Former House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, now a government affairs advisor at Adams & Reese in Baton Rouge, recently said that he thought his successor in the Legislature’s lower chamber is “doing a good job.” But he added that sitting Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, “has his work cut out for him.”
Barras, the first speaker elected in modern times with the endorsement of a governor, has been under fire in recent weeks by newspaper editorials calling for a fresh start for the House.
“I think probably every speaker back to the beginning of time has had some type of challenge,” Kleckley said in The LaPolitics Report podcast. “I read the stuff about Taylor and removing him from the speaker’s office … But if you remove him, the whole deck gets reshuffled. You’re going to have new chairmen of the 16 standing committees, new vice chairmen of the 16 standing committees, a whole new Appropriations Committee.”
Kleckley added, “When you factor all of that in, what guarantees that a new speaker will be any different? It’s a lot of noise. It’s unfortunate. That energy can be better spent resolving some of the problems the state has.”
Leach Put On LSU Board
Gov. John Bel Edwards has made his selection, and Mary Leach Werner is his appointee to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
She will replace former Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who has taken an energy regulation job in the Trump administration.
Many voters may know of Leach through her unsuccessful bid for the Public Service Commission last year. She received Edwards’ endorsement.
She is the CEO of Sweet Lake Land and Oil Co. and North American Land Company. She’s also the daughter of Buddy Leach, the former chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party and one-time congressman.
‘Solve The Budget’
The Advocate newspaper and the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs teamed up this year to host a “Solve The Budget” puzzle, which voters could use to actually try to balance the state budget. It’s not so easy.
With more than 5,100 participants, the exercise’s results offer an unscientific snapshot of how voters and residents feel about spending priorities.
For example, no other budget-balancing question received a stronger response than “reduce some reductions and incentives on corporate taxes.” A total of 64 percent of participants were in favor. The least popular option was “remove a penny from state sales tax.” Only 27 percent were in favor of that.
Under the spending category, 78 percent supported “spend $24 million in state funds to receive $200 million in federal money for roadwork.” But only 21 percent favored “provide state funding for local jails and prisons.”
When Will Lawmakers Meet Again?
After convening three different times this year, the Louisiana Legislature isn’t scheduled to go into another lawmaking session until March 12, 2018. That’s when the House and Senate will begin their annual regular session — just like the one that was concluded in early June.
Legislators, however, may have to gavel in sooner than that to address a $1.2-billion shortfall for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has publicly discussed releasing a call for what will be the fifth special session of this term, but he has offered no concrete timelines or certainties. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, believe it could be called as soon as January.
The problem for Edwards is that he needs the House and Senate to support the creation of new revenue — a venture that his administration has found to be challenging at best over the past two years, particularly in the House.
Perhaps that’s why Edwards has been telling reporters lately that he may just skip another special session, thus allowing drastic budget reductions to take hold if the House doesn’t start to coalesce around a revenue plan.
The bottleneck in the legislative process, specifically for tax hikes, resides in the lower chamber, where conservative lawmakers have so far refused to approve permanent revenue-raising measures.
Complicating matters is the fact that the only opportunity state government will have to tinker with revenue bills in 2018 is via a special session. By law, only non-fiscal regular sessions can be held in even-numbered years.
If the governor does plan to trigger a special session next year, it’s unclear what would be in his agenda.
It’s worth noting that Edwards never did completely remove from the policy table the recommendations generated by the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy. His team is said to be taking another long, hard look at the group’s findings.
Infrastructure Money To Stokes
Supporting the proposed gas tax increase during this year’s regular session might not play well with hard-right voters and groups like Americans For Prosperity.
But state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, is learning that it’s really popular with certain donors, which isn’t a terrible problem to have if you’re running for treasurer.
The Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Assoc. is the latest group to come to the Stokes camp, and it has scheduled a fundraiser for her.
Here’s a look at what the asphalt lobby thinks about the candidate, based on a recent internal email: “Rep. Stokes is the only state treasurer candidate who supports infrastructure improvement. Her vote in committee and her continued vocal support was critical in advancing the infrastructure improvement legislation.”
Stokes was also endorsed at the tail end of the regular session by Louisiana Associated General Contractors. Here’s an excerpt from a similar internal email: “Rep. Stokes is running for state treasurer. She is the only candidate who supported the fuel tax increase. LAGC will support Stokes for treasurer and I encourage all LAGC members to do so, also.”
Political History: Remembering Marie Louise Snellings
Marie Louise Wilcox Snellings was a Louisiana woman who carved her path across the state’s unforgiving political landscape. But her contributions extended well beyond elected life.
In 1933, Snellings was one of the first women to earn a law degree from Tulane University. She also secured a master’s in law from Columbia University before conducting research for, and learning to cook from, U.S. Sen. Allen Ellender of Houma. That’s according to KnowLouisiana.org, the Digital Encyclopedia of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Those culinary and political lessons came in handy later in her life.
After college, Snellings became very active in Republican politics and ran successfully for the Ouachita Parish School Board in 1964. Having received resistance from party establishment types, Snellings switched to the Democratic Party soon after, and eventually won a seat on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her time on BESE stretched from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Well known as an excellent cook who was schooled by Sen. Ellender, Snellings wrote a popular cookbook and several children’s books. When she was in her 50s, she bought and managed a 600-acre farm in Caldwell Parish, where she grew cotton and bred cattle.
The parents of two children, Snellings and her husband adopted a third child, Frank Snellings, from Ireland in 1954. He is now married to former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Snellings died Feb. 2, 1994, in Monroe.
Legal Contract Inked By Governor
Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Natural Resources Dept. have finally put the finishing touches on their contract for legal services with former state Rep. Taylor Townsend.
It’s good for up to $150,000. That includes $385 per hour for attorneys, $250 per hour for associate attorneys and $50 per hour for paralegals.
This is money that must be appropriated by the Legislature.
A Natchitoches attorney who has helped raise money for the governor, Townsend found himself thrust back into the limelight last year when he started handling coastal litigation for the Edwards administration; the litigation targeted the oil and gas industry. Around that time, Attorney General Jeff Landry refused to sign off on the first contract drafted for Townsend, citing a variety of concerns.
The new contract, effective through April 30, 2019, covers the same coastal areas.
Pair Of JDC Races On Tap
There are two seats open on the Oct. 14 ballot in the 22nd Judicial District Court, which covers Washington and St. Tammany parishes.
The Division H seat is being vacated by Judge Allison Penzato, who has moved to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. So far, only attorney Alan Zaunbrecher of Covington has declared his candidacy. He’s expected to mount a strong campaign with establishment support.
Reggie Laurent has told local politicos he’s looking at the contest, too, but nothing more formal than that has surfaced.
In Division E, Judge William Burris is retiring. It could be a hot race. His son, William H. “Billy” Burris, is a candidate, as is Jay Adair, an assistant district attorney.
They Said It
“We’ve had to be magicians for many years.”
— Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan, on dealing with previous budget cuts
“It’s good to see all your shocked faces.”
— Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, after it was announced that he would be giving the opening prayer for the state House.
“Government is like a fire. The more you feed it, the bigger it gets.”
— Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro
For more Louisiana political news, visit LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.