Permanent standing committee chairmen-designates are out for the Louisiana Legislature, and with it perhaps some skewed regional news but good news for the conservative, reform agenda.
In the Senate, the partisan breakdown, 11 from the GOP of the 17, was fairly proportional to their presence in the chamber as a whole. But regional differences titled north and southeast. North Louisiana (and especially Ouachita Parish, with two) hit it big with seven chairmen, a part of the state with only about a fifth of the state’s population. And the 2010 census revealed that while the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area had about a quarter of the state’s population and got about that many of the chairmanships, the Northshore picked up three spots and the River Parishes picked up another, so including Pres. Republican John Alario, half of the 18 meaningful positions of power are held by individuals within 50 miles of Orleans Parish.
The real shutout occurred with the Baton Rouge MSA where, despite comprising one-sixth of the state’s population, only one chairwomanship got scored there, and the remaining one was out yonder west. Demographics and partisanship had something to do with these skewed results, but also experience and, particularly in the case of the Baton Rouge area, compatibility with the Gov. Bobby Jindal agenda.
Most notably, that consideration removed Democrat state Sen. Ben Nevers from his previous Education leadership. Also interestingly, Republican state Sen. Bob Kostelka got shunted away from heading up again Senate and Governmental Affairs, perhaps after some criticism of his outspokenness and stubbornness during redistricting last year. Yet looking at the lineup, Alario (with, he asserts, the Jindal Adminstration’s input), almost perfectly rank-ordered, from most to least important, assignments where conservative Republicans (also supportive of Jindal’s agenda) got the most powerful committees and liberal Democrats the least. There even was room for a spot of rehabilitation, where a minor top committee job went to Jindal antagonist state Sen. Robert Adley, after being denied one last term, perhaps as he now is the longest-serving in the chamber.
Across the way, Republican Speaker Chuck Kleckley followed the same rank-ordering strategy, likewise sloughing off Democrats to heading the least important committees even as Republicans only have none of the 16 top jobs. No hard feelings existed for state Rep. Joel Robideaux, former speaker pro-tem who had wanted the speaker’s job and had to give up the other job in a quest for partisan balance (while both are considered the chamber’s only full-time positions and are paid as such, the pro-tem spot has little real power), who got the plum Ways and Means position. Also crucial to reform agendas, state Rep. Steve Carter will head up Education, while state Rep. Kevin Pearson will oversee Retirement, both reliable conservative, reformist Republicans who already have sponsored several excellent bills in these areas.
In the House panels, the regional situation here is the mirror of the Senate’s in the north, with only two spots allocated, while the Baton Rouge MSA does much better, the New Orleans MSA and Northshore about the same, and central and western Louisiana with Acadiana get more numbers relative to the Senate. Thus, when combining the two chambers, this leaves north Louisiana and the Northshore a little better than demographics would suggest, Baton Rouge, and Acadiana a little worse, and everywhere else about congruent.
If anything, the Republican majority bent over backwards to dole out leadership spots compared to the Democrats when they ran things in the Senate four years ago (Republicans were in the numerical minority in the House, but had the speakership then, producing a balance in chairmanships about the same as the incoming lineup). But when it comes to the distribution of power, especially in terms of whose agenda is best served, clearly conservatism and reform instincts are favored – a first in the Legislature’s history.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 20:45