Budget bill debate 050417

House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, and Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, during debate about amendments to the state’s operating budget bill on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Upon being sworn in Monday, John Bel Edwards will continue to be the stubborn blue stain on an otherwise ruby red political carpet that stretches 1,700 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, to El Paso, Texas.

Edwards will also be one of eight Democratic governors that rule in states with Republican-majority legislatures.

Thirty-six states have what Ballotpedia calls “trifectas” — that is, one party holding the governorships along with majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

That would have been 44 states but for the voters in Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Wisconsin — and, a few months ago, Kentucky and Louisiana — chose Democratic governors and Republican-majority legislatures. (Four states have Republican governors overseeing Democratic legislatures — in Maryland and New England — while two states have truly divided majorities in their governments.)

Democrats have flipped nine legislative chambers since Donald Trump became president in 2016. In last fall’s balloting, which returned Edwards to the Governor’s Mansion, Virginia voters became the latest state to oust a Republican majority that had controlled that state’s General Assembly for a generation.

One-party rule states, trifectas, have seen a frantic push of legislation as the new majority, long minimized, tries to make up for lost years in the political wilderness.

When the Virginia General Assembly convened last week, local and national media reported a whole smash of legislation that would have been quixotic for decades, such as banning assault weapons, passing the Equal Rights Amendment and taking down Confederate statues.

Republican legislators in GOP-dominated states, similarly, press bills restricting power of organized labor, cutting government spending and expanding prison construction.

GOP House Majority Leader Blake Miguez, of Erath, doesn’t see sweeping partisan legislation being pushed down the throats of the other side when the Louisiana Legislature convenes March 9 for the 2020 session. But that’s not because a Democrat is at the helm of a near supermajority Republican legislature.

“To say that any one party will shut out the other party is just not the Louisiana way,” Miguez said, adding that Democrats, despite their decreased numbers, still represent more than a third of Louisiana’s residents.

That doesn’t mean Republicans will capitulate their principles.

“We are mindful that we are Republicans and that we are conservative in a conservative state, so the policies will be Republican-driven policies,” Miguez said. “But that doesn’t mean the conversation has to close out the other side.”

Miguez wants to see legislators take the next step toward independence.

Louisiana has always given the power edge to the governor. That dynamic was upset on the first day of the 2016 legislative class after Edwards was elected and ended Louisiana’s trifecta government. The House chose its own speaker, rather than go with the governor’s choice as had been the tradition. Edwards' first term, which included seven special sessions to find consensus on budget issues, was pretty rough for the governor.

Now, Miguez said he wants to see legislators creating policy, getting it passed and then depositing it on the governor’s desk, rather than having the legislation pretty much dictated by the governor’s agenda and sent to the Legislature for ratification.

The issues, as Louisiana Republicans see them, revolve around the economy — strengthening businesses, keeping and expanding well-paid jobs — rather than the social issues that keep partisans at each other’s throats on a national level, Miguez said.

Lawmakers haven’t focused on exact instruments as the leadership races are still on the front burner, he said. But, clearly, as many of the new House and Senate members plugged tort reform, a special effort would be made to pass laws that limit individuals’ ability to sue companies for injuries.

Miguez discounted those earlier GOP majorities in the Legislature as having too many moderates and RINOs, meaning Republican in name only.

This incoming body of lawmakers took much more conservative positions on issues and were elected. Two-thirds of the Senate members are Republicans and House Republicans are two members shy of holding a supermajority. This means state Republicans can do pretty much whatever they want, if the various GOP factions can hold together.

Miguez said the majority legislators will be reminded of what brought them to this dance whenever Republicans need to wave that supermajority sword at Edwards.

“We have expectations from our Republican members to do what they said during the campaign they were going to do. That’s what voters expect. That’s what I expect. We have to stand together,” Miguez said.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.