Opinion – Sam Hanna, Jr. – North Louisiana given short-shrift

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North Louisiana given short-shrift

Those of you who pay close attention to who gets what and who gets shunned when a new legislative leadership hands out committee chairmanships and assignments probably have come to the realization that the next four years promise to be slim pickins’ for north Louisiana.

That much is a certainty in light of whom Speaker of the House Taylor Barras tapped to chair the House Appropriations Committee and the tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee. With Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie to ride herd over Appropriations and Rep. Neil Abramson of New Orleans to head Ways & Means, all four “money” committees in the Legislature will be chaired by lawmakers from south Louisiana. Three of the four chairmen are from Orleans and Jefferson parishes while the fourth is from Evangeline Parish.
Senate President John Alario, whose re-election as President of the Senate was never in doubt, named Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans as chairman of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs while Sen. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte got the nod to chair the Senate Finance Committee.
Abramson, LaFleur and Morrell are Democrats. Henry is the lone Republican of the bunch.
It should not go unnoticed that only one Republican will chair the “money” committees in a Legislature that’s controlled by Republicans. I suppose to the majority goes the spoils means nothing when the new governor is a Democrat.
It’s crystal clear in this corner that Barras gave Henry the Appropriations Committee chair as some sort of a consolation prize since Henry’s bid for House Speaker fell short. After all, Henry is considered a leader among conservatives in the House, though he’s not very popular or well liked. Abramson obviously was rewarded for getting into the Speaker’s race, peeling just enough votes off Gov. John Bel Edwards’ choice for Speaker, Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans, to set up a run-off between Leger and Barras. No doubt, Barras was an alternative candidate for Speaker among Republicans from the get-go.
That’s all a bit much to digest, but it’s an accurate snapshot of what went down to derail Edwards’ plans to control the House of Representatives. It’s also a good take on how the two most important committee chairmanships in the House came about, assuming Henry and Abramson made a deal in order to get Abramson in the Speaker’s race.
Two lawmakers from northeast Louisiana who have every right to have a good case of the reds are Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia and Rep. Jay Morris of Monroe, both Republicans.
Riser lost the chairmanship of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs. Instead, he got the chair at the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. No disrespect to Labor and Industrial Relations, or Riser, but it’s not Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, which, like the House Ways & Means Committee, molds the all-important Capital Outlay budget.
In other words, all you chamber of commerce types who like to peddle that pro-business message while chasing government money to finance infrastructure projects and God knows what else had better get busy getting to know Abramson and Morrell. And don’t get your panties in a wad if you look up and notice that a lion’s share of the capital outlay dollars are directed to Orleans Parish since the two chairmen — Abramson and Morrell — are from New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Morris, who’s not known to hold a grudge, shouldn’t be faulted if he evolves into something of a maverick over the next four years, or more so than he already is. Morris had his eyes set on chairing Ways & Means and was led to believe he had a good shot at getting it. Along the way someone forgot to tell Morris he would never get it because something was afoot among Abramson, Barras and Henry.
There’s a lesson in all of this for Morris to remember: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

More thoughts from SAH

Here’s some food for thought on the heels of the Iowa caucuses: Some 61 percent of the Republicans caucused for racially minority candidates — two Cuban-Americans and an African-American. On the other hand, some 99.4 percent of the Democrats caucused for two white people who are over 65 years of age.
Now which party is the party of diversity?

Sam Hanna is a state political writer.