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Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, shown here earlier this year, is chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.  

The chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus said Monday House Speaker Clay Schexnayder is the right person for the job but also said he is "utterly disappointed" in Schexnayder for stripping two Democrats of their committee chairmanships after the failed veto override session.

"Clay's decision to remove two Democrats and two others was the wrong move," said state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge and leader of the Black caucus.

"Clay Schexnayder is the right person to be speaker," James said. "I am utterly disappointed in him now."

Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican, won the speakership with the support of the Democratic minority in the House along with a bloc of Republican members. But the more conservative Republican membership backed another candidate.

After the recent veto override session ended without forcing a single bill into law over the objections of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, several Republican representatives, the state parties, and grassroots groups that promote GOP agenda all called for Schexnayder to punish Democratic members.

Schexnayder removed House Insurance Committee Chairman Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, and House Transportation Committee Chairman Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, from their posts after both sided with Edwards in sustaining the governor's veto of a transgender bill.

The speaker also took away Rep. C. Travis Johnson's seat on the House Transportation Committee and Rep. Roy Daryl Adams was removed from the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Johnson is a Ferriday Democrat and Adams has no party affiliation and is from Jackson.

The action means Democratic members, the minority in the House, now chair three of 16 House panels instead of five.

Schexnayder, who called for the state's first veto override session, was elected speaker with the support of Democrats and some Republicans.

He said earlier that just before the veto override attempt on the transgender bill he was convinced he had the 70 votes needed to do so but that "three or four" lawmakers went back on their verbal commitments.

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The speaker did not identify those he blamed.

Adams has since said he lied when he committed to backing the override.

James said that, despite the controversy, the coalition that backed Schexnayder's bid for speaker remains intact.

"While the relationship is frayed I don't think it is as the point it is going to be totally disbanded but we do have some making up to do," he said.

"I think we have a lot of tough conversations ahead," James said.

The bill would have barred transgender athletes who were born male from competing in girl's and women's sports.

The override, which won approval in the Senate, got 68 votes in the House – two short of the needed two-thirds – while 30 lawmakers voted to sustain the veto.

James said not a single Schexnayder priority won final approval without the support of some Democrats, including a measure passed just before the 2021 regular session ended that will gradually boost state aid for roads and bridges by about $300 million per year.

He said a key reason for the veto override session was for GOP leaders to see if they could muster the two-thirds majorities needed if they try to override a potential Edwards veto of a legislative redistricting plan when maps are drawn next year.

"This was about maps for the next 10 or 15 years," James said.          

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.