Perhaps the Louisiana Association and Business and Industry doesn’t wield the big stick at the Capitol as it did in years past.
And LABI’s undoing this year, so to speak, should remind us of that old phrase, “loose lips sink ships.”
This isn’t the World War II era, though, when the “loose lips” remark was made famous. This is Louisiana. The year is 2015. It’s a big election year, meaning every meaningful office from governor to state representative to state senator and so on will appear on the ballot this fall, or after the Legislature either guts the state budget or raises taxes to make ends meet. A $1.6-billion revenue shortfall is the culprit. The constituents have a lot to lose.
It was just two weeks ago that the House of Representatives tossed caution to the wind, ignoring the state’s largest and most powerful business lobby along the way, and approved some $650 million in new taxes for the Senate to consider forthwith. Forthwith arrived Monday when the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia, green-lighted every revenue-raising measure the House approved on June 7. The full Senate will entertain the bills later this week or next week. Any differences between the legislation that passed the House and the Senate will be hammered out in a conference committee made up of the members of the House and Senate who authored the bills in the first place, or someone else who’s towing the company line.
I think you get the picture.
LABI should get the picture, too, especially Stephen Waguespack, LABI’s president, who may have crossed a line after the House ginned up the hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes to avoid closing some colleges and universities. Or worse.
More specifically, Waguespack’s observation that the House approved the largest tax increase in the history of Louisiana in one day seems to have struck a nerve. Better put, a number of lawmakers didn’t cotton to being called out by LABI’s main man since the Legislature has given LABI just about everything LABI has asked for since the early 1980s. Do the research if you doubt that observation.
We got a whiff of LABI’s rather weakened position in the eyes of lawmakers when the House Judiciary Committee turned a deaf ear last week to three pieces of legislation championed by LABI as must-haves in this year’s session. The three bills dealt with “transparency” as it relates to judges and their courts.
Holding judges to the same standards as every other elected official in Louisiana isn’t necessarily a bad idea and had the bills not surfaced after Waguespack lowered the boom on the House, perhaps the legislation would have encountered a more welcoming audience. That’s neither here nor there.
What’s relevant is LABI’s efforts to shed some light on the courts is dead for this session and possibly for years to come. That’s just the way it is when lawmakers feel as if they’ve been disrespected. Or when someone speaks or Tweets without thinking about what they’re about to say.
This, too, shall pass and Waguespack and LABI have plenty of time to make things right. After all, there’s an election just around the corner, and scores of candidates will be in need of the most important ingredient in any campaign — money. It just so happens LABI has plenty to give.
Hugs and kisses will be exchanged, and all will be forgiven before you know it.
Sam Hanna is a state political writer.