Search This Blog


Legislature has tools to resist gubernatorial intrusion

Falling well within the feel-good, do-nothing category of legislation confronting Louisiana is state Rep. Troy Hebert’s HB 547, which starting in 2007 would prevent the governor, governor-elect, or candidates from trying to influence the selection of legislative leaders. It would be enforced through the Board of Ethics, which could levy a penalty of up to $10,000. Earlier this week, it passed committee.

It would be counterproductive to engage in an extended explanation of the inability to enforce the bill if it became law, but that would detract from the larger issue that, rather than circumscribing the robustness of the political process, if the Legislature really wanted to prevent executive branch influence in its leadership, it simply could take matters into its own hands under its present powers.

Currently, the governor uses certain tools of leverage to try to direct the legislature. For example, with her power to utilize the line item veto, a governor can use it to excise spending items, especially of the capital budget variety, that would accrue to the constituents of a legislator’s district. That is, if these requests even got there; essentially, the capital budgeting procedure puts it squarely under the power of the governor.

R.S. 39:101(A) provides that capital outlay requests must be submitted by state agencies to the division of administration and by local government agencies through their appropriate state legislators no later than November 1 of each year. By Mar. 1 of the next year, from these sources the governor decides which projects are to be included in the capital outlay budget and included in the capital outlay bill presented to the legislature for the regular session each year.

In essence, the legislature has given the governor this power of choosing at the start. If it wanted to control this gubernatorial power, it would just change he law mandating this instead of adding new ones. Further, it could resist line item vetoes at the end by overriding them.

When reviewing the state Constitution, it becomes clear that the governor has few formal tools to leverage enough power over the Legislature to dictate its leadership (as she currently does informally, by letting it know who she prefers, and then they meekly fall into line). But even recently, it has defied the governor, as it did in the last couple of years of former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s administration when it threw out his handpicked designees and went with their own.

Again, if legislators were serious about this, they simply would exercise their own legal and constitutional powers of their body to correct the situation. More regulation of the matter is inefficient and inelegant in a democracy of separated powers.

No comments: