A strong narrative has developed around the Louisiana Legislature in recent years — that Baton Rouge is, increasingly, operating the way highly factionalized Washington D.C. does. There’s lots of evidence to support this argument, much of it stemming from the fraught relationship between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the dominant Republican faction in the state House.
The counter-narrative is that, while state government is moving in that direction, it’s still got a long way to go. For evidence, look no further than Edwards’ formal agenda for the session — not so much at what he supports, but at who’s working with him.
The governor has endorsed 15 bills. Eight of the authors listed on those bills are Democrats. Seven are Republicans.
That’s something that we’ve long seen in Baton Rouge but that only occasionally happens in Congress these days. And no doubt, it plays to Edwards’ benefit in an election year in which his Republican rivals are out to paint him as an outlier in conservative Louisiana.
The bills authored by Republicans aren’t likely to inflame partisan tensions. Among them are a pair of cybersecurity measures sponsored by state Sens. Barrow Peacock of Shreveport and Danny Martiny of Metairie, and a bill to address human trafficking by state Sen. Ronnie Johns of Lake Charles. In some cases, they signal a real consensus on a potentially contentious issue. Edwards’ top priority, a teacher pay raise, is included in bills offered by the two Republican educations chairs, state Rep. Nancy Landry of Lafayette and state Sen. Blade Morrish of Jennings.
The more ideological measures backed by Edwards, including a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage and an effort to end pay secrecy aimed at reducing the wage gap between women and men, are attached to Democrats. State Sen. Troy Carter authored the minimum wage proposal, and state Sen. JP Morrell is carrying the equal pay measure; both represent New Orleans.
Still, the spread here is a remnant of an earlier, less divisive era — and maybe a sign that, despite all the sniping and maneuvering, that era hasn’t entirely passed.