Election dust really hadn’t settled before Gov. Bobby Jindal announced who he backed to become the next leaders of the Louisiana House and Senate, in part to catch a wave, in part to create one, with the risks and rewards all that entails.
His House preference was the more productive and understandable for his agenda, even as a slightly better candidate might have been disregarded for fans of conservatism and reform. State Rep. Chuck Kleckley got the nod, with a Louisiana Legislature Log voting index score of just under 74 (higher scores denote greater conservative and reformism) over the past term, over state Rep. Joel Robideaux, the present Speaker pro-Tem and who scored over 77 on the LLL index. Both are Republicans, although Robideaux only recently switched from no party, and both exceeded the average LLL score for chamber Republicans of just over 70.
Besides good conservative credentials, Kleckley showed wisdom in voting against House Rule 7.19 last session, a counterproductive internal chamber rule for Republicans, which disallows unless reaching a two-thirds majority, among other things, use of money deposited in most state funds for current operations if this pushes total spending above forecasted total revenue available.
The Legislature’s ability to shift funds relegated to enforced idleness because of a straitjacket-like state fiscal structure that does not facilitate budgeting on the basis of priority relieves pressure on the alternative strategy of raising taxes when spending cuts become too draconian. Kleckley should move to remove the rule and get on with the business of promoting real fiscal reform.
Perhaps this weighed on Jindal’s mind in choosing between the two, as Robideaux voted for the rule. Also a part of it appeared to be Kleckley being amenable to keeping on Democrat state Rep. Jim Fannin as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Finally, Republicans, who seem to be headed to 60 seats or more when the general election runoff concludes, may have felt better about rewarding a long-standing party member than Robideaux, who, because of internecine party feuding surrounding his first run for office, kept his no party label for seven years.
That fact of party switch may have become magnified because Jindal’s Senate preference John Alario himself did it less than a year ago, after having spent the first 38 years of his political life as a Democrat. Becoming a Republican does not belie Alario’s recent voting behavior as much as some might imagine, him having an average over the past term of 63 on the LLL index while the Republican chamber average was slightly under 60. It’s that for so much of his legislative career Alario so enthusiastically supported big government, practiced masterfully pork barrel politics, and managed to get the attention of federal prosecutors – all of which run counter to the governing ethos promulgated by Jindal.
But perhaps Jindal felt his hand being forced, as Alario had cross-party appeal (particularly relevant as the GOP majority would not exist without several recent switchers along with Alario), could intensify that with New Orleans senators, and, because he’s been around so long (after the runoffs, roughly a third of the Senate’s members will have served with him in the House in the past), likely had a lot of favors he could call in. Never one to stand in front of a wave, Jindal may have decided to get out in front of it rather than try to hold it back despite how that would muddle his message of ethics reform and sensible, right-sized government.
In the case of the House, Jindal may have provided clarity to conservative, reformist Republicans about whom to back to put someone like them, sympathetic to his agenda, in charge. In the case of the Senate, Jindal may have had to acquiesce to an accomplished fate and to hope that, as much of a rascal Alario has been in promoting a different agenda in the past, he will be Jindal’s rascal now and can be counted upon to carry Jindal’s water.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:25