Republican Legislators Are Second-Class Citizens In A Body They Control

Or at least, in a body they nominally control. There are 68 Republicans out of 105 members of the Louisiana House of Representatives, the leadership team which runs the House is almost uniformly Republican, Republicans control 10 of the 16 House committees with both chairmen and majorities in those committees and have majorities in each of the six chaired by Democrats.

And yet it’s very clear Republicans – or at least conservatives, which practically every Republican in the House ran as – are treated like garbage.

Consider the fate of Ray Garofalo, who was one of 22 Republican House members bucking the majority of his delegation and voting for Clay Schexnayder as the House Speaker back in January 2020. Garofalo, who had been a committee chairman prior to the current legislative term, was named the chair of the House Education Committee for this one.

But in the recently-completed legislative session, Garofalo made the mistake of authoring a bill doing something Republican legislatures all over America are doing; namely, limiting the teaching of the Marxist Critical Race Theory in Louisiana’s public schools.

Schexnayder initially told Garofalo he was in support of his bill. Then, the Legislative Black Caucus yanked the Speaker’s chain and told him they wouldn’t support a tax reform package he favored if Garofalo’s bill reached the House floor. Schexnayder told Garofalo to trash the bill. Garofalo refused, and the bill’s hearing in the Education Committee turned into an ambush. One of Schexnayder’s key allies, Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, attacked Garofalo over the bill and essentially accused him of racism. Garofalo, under pressure, made what could be interpreted as a slip of the tongue when he said the “good, bad and ugly” of history should be taught in schools, and that included slavery.

Then Hilferty scolded Garofalo by denying there was any good in slavery (a statement which was patently false, as slavery was just fine for the slaveowners; otherwise it would never have existed), and a typical stupid controversy was born.

The Legislative Black Caucus called for Garofalo’s head for having “promoted” slavery, and Schexnayder proceeded to humiliate Garofalo by imprisoning him in an anteroom while Education Committee meetings were going on and only letting him out to vote on bills. And when Garofalo, after three weeks of that treatment, resisted and demanded to either be removed as chair or allowed to do his job, Schexnayder fired him – and did everything he could to sell the lie that it was Garofalo who was resigning.

Meanwhile, Hilferty had gone on CNN to trash Garofalo as a racist, and Schexnayder’s No. 2 man, Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee, had personally attacked Garofalo for “playing the martyr.” Neither were reprimanded for trashing a fellow Republican in the media.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, like Garofalo, brought bills which sought to promote patriotic education rather than leftist indoctrination in Louisiana’s public schools. She had a bill which would have directed the state’s board of elementary and secondary education to teach children about World War II and the Holocaust, but when that bill got to the floor an attempt was made by members of the Black Caucus to hijack the bill and fill it with requirements that it teach black history. Those proposed amendments were objected to as not germane; Schexnayder ruled that they were in a clear case of catering to the Democrats rather than members of his own party in a pure judgement call.

Hodges had another bill requiring patriotic civics be taught in Louisiana. The bill passed the House with 70 votes, and passed in the Senate on a 38-0 vote with amendments. It’s very similar to a bill in Florida which passed unanimously in both houses there. Schexnayder wouldn’t bring it up for a vote on the conference report and it died on the final day of the session despite passing with big veto-proof majorities in both houses.

And then there’s what happened to Alan Seabaugh on the second-to-last day of the session.

Seabaugh was attacked on the House floor by a Democrat legislator, Rep. Malinda White of Bogalusa, over objections he had to a domestic violence bill White was bringing. She grabbed his arm while screaming at him, and then loudly threatened to get her gun and come back to “finish this.” In doing so White committed at least three misdemeanors – simple assault, simple battery and threatening a public official.

Schexnayder’s response to having a member of not just his legislative house but his own delegation physically threatened with homicide was to tell White she had to park her bill. She did, on the session’s final day, after apologizing to the House – but not to Seabaugh – for having been “triggered.”

The chairs of both the House Republican delegation and the Conservative Caucus approached Schexnayder with demands for more consequences. He said no. And Seabaugh, left with no other recourse, has said he’ll file charges against White with the State Police.

A Shreveport lawmaker has asked Louisiana State Police to investigate whether a colleague’s threat of gun violence against him on the House floor warrants criminal charges.

Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh told The Advocate on Friday that he filed the complaint with law enforcement shortly after the Wednesday altercation with Rep. Malinda White, a Bogalusa Democrat.

Seabaugh claims White violently grabbed him by the arm and, as she was dragged off the floor by a colleague, shouted that she would “finish” their disagreement by getting her gun. The pair of lawmakers were involved in a heated conversation over language in domestic abuse legislation sponsored by White, which didn’t gain final passage.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed that law enforcement was investigating the encounter. The State Police is collecting statements from lawmakers.

Seabaugh said White is “clearly guilty” of simple battery and should also be charged for threatening a public official.

“I think if a male Republican had done what she did, they would’ve been charged already,” he said.

White declined to comment about the investigation.

After the exchange with Seabaugh, she told reporters that as a survivor of domestic abuse, she was set-off by Seabaugh’s suggestion that she didn’t understand her legislation. She later publicly apologized to colleagues on the House floor.

Rep. Ted James, a Baton Rouge Democrat, lawyer and head of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he will represent White if prosecutors press charges.

Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder issued a statement to The Advocate saying he couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but added “the Legislature will cooperate with law enforcement in any way they request.” He said his office will decide appropriate disciplinary action for White after the investigation is complete.

That James publicly came out in White’s defense and claimed he’d represent her – she’d be charged with misdemeanors for which she would plead guilty and receive no jail time; as such legal representation is hardly necessary – was a naked slap at Seabaugh and a show of privilege. It was a recognition that Republicans, and particularly Republicans who didn’t vote for Schexnayder as Speaker or have crossed him by attempting to govern as Republicans, are given no status in the house Schexnayder controls.

We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re absolutely shocked that it’s allowed to continue.

Later this year the legislature will meet again, this time for a redistricting session. If Republicans continue to be treated as second-class citizens it could affect the composition of the House and Senate, and some of them might even be in a position to lose re-election in 2023 based on the new district maps.

It’s time for the conservatives in the House to put their feet down and refuse to be treated this way. The people of Louisiana are already paying for this game with bad public policy. That’s only going to get worse.

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