As Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards enters his second term, he’s going to have to work with a Legislature that has more Republicans and more conservatives than he had to deal with during his first four years.
Republicans won a super-majority in the state Senate during the Oct. 12 primary. The GOP added to their number Saturday night by winning a competitive race in southeast Baton Rouge and conservatives replaced a northwest Louisiana senator not considered Republican enough.
Republicans in the 105-member Louisiana House needed to win seven seats to have a two-thirds majority but came up two short of the 70 needed to have their way unfettered after being inaugurated on Jan. 13.
“It’s unprecedented. The Legislature is more conservative, more pro-business than ever before,” said Stephen Waguespack, head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the powerful lobbyist representing the business community. “The final tally shows that you’re going to have Legislature with a lot of fresh faces and a lot of new ideas.”
Eighteen of the 39 state senators are rookies and 46 House members are new.
Republicans have held the majority in both chambers since 2011. The present class of senators had tamped the brakes on the more conservative House-passed legislation. The result was negotiation, often bitter, to pass or kill bills during the past four years.
But with more conservative senators and representatives among the incoming class that dynamic becomes more difficult. Republicans, provided they act together, have enough votes in the Senate and nearly enough in the House to overturn gubernatorial vetoes and to otherwise act on certain budget and tax decisions without regard to Democratic input.
The governor said during his victory speech Saturday night, and all through the campaign, that he wanted to spend more on early childhood education, which will have some Republican support. He wants to take another run at establishing a minimum wage in Louisiana, which the GOP opposes.
Republicans are looking for more tort reform and to roll back state taxes, which the governor has opposed.
Legislative forecast: Look for issues to be decided along party lines.
And after the 2020 census, the Legislature will redraw the districts from which state representatives and senators, as well as congressmen and utility regulators, are elected.
All in all, the numbers indicate a tougher time for Edwards and Democrats, provided that Republican lawmakers act in unison, which is not guaranteed.
“If everybody sticks together, that’s true,” noted House Majority Leader Lance Harris, an Alexandria Republican and one of several candidates for the top House job of speaker. Party unity has not always been a hallmark of a House that is broken into a half dozen various factions depending on the issue.
At the very least, however, “the governor would have to take into account the wishes of the Legislature,” Harris said.
Edwards won by only about 40,000 votes out of 1.5 million cast. Neither side can claim a mandate.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards claimed a second term Saturday, winning a stunning victory in a heavily Republican state and beating back rep…
Waguespack said he hopes that means both sides can sit down on issues like how to change the legal system, tort reform, in hopes that insurance companies will lower the prices of the policies required to drive a car. It was an issue the LABI-backed candidates discussed a lot on the campaign trail. LABI ended the election with 55 endorsed legislative candidates winning and 12 losing.
Louis Reine, president of the state AFL-CIO, says Edwards is open to compromise and is willing to go against union wants in order to win it. Edwards’ victory Saturday is due in large part to organized labor, inner city church congregations and African American politicians working to increase voter turnout. Their positions often don’t align with the business community.
“He’s not one who thinks compromise is a dirty word,” Reine said. “The truth is, we are not Washington and not everybody will tote the party line on every issue and that’s a good thing.”
The GOP won 26 of the state Senate’s 39 seats, for a supermajority, after capturing two seats in the October primary election that had been held by Democrats. Republicans added to that number Saturday night with a win by Franklin Foil in the competitive race to represent southeast Baton Rouge.
Twenty-four House seats were on Saturday’s ballot. Sixteen of those races were between candidates of the same party. Republicans had to win seven seats Saturday night to hit a supermajority. They won the most competitive race in Baton Rouge when Republican Barbara Reich Freiberg outlasted Democrat Belinda Davis.
Gov. John Bel Edwards had to check off three boxes to win re-election Saturday over businessman Eddie Rispone, after narrowly falling short in…
But Democrats prevented a supermajority in the House by winning a northeast Louisiana seat with C. Travis Johnson, and flipping a Plaquemines Parish seat held by Republican Christopher Leopold with Mack Cormier.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee called preventing Republicans from winning a supermajority in the House “a huge victory for Louisiana Democrats.” DLCC President Jessica Post said in a prepared statement: “By protecting Gov. John Bel Edwards’s veto power, Democrats can keep moving Louisiana forward, block extreme Republican policies, and fight for fair maps after the 2020 census.”
Action now shifts to campaigns for leadership in each chamber. The Senate President and House Speaker have the best apartments and the closest parking spaces along with many powers, such as, choosing committee chairmen and setting the agendas for votes in their respective chambers.
Vying to be president of the state Senate include Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Page Cortez, R-Lafayette; Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell; Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles; and Rick Ward, R-Port Allen.
Representatives seeking support from their colleagues to become House Speaker include Reps. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette; Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles; Lance Harris, R-Alexandria; Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette; Sherman Mack, R-Albany; Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro and Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales.