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Tale of two senators encourages, amuses NW LA

Many families have a couple of archetypes among their members. One is the wise elder who exhibits good sense in almost all matters to whom others listen and employ or disregard his advice at their own risk. Another is the eccentric, prone to doing or blurting out whatever fool thing comes into his head which sometimes actually makes sense but more often are products of convoluted thinking, paranoia, or just general battiness. Northwest Louisiana’s political family is no exception to this general rule, and these two fellows who have the proud honor of serving Bossier Parish showed us their stuff during the 2009 regular session.

State Sen. Buddy Shaw proved to be the Senate’s only member willing to speak on the floor not once, but twice against bills (one intentional, one voluntarily hijacked) that would reimpose recently lowered taxes that would affect roughly 40 percent of Louisiana taxpaying households. While the thundering sound of other senators breaking their arms patting themselves on the back asserting they were making such a tough decision swept through the chamber, Republican Shaw (whose sentiments appeared to represent only a handful of others, none from this area) reminded them exactly of what they were doing: baiting and switching the people, giving hypocrisy a fresh name.

Much in lower profile than last session when he led the charge to cut tax rates for many taxpayers, while Shaw isn’t always right – his extensive public education background stunts his abilities to understand the vast benefits of school vouchers, for example – he always deserves listening to if not following his advice. And it’s good to know at least somebody in the Senate didn’t let the wimps, several of whom were elected in 2007 singing a very different tune about taxes and integrity, off the hook on this issue.

One of which is northwest Louisiana’s dotty Republican-in-name-only state Sen. Robert Adley (who actually authored the original tax cut and said, after Shaw’s remarks, that he must be one of the “hypocrites.”) If one can stand to listen long enough to his ramblings, in among the wackiness some gems may be found on occasion – if one doesn’t get driven crazy from the hyperbole, contradictions, and sheer illogic of what for him often passes as a train of thought.

For example, in 2006 when some legislators were arguing in favor of changes to the election code that would greatly lower the bar on the integrity of elections to allow hurricane-displaced individuals to vote, Adley was an effective spokesman on the floor showing how such changes did not “disenfranchise” voters.

But three years later, Adley brought this session a bill that would have reverted back federal elections in the state from the closed to blanket primary system. His reason? Because they registrants who do not choose a party label “lose” the “right to vote” in party primaries. Hearing this screed made one want to tap on his head, ask if anybody was home, and tell him nobody was losing any voting rights – if you made a declaration at registration as a party member you could participate in its nominating process, otherwise you could not; it was your choice. And if not, you still could exercise the franchise during the general election. (To make matters more interesting, during this testimony Adley told a story both humorous and horrific about voting irregularities in which his wife had been an unwilling participant.)

He also brought a bill concerning reporting requirements of the governor’s office which had little traction with an alternative now almost law. In its committee presentation, he drew out a conspiracy theory about how the alternative really was a ploy to induce greater secrecy, and openly wondered (as he would on the floor) whether the “Dark Ages” weren’t returning on this issue. Obviously, few other legislators reviewing the merits of the alternative seemed to agree. (Meanwhile, with very little publicity, Adley outside the Senate continues to enjoy a no-bid contract with Louisiana local governments for gas management, entities whose governance and finances he affects through decisions he makes as a senator. It’s a perfectly legal arrangement, but nevertheless makes for interesting occasions when he expounds on issues such as transparency and ethics.)

Adley ventured further towards the twilight zone when he opined on the Senate floor that the Governor’s Office put a pox on the Legislature hearing his bills, as part of a complaint of his there appeared to be too much political comment coming from the Division of Administration’s website (which apparently also is legal). In reality, it probably is more the quality of them that leads them to dead ends than anything else.

Antics such as these have gotten at least one Republican active in local politics already exploring a run against him in 2013. It would be easy to do a better job than the relic of a bygone era that is Adley, but difficult in the process to be more entertaining.

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