When House Speaker Clay Schexnayder in 2012 assumed the fabled House District 81 seat – once held by David Duke and David Vitter – his first successful bill changed the law setting permit fees and punishments for fireworks salesmen.
Over the next eight years, he became the scourge of boards and commissions: either rolling the functions into an existing agency, as what happened to the Louisiana Bio-Fuel Panel, or flat out eliminating a couple dozen of them, like the Mullet Task Force.
The Gonzales Republican, a mechanic and former racecar driver, failed to lift the safety helmet requirement for motorcycle riders over the age of 21. But Schexnayder created an industrial hemp industry by changing the laws that forbid the growing and production because of hemp’s association with a less sober cousin, marijuana.
And like all legislators, Schexnayder drafted and passed dozens of resolutions commending this or that constituency, such as Lutcher High’s powerlifting girls who received three over his eight years in office.
A handful of farmers last week responded with thanks, coming to the State Capitol and presenting Schexnayder a framed version of a resolution he got passed in 2016 naming St. James Parish as the Perique Tobacco Capital of the World. Granted, there’s little competition for the title as the “truffles of tobacco” is grown on about 17 farms near Paulina in small triangle of loamy topsoil built up by thousands of years of Mississippi River flooding .
The memoirs of French explorers in the 1600s noted the suitability of the soil for tobacco and had found some Native Americans growing it. But it wasn’t until Pierre Chenet, whose nickname was “Perique,” introduced a rare leaf, which required a special pressure fermentation, before the “industry” to take off.
Schexnayder, who avoids talking to reporters, have nothing to say about the visit.