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Political tantrum will not alter shape of LA budget

When analyzed particular in the light of recent history, the temporary defeat of HB 3 in the Louisiana House represents nothing more than a short-term lack of organization by legislative forces loyal to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

This bill, requiring a two-thirds majority of the seated membership for approval, enables debt to be incurred for capital spending projects of the capital outlay bill HB 2 (and any others that might come by if they are calculated into it). Until 2007 it typically was a formality that this would pass. But late that session, Republicans rallied by then-caucus leader state Rep. Jim Tucker defeated an attempt to pass a similar bill during a special session to spend a large surplus. Eventually, however, enough Republicans defected to let the bill through.

Almost two years later, now Speaker Tucker saw the same tactic used against his majority. Where the complaint two years past was against an operating budget viewed as too excessive, many of those in the Democrat majority then successfully deployed this last week against an operating budget they think is too small, while a few Republicans seemed perturbed at the actual distribution of capital outlay funds, dealing the Speaker’s forces a 62-24 setback.

While the shoe may be on the other foot for now, the situations are markedly different in cause and the result will end the same. Back then, only a few members missed the original vote and would not have made the difference. What made the difference eventually was enough Republicans (as their legislative histories showed, in name only) defected. This time, 19 absences of almost all supporters of the bill were the key. As long as Tucker has the foresight to make sure they are in the chamber at the appropriate time, there should be no problem here.

Tucker’s tactics in 2007 garnered some minor concessions because that peeled off enough defectors. Expect little in the way of these on this occasion, as the muscle is there to obviate their need. While those who have temporarily blockade the bill may make grandiose, if not wholly ignorant, statements about the governor running the state roughshod over the Legislature, the reality is they sadly are out of touch with the vast majority in the state, and other elected officials know it. This is why this tactic, essentially a political tantrum, will make no appreciable alteration to the budget nor to the philosophy behind it of proper priorities being structured within the parameters of more efficiency, less politics.

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