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Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, left, and Speaker of the House Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, right, chat while the House is in recess after rejecting the Senate amendments to send HB1, the budget bill, to conference committee on the final day of the Special Legislative Session June 4, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

It is a drearily familiar scene.

The state's capitol is in chaos. The division between the parties is so deep that it appears never to be bridged. Long-term debts pile up, short-term taxes and fee hikes are cobbled together without a coherent budget.

State institutions like universities, once focuses of civic pride, are harmed by erratic and uncertain funding.

Wall Street notices, and junk-bond status for borrowing is in prospect.

The governor is of the minority party and those on the other political side attack him ferociously, transparently counting the days until a Democrat can reverse the unfortunate results of the last election.

Yes, a Democrat, in Illinois.

Our friends up the river are the nation's poster children for bad governance and political division. They have an old history of political corruption and voting shenanigans, too.

Louisiana is looking more like the land of Lincoln, every day, just with the parties reversed.

The collapse of the sixth special session under Gov. John Bel Edwards still ought to shock a public into action, particularly the business community which is profoundly ill-served by the kind of erratic funding for state universities, one of the engines of future prosperity.

"This outcome is beyond disappointing," said UL college system President Jim Henderson. "Tonight our state defaulted on the promise of TOPS earned by tens of thousands of students. Additionally, our higher education enterprise — already ranked last in the nation in per-student funding — will receive an approximate $96 million cut."

Louisiana still has a budget in force until June 30 and the seventh special session coming before July 1 could pass a tax bill to replace the hundreds of millions going off the books then.

Ironically, legislators levied those taxes to fill the cratering budget left by a Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, whose name is never invoked by his former lackeys among GOP members of House and Senate. His crisis lives on because of an ideological minority that has control of the levers of power in the House. Jindal's pragmatism in legislative battles is missed now; he worked with the Senate to fashion compromises that could be concurred in, sometimes grudgingly, in the House.

But in today's battles, like those in Illinois, it is the party hostility to the governor that is the difference. The House leaders are acting without scruple when it comes to scuttling Edwards-backed compromises.

Another irony is that while the governor is of another party, the majority of all legislators in the House voted for his favored plan, a Senate-spawned compromise version, in a bill by Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans. It passed the Senate 36-2. In the House, Leger's bill got 63 of 104 votes on the first try but a second was blocked in the last minutes of the special.

With 70 votes required for any tax increase, even one that replaces expiring revenues, a minority holds all the cards; Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, is completely beholden to puppetmasters of the hard-right of his party.

They are fiercely anti-Edwards partisans like Lance Harris of Alexandria, the GOP caucus chairman, and Cameron Henry of Metairie, aided by a New Orleans Democrat, Neil Abramson. The key "money" committees of Ways and Means (Abramson) and Appropriations (Henry) were stacked by Barras with followers of the leadership.

Abramson's role is not the only party curiosity, but particularly so as he is close to the new mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell. The city's interests, like those of its people, its hospitals and its universities, are damaged by the unending budget battles connived in by the nominal Democrat in the House.

Was Harris the winner when he and Barras blocked a second vote on the majority-backed Leger bill in the chaotic final moments of the session? Maybe, but it is mainly the GOP members who are the losers. They are responsible for a meltdown that rivals that of Springfield, Illinois.

Donna Britt: The longtime WAFB journalist steps down after a storied career covering the biggest stories for Baton Rouge television viewers. She will be greatly missed.

Email Lanny Keller at