Given a perfect opportunity to exercise some independence from the Governor?s Office, the state House of Representatives utterly caved to pressure.
The issue was perfect: renewal of a 4-cents-per-pack levy on cigarettes. Not a new tax, but a renewal. Making Louisiana the only state to reduce cigarette taxes is an irrational position, given our rates of teen smoking and high cancer rates.
The House?s political position was unassailable: Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, backed the override of the governor?s veto of the renewal. Good-government groups applauded the House and Senate for showing independence by backing the renewal.
The votes were there: A two-thirds majority had voted for the renewal bill authored by Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa. Of the 70 votes for the bill in the House, only 58 members stuck to their position once the governor spanked them rhetorically with his veto. The same 70 votes were required for the override, but too many members lacked the courage of their convictions.
At the end of the day, what matters in the State Capitol is the power of the governor. He is considered a shoo-in for re-election and has a reputation for getting back at members who cross him. Friday?s vote was a demonstration of his sway, even under the best possible circumstances for an override attempt.
Members who switched set a new low in subservience. They abased themselves before Jindal despite the manifest unreasonableness of his position on the merits of the issue. They showed themselves to be more concerned with the governor?s power than with the state?s interest.