When they're not voting on anything that would bail the state out of its fiscal mess — and that's been most of the time during this special session called specifically to do just that — Louisiana lawmakers have been voicing their frustration in colorful ways.
State Rep. Barry Ivey of Baton Rouge said his fellow Republicans just don't want to give the Democratic governor a win that will help his reelection bid. State Rep. Rob Shadoin of Ruston, like Ivey a Republican who's willing to compromise with Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration, noted that "as soon as some of us try to start building bridges, the arsonists show up and start burning them."
All fair, and all perfectly understandable, but one comment in particular really put things in perspective.
There's still a week to go before Louisiana lawmakers must adjourn the special session called to address the rapidly approaching fiscal cliff,…
The Louisiana Legislature's latest special session has teetered between sluggish, combative and deadlock since it started Feb. 19.
"We're acting like the bunch of nuts we've got in Washington right now," said state Rep. James Armes, a Democrat from Leesville.
The extent to which Baton Rouge is becoming like Washington has been a hot topic in the two years since Edwards took office and the House's Republican majority refused to go along with his choice for speaker, essentially declaring itself the loyal opposition.
The central question is whether, and how much, DC-style partisanship is taking hold. But as Armes suggested, there's another, related way the Louisiana Legislature can emulate Congress, and that's in an outright inability to perform basic governing tasks. In this case, that task is deciding what government should provide and then paying for it.
There's still time in the special session for a breakthrough, and despite the obvious ill will there are also plenty of incentives. If lawmakers finally agree to a plan, they'll be able to actually pass a budget in the upcoming regular session and avoid another special session just as $1 billion in temporary taxes are slated to fall off the books.
And they'll be able to go home to their constituents having demonstrated that they're still at least a little more functional than their peers on the Potomac.