Mark your calendars, denizens of the State Capitol, and not in a good way.
Few are greeting with enthusiasm Monday’s opening of what could be a legislatively barren 2019 Legislature.
The really bad news is that it isn’t even safe to mark one’s calendars for D-Day, June 6. That is the last legal day for the fiscal-focused session to end, and normally adjournment sine die — without date — is worthy of celebration, in terms both of the personal lives of Capitol workers and the tempers of the aristocracy of the elected, who are usually thoroughly sick of each other by the closing gavel.
No, mark your calendars for what is formally called — although not called, yet — the First Extraordinary Session of 2019. That special session may be needed after D-Day, and it could be ugly.
John Bel Edwards’ opponents should probably hope that January is the cruelest month and things will get better in the election by October.
Why such pessimism? There is a great deal of precedent during the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards, because legislative warfare between the governor and the more moderate state Senate on one side, and the hard-core anti-Edwards House leadership on the other side, has been a recipe for chaos in the Legislature’s budget process.
In the House Appropriations Committee, the usual fencing between legislators looking for savings — or for more money to put into their own priorities, not the governor’s — and administration officials is sometimes heated and usually healthy. But the emergence of the anti-Edwards claque headed by Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, has meant budget battles that have caused special sessions for several years.
What are the chances of an Edwards-Henry clash not resulting in last-minute battles that delay adoption of a budget, again this year?
In all the reviews of the 2017 Legislature, the consensus is that the lawmakers failed to do the one thing they need to do: address the "fisca…
It is an election year, and members are limited to five nonfiscal bills, so that in theory the arguments should be fewer. And some of the arguments are purely for public consumption, as with Edwards’ insistence on pushing a legislatively hopeless increase in the minimum wage; the composition of the House Labor panel has hardly changed since rejecting that proposal for years.
It’s persiflage for the October primary campaign and should not take long to dispose of. There are other such bills on both sides of the aisle, if members were seated by party, as they are in the U.S. House.
Maybe they aren’t in Baton Rouge, but the sharp conflicts already emerging in Appropriations, including the stubborn delay in approving new revenues, suggest something less than the Harmony House. Henry is tinkering with a separate appropriations bill, not the traditional House Bill 1, after his ally House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, unilaterally rejected recognizing the new money without offering any good reason.
That reeked of politics. Further, it led many to wonder if Barras was the designee of Henry, or the other way around.
Ultimately the revenues will be recognized, as it is nearly impossible to fund a politically desirable teacher pay raise without them. Given that this is the ultimate goal of Henry and Barras, not to mention the Senate led by President John Alario, R-Westwego, as well as Edwards, should not there be some expectation that the budget be settled on time, by D-Day?
A clue was in a talk last year by GOP pollster John Couvillon of Baton Rouge, who said that the seemingly endless bickering and divisiveness of the special sessions of Edwards’ first term had led to a slump then in the governor’s approval rating. Why just pass a budget, when you can manufacture a crisis to help GOP challengers who are not yet finding a lot of traction? First Extraordinary Session, coming up, June 7 or so.
Email Lanny Keller at email@example.com.