Let’s Get Rid Of The Louisiana Conservative Caucus. Right Now.

If you weren’t paying attention to the Louisiana legislature yesterday, what you missed was a crucial betrayal of conservatives and Republican voters who spent a great deal of time, money and effort to produce the most Republican, and supposedly most conservative, legislature the state had ever seen.

Something like $7 million was spent by conservatives in the 2019 legislative elections. That money produced 68 Republicans out of 105, a number which has grown to 71 due to three party-switchers, in the House, and 27 Republican senators out of 39. Yes, John Bel Edwards is a Democrat and he sits in the governor’s office. But with a majority like that, public policy being made in Louisiana should nevertheless be made on the Right.

And in a few cases that has happened over the last four years. But to truly see the direction a government is moving in, one needs to pay attention to how it spends money.

A couple of years ago, something called the Louisiana Conservative Caucus was formed in the House, with its primary justification being that it wanted to hold the line on taxes and spending. The Conservative Caucus needed 36 members, because that number is enough to stop a tax increase or to hold the line against other budgetary gimmicks. The Conservative Caucus currently claims to have 42 members.

One of those gimmicks being an attempt to break through statutory spending caps the Legislature had established in order to prevent spending orgies and other irresponsibilities.

The chair of the Conservative Caucus is a Republican from Winnfield named Jack McFarland, who appears and presents as a conservative. Except McFarland’s most notable move as a legislator was his effort to increase gas taxes a few years ago on behalf of the construction contractors who build roads, an effort he abandoned when it was clear the public and his colleagues wouldn’t mobilize behind it. McFarland was hoping that getting the road contractors behind him would boost him into the Speaker’s chair after this legislative term; when he saw that they wouldn’t be enough, he dropped them like a hot potato.

So the Conservative Caucus was his new vehicle.

Now we know McFarland wasn’t very convicted about this, either. He abandoned the principles by which the Conservative Caucus was formed yesterday and voted with all but 19 of his colleagues to embrace SCR 3, the measure authorizing the Legislature to break the state’s statutory spending caps and blow some $1.65 billion of surplus money on “projects” in legislators’ districts.

What does that look like? The Pelican Institute picked out a fairly representative sample

  • $125,000 to repair a historic barn (Save the Dairy Barn at Bushlow Lake)
  • $100,000 for an entrepreneur cosmetology program (St. James Parish School Board)
  • $60,000 for a “Dental Lifeline Network”
  • $100,000 for “beautification” for the Oretha Castle Haley Blvd Merchants and Business Association
  • $250,000 for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation
  • $50,000 for “beautification” for the city of Franklin
  • $100,000 for the Southern Forest Heritage Museum maintenance, upgrades, and construction
  • $100,000 for the American Rose Society for general improvements
  • $40,000 to Winnsboro Park for improvements
  • $50,000 for a “grabber truck” for Jonesville
  • $100,000 to the Calcasieu Parish School Board
  • $50,000 for the Central Community Theater
  • $20,000 for summer camp to the CLBC Family Development LLC
  • $25,000 for metal detectors at the Rapides Parish Coliseum
  • $25,000 to cut grass at town of Brusley Highway 1
  • $25,000 to cut grass at town of Port Allen Highway 1
  • $100,000 for the McKinley Alumni Association
  • $1,500,000 for the Louisiana Leadership Institute

So you’ll understand what a complete joke this is, the Louisiana Leadership Institute is a pet project NGO associated with Sen. Cleo Fields. We looked around at the Secretary of State’s website and couldn’t even find a listing for “CLBC Family Development LLC.”

Also in the list of “projects” is $250,000 for new band uniforms for Southern University – which apparently has such a rabid and robust following that its booster club couldn’t raise private funds for those uniforms like every other college athletic department can do.

Perusing the list what we noted was the vast majority of the projects McFarland and the other 20 or so members of the “Conservative Caucus” who broke faith with their pledge voted for seemed an awful lot like giveaways for people who vote exclusively Democrat. Which makes sense, given that the list of legislative hookers-and-blow expenditures originally came from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Division of Administration. So of course this was going to be Edwards larding up a budget built on overtaxation and federal swag to pay off the people who voted for him at the expense of the taxpayers who voted against him.

Edwards did what you could expect him to do. The betrayal wasn’t with him. It was with the “Conservative Caucus” who opted to give him what he wanted and screw over their own voters in doing so.

That surplus money could have been used on tax relief for the state with the most onerous and punitive tax burden in the South. It could have been used to pay off debt and therefore free Louisiana from the obligation of having to pay debt service in future years when everyone paying attention is predicting a “fiscal cliff.”


Instead, it’s being spent to let Democrat politicians buy votes from their voters.

Yes, there’s a road here and a bridge there. Even that is stupid as a justification for breaking those spending caps, because there isn’t enough construction capacity in Louisiana to embark on some massive program of fixing and building roads THIS YEAR.

What’s really at stake is that Edwards, and his pet poodle Page Cortez, who is the president of the Senate and whose political career is over after today as this is his final legislative term, wanted to go out of their way to spend all of the money that the next governor – who will surely be a Republican and will likely be Jeff Landry – would otherwise have to work with.

Cortez has been dumb enough to tell people this. And it’s expected that he will resurface at the Capitol as a lobbyist. One wonders what kind of career that will be when Landry, for example, exacts his revenge by punishing any client who employs Cortez. Wonder if that ever crossed his mind.

But again – this isn’t a secret at the Capitol. Everybody there has known it all along. And yet the “Conservative Caucus” has more than half its members going along with breaking the spending caps and flooding Edwards’ voters with swag?

It’s hard to believe.

There is some good news. There were 19 members of the Louisiana House of Representatives – led by the Louisiana Freedom Caucus, all of whose members stood together – who were clear-eyed and courageous enough to vote against this atrocious resolution. They didn’t win, and in fact they were made fun of – Citizens for a New Louisiana had made up lapel pins and distributed them around the Capitol bearing the number “36” to indicate that if 36 representatives would stand firm, the spending caps would hold and the spending orgy wouldn’t happen, and after the vote a number of legislators, most notably Sen. Patrick McMath, a so-called Republican from Mandeville whose family unloaded a large amount of money to support Edwards’ election, went around with sticky-notes on their lapels bearing the “36” with an “x” through it and a “19” scrawled instead.

But they held to principle. And they’re worthy of credit for that.

The 19 deserve re-election. McMath may have had his fun, but he can’t say that today. Neither can the 90 other members of the House and Senate who call themselves Republicans but couldn’t vote to protect Louisiana’s taxpayers from the rapacious bacchanal the Legislature is sanctioning as this failed session comes to a close this evening.

Here are the 19 legislators who – and who alone among incumbents in the House and Senate – deserve your vote going forward…

  • Beryl Amedee
  • Tony Bacala
  • Raymond Crews
  • Kathy Edmonston
  • Julie Emerson
  • Larry Frieman
  • Ray Garofalo
  • Brett Geymann
  • Johnathan Goudeau
  • Valarie Hodges
  • Dodie Horton
  • Sherman Mack
  • Danny McCormick
  • Blake Miguez
  • Chuck Owen
  • Rodney Schamerhorn
  • Alan Seabaugh
  • Philip Tarver
  • Polly Thomas



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