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22.6.06

Public & "new media" score win over shamed politicians

Gov. Kathleen Blanco took my advice and vetoed the legislatively self-serving HB 1028. (Of course, that was the advice of hundreds, if not thousands, of others so maybe I had a little help.) Its demise tells us interesting things about Blanco, the Legislature, Democrats, the media, and public opinion in Louisiana.

As longtime readers know, I like to start my postings as an extension of a news item, in the form of a news story or press release. These readers also know that during sessions of the Legislature I compile the Louisiana Legislature Log where, among other things, I identify “good” and “bad” bills to track.

I tagged HB 1028 and its even worse companion SB 513 long ago as bad bills to track, hoping as with all in that category that they never saw the light of day. Apparently, I was the only one (that I know of) who bothered to even mention them in a published forum. I was wanting to write about them and kept waiting for a news article about them to show up, and waiting, and waiting …

Meanwhile, the things slowly moved through the legislative process. Contrary to the statements of a large number of red-faced legislators now claiming HB 1028 was a last minute surprise, they knew well in advance of the 6/18 and 6/19 votes what it was all about; lead opponent state Rep. Mike Powell said he discussed the bills with a number of his colleagues days before then, telling them in no uncertain terms what they meant.

However, the media black hole continued – until just a couple of days to go before the session’s end, when something about it finally popped up. But not in the mainstream media; rather, at C.B. Forgotston’s site. (Talk radio, however, was onto it a few days prior.)

Only after the session actually ended did the mainstream media kick in – not with stories about the bill, but in the reactions to it. (Or as one put it, “after ultra-conservative Internet bloggers began attacking the bill ….”). Both legislators and the governor’s office seemed a bit taken aback, then impressed, by the amount of grass-roots opposition to the bill, and Blanco with impressive speed vetoed it.

What have we learned?
  • Had it not been for nontraditional media, likely Blanco would have quietly signed it into law a few days from now. But blogs and, more importantly, talk radio pounded away at the bill, easily showing its bankruptcy. These channels reached the public and it infuriated many.
  • Blanco really is nervous, given her microscopic approval ratings, about her reelection chances. To rephrase, does anybody seriously think she would have vetoed this without all the negative public reaction? Bills of these types are cleared through the governor’s office prior to their introduction because they involve new spending; otherwise, they don’t get introduced, or never get a hearing or, if they do get one, are shot down quickly. She never had an objection to it until the very end.
  • And it’s not only Blanco who’s worried. Almost every Democrat in the Legislature voted for the bill, yet in a matter of 48 hours their statewide leader joined GOP legislators in calling for a veto. They’re liable to break their necks changing directions so suddenly like that.
  • Most legislators thought they could slip this one by (either that, or we must take them at their word that they aren’t very good at doing their jobs through inattentiveness) the public as “compensation” for being so ungratefully tossed out by the public through term limits. The era of hiding significant benefits to politicians may be drawing to a close.
  • If it’s the mainstream media’s job to inform the public about significant issues at the statehouse, they surely missed the boat on this one. That media can take no credit for public response; instead, the new media demonstrated themselves to be a powerful force, one that could mobilize the public again.

    Yet that leaves one final question: is the effect lasting, or is this just a temporary setback for the good-old-boy attitudes haunting Louisiana? I guess you’ll find out here first – or from some other new media sources.
  • 1 comment:

    we saw that... said...

    thanks for your post. this whole thing smells like a set up. in other words this bill could have been formulated in order to give the governor something to veto to give the appearance that she is actually doing something like listening to the people of this state. if public opinion really mattered to this governor then why didnt she veto hb685? it had just as much public outpouring.

    if you watch kalb's video interview with bob odom you will notice that he plays up blanco crony the shaw group as one company with plans to build an ethanol refinery. so we have a blanco crony getting the benefit of a state sponsored mandate not to mention that its legislation written by a legislator (francis thompson) with questionable motives and morals.