This week, the Legislature wrapped up its regular session with the GOP leadership having outmaneuvered Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards on a variety of fronts. It lined up votes and legislation in ways that neutered his line-item veto power, forced him to swallow his pride and ideology to accept one high-profile bill he opposed, and dared him to veto others that look likely if he did most, if not all of them, would be undone in a veto session.
At the same time, a rogue activist judge, in a ruling running very much against the run of judicial play almost certain to be stayed quickly, declared that the state would have to redraw its congressional boundaries because the proportion of those that are majority-minority would have to match the proportion of black residents in the state, no matter how many traditional reapportionment standards would have to be ditched to do so. Handed the ball, Edwards ran with it by summoning a special session Jun. 15-20, with the judicial deadline set for Jun. 22.
After this proclamation, Schexnayder said he would postpone the scheduled Jun. 16 committee hearing by the special panel looking into the death of black motorist Ronald Greene at the hands of the Louisiana State Police that will vet Edwards and his role, increasingly looking suspicious, in the obfuscation and delays investigating the sad matter. He emphasized that it still would occur, but that having the session going on would distract from its mission.
On that account, he probably can be trusted that the Edwards interrogation will happen, and hopefully even soon and in a fashion genuinely searching for the truth. But the larger implication of his pronouncement is that the House will be in session on Jun. 16.
That scores an absolute own goal, to take the dictated session seriously. Let’s imagine an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario at the U.S. Supreme Court – where the reapportionment case will end up in the near future as the Court already has dealt with a similar Alabama case by staying it to let that state’s new plan go through for fall elections – occurs even as you read this, and the Court majority of strict constructionists is replaced by look-alikes but who adhere to the judicial activism behind the ruling in Louisiana’s case, and thus refuse to enjoin that.
At worst, this means that an activist plan with two M/M districts would be drawn by the lower court. In fact, for convenience sake, it likely would rip one of several plans concocted by the special interests that sued the state – which is what legislative Democrats would offer as well. The outcome is the same, regardless of whether a special session produces such a map.
So why help out Democrats, who almost certainly would profit from having two M/M districts in electing an additional member to Congress, by going along with this charade? The end result would be the same whether the Legislature repudiated its existing, entirely constitutional, plan in favor of something entirely speculative. If, as the disposition of the Alabama case suggests, next year the Court will take up the matter, and if then it suddenly decides to make a sea change in reapportionment jurisprudence by reversing past decisions that then would allow race to take a predominant role in in drawing lines, then it happens and the state adjusts accordingly – then, not now.
From the GOP perspective, to do this voluntarily earlier is madness. And making the implied decision even more incomprehensible, Schexnayder is part of the team asking to stay that ruling, so literally his left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing.
Maybe there’s some cuteness going on here, where Schexnayder wants the House to go through the motions ultimately rejecting any plan other than what was adopted (in order at least minimally to appease Democrats who voted for him to become Speaker, where otherwise he wouldn’t have been elected) or perhaps producing one marginally different from what is law that makes it look slightly better on metrics; attempting the latter certainly would divert resources from hearing preparation. But this comes at the cost of a couple hundred thousand extra taxpayer dollars and missing the opportunity to communicate symbolically that the Legislature simply won’t endorse an anti-democratic power play of more-than-dubious constitutionality.
That’s the message that would be sent if next week the session is opened, each chamber appoints a delegation to inform the governor that it is open, then each appoints members to inform him it is adjourned, then take the motion to adjourn and ratify it. Schexnayder’s apparent willingness to take it all seriously puzzles, disappoints, and displays a not-ready-for-primetime leadership in action.