual capacities, and they’ll only make us stronger in our efforts to pass conservative policies.

It is my understanding that the Conservative Caucus is an invite-only group to help it maintain its strength and conservative mission. I’m looking forward to accepting their invitation and being an active member to advance fiscal responsibility, protect the unborn, and enhance the People’s 2nd Amendment rights.

So add Miguez to that group.

Schexnayder and Miguez have been in a bit of a stalemate since last year. Schexnayder’s allies have done everything they could do deny a quorum at the delegation’s meetings, which means the delegation can’t take official positions on all of the issues surrounding the composition and ideological bearings of his speakership. That means the delegation can’t hurt Schexnayder, necessarily, but they can’t help him, either.

He should have worked with Miguez to bring the delegation aboard, but to do that meant tossing aside the Legislative Black Caucus allies he made.

But 40 is a larger number than 28. And now, this conservative caucus – assuming it holds together – is in a position to start negotiating with the Black Caucus on its own.

None of this was necessary, you understand. Clay Schexnayder has a voting record which is better than a good number of the people in this caucus. All he had to do was embrace them after he was elected. Instead, he’s lied to them, he’s treated them like second-class citizens, he’s sided with Democrats against them and he’s sabotaged them.

And they’ve had it.

We don’t know what the moves will be. What we do know is Clay Schexnayder’s life just got a lot more complicated. And he’s only got himself to blame for that.

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