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Big-govt senators ask Edwards to help them

Memo to a bunch of Louisiana state senators: Read the Louisiana Constitution.

Earlier this week, 11 of the majority Republicans joined by three Democrats sent a note to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, urging him to call a special session prior to the start of the regular session Mar. 12. This being an even-numbered year, legislators can’t deal with tax bills in a regular session. With a nearly billion-dollar deficit staring lawmakers in their faces for fiscal year 2019, it seems likely that, at the least, the Legislature will have to tackle renewing temporary taxes.

Most prominently signed by the GOP Sen. Pres. John Alario, the authors point out that the sooner, the better for such a session, in terms of options available. Edwards has said he won’t call the session, a power granted to him under Art. III Sec. 2 which also allows him to set the agenda, unless he has a commitment from the leadership of both chambers to raise specific taxes on a permanent basis. So far, particularly the House leadership, like the Senate’s composed of Republicans, has not assented to any permanent tax increases.

The senators involved say Edwards must proceed regardless. But why not cut out the middleman? That same passage gives the presiding officers of the Legislature the same power, when authorized by a majority of each chamber.

At 14, the Senate already has more than two-thirds the number necessary to reach that mark, and, given the gravity of the situation, it seems inevitable that a majority would authorize. The same rationale applies to House members.

In fact, as accompanying statute requires only 13 senators to submit a petition spelling out the commencement, end, and objects of such a session, the signers already can put the process into motion. They would have to find 35 representatives agree to the terms, and, if so, a ballot circulates on the document where majorities approving would bring it to life.

So, why wouldn’t they do this? After all, it's right there in writing.

They don't probably because they know the House leadership and quite a few of chamber Republicans would want a very circumscribed list of revenue-raising measures and also include other items such as voting on work requirements for welfare recipients and Medicaid copayments. By contrast, Edwards, if he can politically, would exclude those and confine the session to a broad menu of tax increases, perhaps exclusively aimed at corporations and higher-income earners.

Especially the Republican signatories would not want themselves associated with large-scale tax increases, although a few of them would vote for such things and then explain these away by citing severe fiscal conditions. Instructively, the note itself contains almost no names of those senators regarded as leery of tax increases and who prefer to right-size state government.

Essentially, many of the signatories don’t have the guts to admit they want big government, and so wish Edwards would do their dirty work for them. Then, they may claim being “forced” to go along with his expansive agenda. Thus, they cravenly ask him to help them out.

None of this should matter to the House GOP majority, who must know that Edwards must cave to their demands of an appropriate-sized state government lest he becomes known as (according to his budget recently submitted) the governor who unplugged ventilators, kicked old people out onto the street, turned the sick away from hospitals, and stood at college doors keeping out students. That some RINOs patrol the Senate should not change their calculus.

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