If Gov. John Bel Edwards and other reelected statewide officials deserve congratulations on beginning a new term, the big news was made earlier on the inaugural Monday by the tight voting for speaker of the House.
Some of the big guns of the Republican Party, including U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, and Attorney General Jeff Landry, strongly backed Rep. Sherman Mack, of Albany.
That vote didn’t turn out as expected.
By a 60-45 vote, the House selected another Republican, Rep. Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales, over Mack to be speaker of the chamber with almost a 2-1 majority of Republican members.
While the intrigue surrounding this vote was complex and mostly hidden from view and said to include a lot of heavy arm-twisting, it was a big moment for Edwards and for the Legislature in the next four years.
The governor was just reelected, in a race made closer than expected by the intervention of President Donald Trump. And during the previous four years, Edwards was often at odds with the leadership of the House GOP, including Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.
At the same time, the governor got along fine with Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
Now, in both Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, the governor will have to deal with two lawmakers who are unquestionably conservatives but who have also demonstrated a willingness to work with their colleagues across party lines. Their elections reflected bipartisan support.
The governor and legislative leaders must work together. The system falls apart if they are indulging in point-scoring instead of collaboration.
All too often in the last four years, the House — always a bit more fractious with its 105 members — became a scene of legislative chaos.
The series of special sessions interspersed with the regular annual meetings of the Legislature was not a good sign. On the human level, it wore out part-time legislators with real jobs back home.
Further, and not entirely the fault of members of the House, too many tough issues were not tackled at all; the state’s financial picture was improved only with a sales tax compromise that no one can call real tax reform.
If there are political wounds that will be picked over after the bruising race for speaker, the larger issues are those facing the state. We deserve better results at the State Capitol, because leadership on growth-oriented reforms will help everybody in the state.
It is inevitable that there will be disagreements between the governor and members of the Legislature. The speaker and president are vital to working those out in legislation and coalescing their members behind constructive solutions.
Everybody on Monday was talking about how the State Capitol doesn’t want to be the scene of U.S. Capitol dysfunction. The new leaders, as well as the governor, have vital roles in seeing that does not happen.