If Louisiana’s legislative Republicans want more than half a loaf, GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder either must change his tune in a hurry, or get shown the door.
Schexnayder famously scored the speakership with unanimous Democrat support and a minority of Republicans. It’s why he has lent no support, if not indirectly tried to discourage, his party from pursuing several bellwether GOP issue preferences that have generated next to no opposition in other states with similar-sized Republican legislative majorities.
States with concealed carry protections not needing permits have gone from a trickle to a flood. In Louisiana, the Senate already has put into the House SB 118 by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris to do the same. But the House only recently passed a slightly-different HB 596 by GOP state Rep. Bryan Fontenot out of committee, with every non-Republican on it voting against.
Several states have advanced, if not already put into law, bills to bring oversight or ban administering drugs to prevent puberty or surgery to alter sex characteristics on minors, or bills to limit scholastic sports participation in single-sex sports to members of that sex. With one exception beginning this week, bills to accomplish this haven’t even received a hearing in the House, while in the Senate a bill dealing with athletics, SB 156 by GOP state Sen. Beth Mizell, has moved to the floor.
Perhaps most indicative of Schexnayder’s feet of clay, HB 564 by Republican Ray Garofalo has stalled in the House Education Committee that Garofalo leads. This bill would prohibit giving privileged status to elementary and secondary school instruction and employee training and that training in higher education using material that demeans individuals receiving education or instruction on the basis of their race, sex, or national origin, a practice that likely violates federal law.
Similar bills already have become or are on the cusp of becoming law in other states, yet Schexnayder not only has done nothing to help the bill along but he also has let go unchecked a lynch mob against Garofalo led by the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. During the bill’s debate, where Garofalo several times said the purpose of his bill was to allow debate of the “good, bad, and ugly” of history, at one point as an off the cuff example said hypothetically classroom argumentation using this paradigm could analyze slavery.
A Republican ally of Schexnayder’s, state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, then commented there was nothing “good” about slavery, even as Garofalo never said there was. But Black Caucus chief Democrat state Rep. Ted James, to the approval of ally Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, said this exchange meant Garofalo should be kicked out as chairman; Schexnayder makes that appointment.
Instead of privately telling James his actions engaged in unsavory demagoguery that took matters way out of context and in public noting James had made the request and saying nothing more, Schexnayder fed the controversy by implying he actually would give the notion serious consideration, leaving it to Garofalo to explain publicly the absurdity of James’ assertion. Garofalo intends on continuing to advance some form of the bill.
However Schexnayder feels about that, the political fact is he can’t afford to alienate James because the plurality of his support for Speaker came from the LLBC. That makes credible any threat from the LLBC to bring his speakership to a vote, where withdrawal of LLBC support would replace him with another GOP speaker. And he would lose enough Republican support precisely because of the rancor he has sowed by blocking some of the party’s agenda out of deference to the Democrats who put him office.
This is why Senate bills have progressed, because Republicans there have a supermajority and in unified fashion installed Pres. Page Cortez, who has followed (whether he genuinely desires to) his party’s wishes on most matters. House supermajorities also would favor at the very least the concealed carry and gender bills if not HB 564 as well, as all but perhaps a couple of Republicans and several Democrats favor some of all of gun rights, don’t want to expose children to drugs with significant side effects or to mutilation, and have concerns about a neo-racist doctrine that poses as anti-racism.
This invalidates any claim by Schexnayder that pursuing these matters is futile because Edwards will veto them and he cannot derive a supermajority to override. Nor does any assertion hold water that the Legislature needs to concentrate on tax reform, which he has staked as the biggest issue of the session, to the exclusion of these others – it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.
It has become increasingly clear that Schexnayder signed away his soul to become Speaker. Unless he rapidly grows a spine and does the right things, he needs to get out of the way – voluntarily or otherwise.