Once more, into the ditch: State lawmakers about to begin a fifth special session to deal with Louisiana's deficit_lowres

In this file photo, Louisiana House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Senate president John Alario confer.

No matter what voters in all those states with hotly contested elections in other states decide Tuesday, the larger political world will look different once the votes are counted.

Here in Louisiana, we’ve got to wait until 2019, but change is coming too.

The biggest competitive election on the horizon, of course, is for governor. Expect that contest to begin in earnest soon after this year’s elections, when U.S. Sen. John Kennedy finally throws his hat into the ring against Gov. John Bel Edwards — or decides to sit it out.

There will be a lot more on the 2019 slate too, with many of the most consequential races being far down ballot at the legislative level. Every seat in the state House and Senate is up for grabs, as it is every four years. But there’s bound to be even more upheaval than usual thanks to Louisiana’s term limits law.

To understand why, a little history course is in order.

Way back in 1995, lawmakers — many of them reluctant — succumbed to grass roots pressure and agreed to let voters decide whether to impose term limits. The measure’s champions were David Vitter in the House and Jay Dardenne in the Senate, although they were never exactly allies. To get their colleagues to go along, they set the limit at three four-year terms in each House, starting then. So when voters passed the measure, their approval started the clock for everyone, even those who’d served long stints already.

The next key year was 2007, when those three terms were up and a whole generation of veterans left town. That election set up two new, distinct realities.

One was a pent-up shift to a Republican majority Legislature, which didn’t happen then but developed soon afterward. Among those who made up the new guard were some conservative Democrats who switched parties in order to avert a challenge from the right, and many new faces who had a more ideological approach than their predecessors did. Because there were more new members in the House, it evolved into the more partisan of the two branches.

The second, related change was that the Senate became the last bastion of old, less partisan state politics, largely because it was now filled by House veterans who were forced out of their old seats and moved up.

State Sen. President John Alario is the embodiment of this new reality. He’s a former Democrat and Edwin Edwards friend who became a Republican and Bobby Jindal ally, and who more recently earned the trust of Senate Republicans even as he has helped the current Gov. Edwards, another Democrat, push his agenda.

More importantly, he’s a traditionalist, someone who believes that his role is not only to help his colleagues get what they want but also to give the governor — any governor — a chance to succeed.

And after next year’s elections, he’ll be termed out, along with 15 more senators out of a total of 39, a group that includes the last of the holdovers from that initial term limits era.

The likely outcome is that the Senate will become more like the House, because term-limited House members will move over, but mostly because the old guard will finally be gone. That’s likely to accelerate a trend toward partisanship, following four years of pretty intense bickering between Edwards and the House, with the Senate as a buffer.

Of course, plenty of legislators will say they’re less concerned about partisanship and more about legislative independence, and they’ve got a point. It’s always been pretty strange to see how deferential Louisiana lawmakers could be to governors, even though they serve in a coequal branch of government.

Still, the old way has a definite upside, in that it’s kept Baton Rouge from becoming as polarized and paralyzed as Washington. Maybe that’s Louisiana’s future. Hopefully, it’s not.

After an election cycle on the sidelines, we’ll have a much better idea a year from now.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.