Will the world ever find out the political subtext behind the rancor of state Rep. Rick Gallot and the object of his annoyance Speaker Jim Tucker? Because the conflict the two joined in last week, from the public statements they’ve made about it, especially from Gallot’s side makes little sense.
It flared into public view when a resolution of Gallot’s, HR 47 which has the very laudable goal of making vote changing after a roll-call vote has concluded difficult in the House, without Gallot’s assent got an amendment that, uniquely, would instruct the Speaker to take diversity into consideration in appointment of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. That opposition got it defeated. Then a Tucker ally tried to amend it to place two additional members on the committee which Tucker insisted would be black Democrats. When it passed, Gallot withdrew the resolution.
This stems from an incident at the beginning of the session when Tucker abruptly took two Republicans off the House Appropriations Committee and replaced them with two Democrats, and then did the opposite with Governmental Affairs, claiming it had something to do with vote choices for Speaker Pro Tem. The effect was to take a 10-8 GOP advantage on that committee to make it 12-6, and this led some to speculate, as Gallot now appears to be doing openly, that Tucker wanted to stack the committee for redistricting purposes, making it more likely to draw the state legislative boundaries for next year’s elections to his Republican Party’s advantage to the detriment of Gallot’s Democrats.
But that motive wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. First, forgotten in all of this is that Tucker actually took a GOP majority on Appropriations and made it into a minority by these moves. If Tucker was so partisan power-hungry, why wouldn’t he have arranged things to lose one majority on the most important committee in the House just to supplement an already-existing majority? After all, if there is party loyalty – and one would expect that for redistricting – with a majority already on Governmental Affairs, why would he need to boost it if this was his reason?
Also, the process itself already is under a microscope. While there is nothing unconstitutional about a partisan gerrymander, in Louisiana and over a dozen other states it’s much more difficult to do because of the substantial minority population that means any redistricting plan must undergo U.S. Justice Department scrutiny under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its successors. Since majority black districts are overwhelmingly Democrat-registrant districts, it would be difficult to gerrymander substantially because that would show up in racial imbalances among districts that would threaten non-approval by Justice.
Among the more hyperbolic statements made by Gallot was that if Tucker would yank his chairmanship of the committee, he would go running to Justice to reveal the “corruption” that was going on. Which then begs the question, if there’s “corruption” going on, shouldn’t Gallot be talking to Justice already? That he hasn’t means his credibility on this issue suffers, including the claim that Tucker wants to stack the committee to play partisan redistricting games.
Finally, if in fact this was Tucker’s motive, what’s the harm in adding two members? If in Gallot’s mind the committee’s already stacked, then if Tucker didn’t appoint two more Democrats, what’s the difference, stacked is stacked? But if Tucker follows through, isn’t the situation better? So why oppose the amendment? Again, it calls into question Gallot’s thesis about Tucker.
I guess we really need to ask Gallot himself why he’s going off on this tangent, but his idea that Tucker has afoot a sinister plot doesn’t seem very convincing.