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Edwards expected actions set maps through 2023

Predictably, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has given Louisiana’s state majoritarian institutions new maps that don’t change much and a congressional map that will look exactly the same for this fall’s elections.

Edwards managed this combination by vetoing the identical bills from the recently-concluded special session on reapportionment that left congressional districts largely the same in producing one majority-minority district of the six, letting go into law bills drawing up the Legislature, and signing bills concerning the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission. The bills addressing each legislative chamber effectively add one M/M seat to each while the BESE arrangement keeps two such districts of eight and the PSC retains its one of five.

Special interests and Democrats saw differently the products of the Republican-run Legislature, with that party’s Senate supermajority plus one seat and its being only two seats shy of a House supermajority. They wanted another BESE M/M district and at least one more in each legislative chamber, besides the extra such seat in Congress. But vetoes to reflect those desires never were in the cards, for two reasons.


Expanding term limits would break new ground

Legislators, and perhaps voters, will have a chance to redefine conceptually what terms limits mean under a bill amending the Constitution to impose such limits on sheriffs and tax assessors.

HB 199 by Democrat state Rep. Mandie Landry would give a parish’s top law enforcement officer and tax collector up to three consecutive terms in office, and the same for assessors in her HB 288. As a rationale for limiting sheriffs, she complains that “You have a lot of power over money, over law enforcement, over all politics … centered in one person. And to know there is no end in sight really, really puts a lot of power in those two hands.” And, she may just be getting started, expressing a desire to extend limits to all elected offices.

Let’s slow down and think about this. At present, the constitution imposes term limits on only four kinds of officers: the governor, legislators, members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and public service commissioners. A sort of limit exists on judges in that they can’t run for this kind of office past the age of 70, but that doesn’t stem from the argument that staying in power too long can have detrimental policy effects but that advanced age may impair adjudicatory skills.


LA should conserve, not blow, bonus oil bucks

Now isn’t the time for Louisiana to blow another bounty, a sentiment that must triumph in the upcoming regular session of the Legislature in the face of yet another temptation.

Largesse has come the state’s way through a firehose of federal aid fed by an orgy of debt indulged in by Washington Democrats under the guise of response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. That has boosted state tax coffers to produce hundreds of millions more of additional dollars for next year’s budget, plus something similar in direct grants that to some extent can offset existing state sources needed for operating expenses.

All this extra dough has Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and his minority legislative party salivating to go on a spending spree, an unwise proposition given large one-time expenditures that loom within the next couple of years, plus that not long after the sales tax hike engineered by Edwards in his first term will roll off the books. The GOP majority party in the Legislature would do best to make few, if any, new commitments in order to prepare for these fiscal realities.


Convention bill empowers elites, not people

It’s a needed solution, but as always the execution of the idea matters and that’s where, to date, Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee’s constitutional convention bill HB 259 fails.

The bill follows in the footsteps of many that failed to reach their destination, all proposed over the past three decades. The last major effort to do so occurred two years ago and went nowhere, although descendance of the Wuhan coronavirus certainly played a part in that.

This was HB 680 by GOP state Rep. Mark Wright, which would have opened up the whole document for revision. While perhaps wholesale changes being optimal, politically speaking that would have decreased chances for passage, for as among political elites there seems widespread agreement that big changes must come, specific agreement breaks down over ideology. Democrats don’t want fiscal changes that reduce state government’s ability to tax and spend so they rather like the inflexibility inherent to the current document in this policy area – the precise area that conservatives see as a hindrance. However, conservatives split among the need to change, or inviting change they don’t see as needed in, other policy areas, which combined with leftists’ disdain has thwarted past comprehensive efforts.


Term limit extension against people's agenda

Republican state Rep. Stuart Bishop’s HB 205 that would bump up from three to four term limitations on legislators doesn’t create better policy-making, but does slake the appetites of politicians.

Bishop, himself term-limited for whom the bill wouldn’t apply, to justify the extension trots out the old and tired argument that a lot of “institutional knowledge” goes up the road when legislators hit the limit, which then allegedly passes control of matters more into the hands of special interests and staff. It’s yet another affirmation that elected officials are like man-eating lions: like with humans for big cats, the taste of power is foreign to them until they have some, and then they acquire a taste for it to the point they must have more.

The argument to increase limits has so many holes in it, beginning with the assumption that, in his formulation, a dozen years isn’t enough to grasp the inner workings of the legislator’s job. Yet, according to him, 13 (at least; it could be all the way to 16) is the magic number. Why 13 instead of 12? And not even his own allies agree; GOP state Rep. Barry Ivey has argued that some matters simply are beyond the time and energy a legislator has at any point in a legislative career, forcing too much dependence necessarily on staff and lobbyists no matter how long you’ve been there.