State Sen. President John Alario has a reputation as something of a legislative magician. In his four and a half decades in Baton Rouge, the Westwego Democrat-turned-Republican has led both the House and the Senate and has been a valuable ally to both Republican and Democratic governors — even as he earned heartfelt support from colleagues who yearn for more independence from the administrative branch.
Here’s how one longtime fellow lawmaker, state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, described his role recently:
“He’s the governor’s guy,” Martiny said, but “he’s not just the governor’s guy. He’s very protective of the Senate and the Senate’s reputation. He also has the reputation as the guy who’s going to come up with a solution.”
As lawmakers scramble to fill a devastating budget hole before the special legislative session ends later today, Alario’s going to need to summon all those powers to help craft a deal.
Much of the drama this session has focused on the House side. New revenue measures must originate in the GOP-led lower chamber, and leaders there proved in no rush to vote and send measures over to the Senate. Frankly, their inexperience and partisanship showed.
But deadline dealmaking is Alario’s turf, and expect him to play a lead role today in crafting a package of bills that more seasoned and less ideological members of the Senate can back, and that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards will be willing to sign.
So as the last-minute maneuvering unfolds, keep an eye on the courtly gentleman with the thick silver mane. And keep this in mind: Unless he decides to return to the House, term limits mean the countdown on Alario’s own 2019 expiration date has started. We probably won’t see his like again.
‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.