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NW LA legislators make good, bad, and ugly choices

We’re safe again: the Louisiana Legislature has gone out of regular session for another year. But not before leaving us with some moments for pondering concerning actions of northwest Louisiana legislators (House districts 1 through 9, and Senate districts 36 through 39). So here it goes, for them the good, bad and the ugly of the 2008 session:

THE GOOD: In contrast to last year when northwest legislators produced not much of positive consequence, one of the most monumental pieces of legislation of the entire session came from state Sen. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw in the form of SB 87 which will reduce many taxpayers’ individual income taxes by as much as $500 to $1,000 a year beginning in 2009. It wasn’t easy as a lot of political intrigue surrounded the issue.

As it was, only a handful of legislators truly supported the idea behind the bill and Gov. Bobby Jindal initially opposed it. But it gained momentum when a number of legislators hostile to tax cuts seized upon and helped pass an amendment that would wipe out all individual income taxes as a poison pill to force Jindal to veto the bill given it would too quickly wrench too much revenue from state government, in order to embarrass him. Shaw, however, stuck to his guns, with help got Jindal to come on board the original concept, and got it through only delaying its implementation.

The bill provided an interesting exclamation point to Shaw’s victory in his Senate race last fall where he was massively outspent in the most expensive contest in state history. His opponents who had no Legislature experience (Shaw had served in the House) who agreed with it probably could not have steered the bill through, and his runoff opponent former state Rep. Billy Montgomery never would have brought a bill like this forward. While Shaw, who represents perhaps the most conservative district in the state, made more than one vote (most disappointingly, opposing school vouchers that would allow Orleans Parish students to enroll in any participating public or private school there which would serve to improve the quality of education parish-wide) against that sentiment in the district, his success with SB 87 well more than made up for those.

THE BAD: It wasn’t any particular bill by area legislators that really stank up the joint, it was the vote of a few on SB 672 that was bad and could have large electoral consequences for some. For the record, voting for this more-than-doubling pay raise of legislator salaries to a full-time level for Constitutionally-designated part-timers were Democrat state Reps. Roy Burrell, Barbara Norton, Patrick Williams, and Republican state Reps. Thomas Carmody and Richard Burford, Democrat state Sen. Lydia Jackson and Republican state Sen. Robert Adley. Republican state Reps. Wayne Waddell, Jane Smith, and Henry Burns voted against, while Republican state Sens. Shaw and Sherri Smith Cheek did likewise (Republican state Rep. Jim Morris was absent for the crucial vote, which for its purposes counted as a “nay.”) None subsequently declined the raise when given the option.

The Democrats should not suffer for their votes in favor of the highly unpopular bill that Jindal vetoed. Their philosophies favor bigger, more powerful government so a self-aggrandizing vote is not unusual, especially since they represent constituencies that are, judging by their voting turnouts, less attentive to and active in determining and overseeing their legislators.

But Burford, Carmody, and Adley might face major constituent problems. Carmody won a very close special election for his position and his affirmation gave major fodder to any future conservative opponent (and not helping his cause was a voting record during the session that, according to the Louisiana Legislature Log, was more on the liberal/populist side than conservative/reform) that might make him a less-than-one-term legislator.

Adley also created problems for himself by assenting on the vote, and not only because it was part of a voting record that was the most liberal/populist of any other Senate Republican save one who scored the same and that only two Democrats were more liberal/populist than Adley who represents a more conservative district. The vote made Adley look, given the firm he controls already receives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in a no-bid contract from an association of local governments, even more eager to live off of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

THE UGLY: As if he needed more unfavorable publicity, Adley also captured the ugly designation with his SB 459 which would have allowed children who failed grades to participate in some interscholastic sports even though they would be overaged, brought on behalf by him for one particular constituent despite education administrators’ opposition. While the idea was that this might encourage low-performing students to stay in school, it failed completely the commonsense test that participation in athletics was to be a reward and privilege enjoyed by those who performed at least adequately (in reality, barely above miserable as the state only requires a 1.5 GPA for athletic participation) in school, not as a palliative for underachievers, and could be abused by schools to keep older players eligible longer. It’s one on which he should have passed.

That’s it for 2008; we’ll have to see what they come up with next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Sadow,
In the pre-SB672 era, I did not know of you and your site. Now, in the postSB672 era, I am genuinely thankful that I have discovered your site which I can visit to read to commentary and analysis of our legislature.
I believe that SB672 was tantamount to an acupuncture needle that struck just the nerve
that citizens needed to motivate them to stand up and speak loudly...SB672 fine tuned the focus lens on the camera through which many citizens viewed their legislators....
Why doesn't the press print and broadcast all the words spoken at all legislative council meetings? Can anyone request the minutes of these meetings?
Can we expect to read your commentary and analysis of the voting records of the legislators from Jefferson, Orldans, and River Parishes?
Thank you for reading my post.