Much to-do has been made of the dozen or so Republicans in the Louisiana House who voted with Democrats last week to pass a budget for the new fiscal year that met Gov. John Bel Edwards’ demands.
It would be inaccurate to suggest those dozen or so Republicans violated some sort of a blood oath in GOP ranks by siding with members from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. It had become clear the more conservative House leadership, championed by Reps. Cameron Henry and Lance Harris as well as House Speaker Taylor Barras, didn’t have the votes to move a budget that mirrored their wishes. So an opportunity arose for Democrats to pass a budget in tune with the governor’s thinking, and it just so happened some moderate Republicans were waiting in the wings to be pulled along. Or plucked off.
As former Congressman Billy Tauzin pointed out recently in a commentary on social media, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans are hard to come by these days. Redistricting got rid of them, for the most part, and left us with representation from the far reaches of each party. That’s especially true in the U.S. House, but somehow enough moderate Republicans still exist in the Louisiana House for a Democratic governor, such as Edwards, to move legislation once in a blue moon that somewhat comports with his train of thought.
That the Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement on the budget and forced a special session to produce a spending plan for the state to follow in the fiscal year that begins July 1 showed us the ways of governing in Washington, D.C. had finally arrived at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. At least that was the case when the regular session came to a close void of an approved budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. But not all is Washingtonesque in Red Stick where moderate Republicans recognized an opportunity in the special session to make themselves relevant again.
Midway through the regular session, even casual observers of Louisiana politics would have been correct if they had opined the governor didn’t appear to have any influence over the legislative process, which is entirely out of the ordinary because in Louisiana our state Constitution dictates that governors are rulers of the roost. The Legislature, it seems, functions to rubber-stamp what a governor wants.
Clearly, Edwards regained some of his mojo in the special session, and thanks in part to a friendly Senate, secured a budget that at least somewhat pleased him. He shouldn’t forget the chain of events that unfolded last week because they may never happen again.
Next year when the Legislature grapples with the so-called fiscal cliff, Edwards will need every single one of those moderate Republicans to get anything out of the House that remotely reflects his administration’s philosophy, which starts and ends with raising taxes to fuel the growth of government. Then again, moderate Republicans may find themselves in a position to demand concessions from the progressive Left and the hard-core Right. The governor, too.
After all, Louisiana can’t tax or cut its way out of a $1.4-billion hole. Perhaps moderate Republicans know it.
Wonder if anyone else realizes it?
Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org