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House Speaker Clay Schexnayrder, R-Gonzales.

In a turn to the political right, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder named five Republicans Thursday night to chair key committees, including two who are replacing Democrats.

The group includes Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, House Education Committee; Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, House Transportation Committee and Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge to chair the House Insurance Committee.

Also, Rep. Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, will succeed Harris as chairman of the House Retirement Committee and Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, will follow Huval as chairman of the House Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs Committee.

The two Democrats lost their chairmanships in July after they sided with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the state's first veto session, where Schexnayder tried unsuccessfully to enact bills over the governor's objections.

They are former House Transportation Committee Chairman Vincent Pierre, of Lafayette and former House Insurance Committee Chairman Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine.

While both are Democrats, their siding with Edwards on the veto debate angered some Republican legislators, who said they should lose their committee leadership posts.

The speaker hoped the Legislature would override vetoes of a bill  on transgender athletes and another to permit people to carry concealed guns without a permit.

"One of the jobs of the speaker is to assign chairmen that best align with the policies we set forth," Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican, said in a statement.

"The new changes reflect that and I'm excited about the possibilities of the next two years."

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The shakeup trims the list of committees lead by minority Democrats from five to three.

Harris succeeds former House Education Committee Chairman Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, who lost his post in May after his comments about slavery during a committee meeting and the ensuing controversy.

Harris is former GOP majority leader and, like the other four new chairmen, is known as a conservative lawmaker even in a chamber regarded as mostly conservative.

He was a critic of Common Core, the drive to toughen math and English standards, and backed a bill to ban payroll deduction for teacher unions.

Harris is also viewed as sympathetic to critics of critical race theory, the view that racism has played an outsized role in U. S. history that continues today.

He said the issue is likely to be debated in committee during the 2022 regular legislative session, which begins March 14.

Huval's leadership on the House Insurance Committee will put him in the middle of an expected fray over efforts to revamp insurance companies amid complaints over how claims have been handled after Hurricane Ida.

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