lastday0490.060518 bf

From left, Speaker of the House Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, and Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, confer on legislation in the front of the House Chamber 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.

Throwing the bums out is unfortunately not entirely possible with this Legislature, in large part because term limits mean that a significant number will not face the voters again, at least not in the same districts.

But the elections of 2019 ought to be a landmark cycle, if only because the incompetence in the leadership and members of the GOP-led House has been so vividly illustrated in this year's multiple legislative sessions.

The active participants in the mess may focus on the individual steps in the process, those incidents mishandled by Democrats as well as Republicans, senators as well as House members, or the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Pulling back a bit, though, and the picture becomes more in focus, and it isn't pretty. On the Legislature's main duty, the key budget bills masterminded by the Appropriations Committee's Republican majority, at different times the lawmakers proposed slashing funding to the point of extinction food stamps or health care or nursing homes or colleges, including TOPS tuition waivers for college students.

The throw-the-spaghetti legislative method found precious little that stuck against the wall, because of the ideological blinders of the leadership, including Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry of Metairie and GOP caucus chairman Lance Harris of Alexandria. Their views were just too extreme for the House at large.

That those bills got out of the House at all was largely because the members knew the Senate would send them back something considerably different; it was ultimately a Senate-passed compromise pushed by Edwards that made it into law and was, mostly, funded by the fumbling House.

When backing down, as they often did, the so-called House leaders had to default to whining that Edwards and Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne weren't being honest about the budget, which is practically all public record.

Who wasn't being honest? Maybe it was anti-government zealots who started from the premise that any tax increase would be thievery, even in a Louisiana where the state and local tax burden is one of the lowest in America.

That little factoid was not heard very often from the right-wing of the House chamber, but it is one of the reasons that their budgets ultimately failed: Edwards was right that after eight years of chicanery under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, essential services were not being paid for.

A Legislature used to being told what to do had a hard time asserting itself, even with the leadership in the House dodging and weaving and veering to avoid commitments on tax bills. The governor never knew, face to face with House Speaker Taylor Barras, whether he was negotiating with one member of the House or 40 of them, much less the 60 or so formally with Rs behind their names.

Members grumbled about the leadership but appeared to be genuinely fearful of outside pressure groups who ran social-media attack ads whenever moderation broke out in GOP ranks.

Ultimately, the followers of Barras, R-New Iberia, folded their tents and got precious little in terms of legislative trades for the trouble they put themselves and state government through over nearly six full months. This was a party not ready for prime time, much less for the hard tasks of running a government.

It's more than a year before legislative qualifying for the 2019 elections but surely Louisiana can do better than this.

Email Lanny Keller at

Our Views: Don't let Louisiana legislators dodge personal responsibility for fiscal crisis