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To overcome Democrats, Jindal will need much skill

The question is, can Louisiana Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal govern effectively especially in enacting his program into law with a Legislature of whom the majority could be hostile towards it?

Because his conservative platform is a radical shift from the state’s populist past preferred by the vast majority of Democrats (and a few RINOs) in previous Legislatures, only by Republicans winning a majority in both chambers would there be a margin of error for Jindal in accomplishing these policy goals. But at the start of his term there won’t be such a majority in the Senate, where last weekends election results put Democrats in line to have a minimum of 22 seats, two more than majority with four partisan contests to go. In the House, they are assured of at least 46 seats, seven short of the majority with 16 partisan contests to go (since one features a Democrat vs. independent match).

We can gauge the likely partisan composition of the next Legislature by using a formula I discovered in assessing the power of incumbency, and thereby the effect term limits would have on this election cycle, which I used in a presentation of a paper at a professional meeting earlier this year. That is, when an incumbent doesn’t run, Republicans win if the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is less than 2.66, and Democrats win if it is greater than 2.66.

Applying this to races outstanding, the final composition of the chambers would be a split of remaining races in the Senate to make it 24-15, and in the House the formula says Democrats will pick up 6 and the GOP 8 (two other contests feature an incumbent from each party). However, since the winner of the Democrat vs. independent match likely will caucus with Democrats (just as the existing reelected independent caucuses with the Republicans), Democrats look very good to retain a majority, if a slim one.

That means the House won’t be too much trouble for Jindal. On his legislation, he’ll almost always be able to find a few votes across the aisle, even if a Republican here or there abandons him, given the more conservative nature of some Democrat newcomers.. The Senate is another story. He’ll need more than a fifth of the projected Democrat contingent to defect on these votes – assuming perfect loyalty among Republicans. He could get that on some issues, but particularly in the areas of tax cutting and changing budget priorities this will be a hard sell given liberal/populist background of almost all of the Democrats.

On these bills will come the true test of Jindal’s skill. On the one hand, Jindal had said he will not allow “slush funds” to go forward – ladling out state money for local projects that appear of low priority, if not are dubious, in nature. On the other hand, blessing such measures in the capital budget may be the surest way to attract some Democrat votes.

The need to get a favorable Legislature also may test Jindal’s statement that he would not be intervening in these runoffs or in the selection process of the officers of the chambers. This is particularly relevant in the Senate not just because it will have a bigger Democrat majority, but because the oft-named Democrat president candidate, state Sen. Joe McPherson, is a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of Jindal’s plans to modernize health care in the state. McPherson, who has interests in nursing homes, has consistently opposed shifting the emphasis away from the state’s costly and wasteful emphasis on institutional-based health care towards the more efficient and effective focus on community- and individual-based care. Jindal cannot afford to have such an obstacle in the way of reforming the most costly discretionary function of state government.

Hardcore liberals in the Legislature are going to resist Jindal with everything they’ve got because his priorities will endanger their power and privilege as success by him will invalidate their worldviews and arguments in the eyes of voters – and failure on his part will do the opposite and discredit him in the eyes of some. But if Jindal plays for keeps, even the Senate may have enough votes for his programs so it doesn’t become a roadblock to needed change.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Does the Governor of Louisiana have the legal power to remove local officials? If so, I hope he removes N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and D.A. Eddie Jordan for gross misconduct, incompetence, & neglect.