The speaker of the House, Rep. Taylor Barras of New Iberia, is by all accounts a nice man, a family man, a Christian and a Republican. But he is not a leader and not a man of his word.
In politics, all you have is your reputation. After the recent train wreck of a special legislative session, Barras no longer has the reputation of a man who keeps his word and has the ability to get things done. It's simple: The speaker of the House needs to resign.
Judging from his behavior during the special session, Barras appears to be tired of the job anyway. Perhaps he is not suited to the level of acrimony and political gamesmanship inflicted on leaders at the State Capitol. He may just be too nice to know how to stick to a deal when faced with animosity from his own party.
After the special session adjourned Monday with no solutions for the upcoming "fiscal cliff," the blame should and does land at the feet of the speaker of the House. Barras failed to negotiate the challenges of the Republican caucus, and failed to deliver on his pledges to the governor. The animosity and tension within the House of Representatives was so thick, you could “cut it with a knife.” The bad feelings all around the Capitol make it impossible to make progress.
Unfortunately, state politics and the air in the State Capitol are almost as divisive and negative as national politics. State Rep. Walt Leger, of New Orleans, said, “We have lost our way.” The ability to focus on problems and work together to move the state forward requires communication, trust and leadership. We have devolved into stalemate and blame, insuring no progress for Louisiana will be made unless something changes.
If Barras is as honorable of a man as he'd like Louisiana to believe, then he'll recognize change must start with his resignation. Louisiana needs to have a hard reset at the State Capitol; and with the Democratic caucus getting a new leader, change is possible for both parties.
Like the legislature, the governor could use some change, too. The governor needs to take a hard look at his legislative strategy and continue to develop new ways to work with the Legislature and be clear in his leadership and expectations. The Black Caucus has to be included in decision-making from the beginning, not only when their votes are needed to move legislation out of the House. We need to rebuild trust and communication. We need respect and communication.
There are leaders in the legislature who want to focus on solving problems across partisan lines. For the sake of Louisiana, it's time to let those bipartisan lawmakers lead. The state of Louisiana can't afford anymore partisan gridlock. Louisiana needs leadership from elected officials, not petty political gamesmanship.
Melissa S. Flournoy, Ph.D.
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