From intellectually honest to bitingly sarcastic, the remarks delivered by state Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, during this year’s record run of legislative sessions almost helped us forget just how rough 2016’s budget negotiations actually were.
At one point, he told the entire House membership that “my brain explodes” when faced with the chamber’s combined and infinite wisdom.
Just don’t get him started on religion. “I was reared Southern Baptism,” Shadoin said from the floor one Tuesday morning. “But in between I was Presbyterian and Methodist. And being a lawyer, I tell people I didn't want to blow eternity on a technicality.”
He once even turned a presentation on a water management bill into a confessional. “When they were settling this country they said whisky was for drinking and water was for fighting over,” said Shadoin. “I found when I drank whiskey I did fight. So I quit.”
This year’s regular session, which was sandwiched between two special sessions, had its semi-spiritual moments of enlightenment as well. Like the time the bottom of retiring lobbyist Bob Israel’s shoe came off while he was talking to lawmakers. “You see,” quipped Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner. “If you stick around here too long, you lose your sole.”
You can always get advice on the cheap around the Capitol. For example, Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, advised against fishing in the Capitol lakes. “I was warned when I first got here that those fish glow in the dark,” he told the House earlier this year.
Clearly lawmakers tend to ramble on during their floor speeches, or as Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, put it, “Sometimes we suffer from mental constipation and we may need a laxative.”
The state Senate wasn’t laughing much, however, as it spent one session after another in 2016 waiting for the House to compromise — or just to communicate. “We’re sending smoke signals and emails and pigeons and everything else to find out what’s going on,” said Senate President John Alario, later adding, “If they pass a tax on roaches, we would be willing to take it.”
Alario made a good point this month during the most recent legislative hearing on the budget. “As long as people are talking, democracy works,” he said, possibly offering words of caution for 2017.
This year also offered some memorable political lines from the campaign trail, where U.S. Sen.-elect John Kennedy never suffered from a wisecrack deficit.
— Kennedy on the federal government: “This country was founded by geniuses, but, by God, sometimes I think it’s being run by idiots.”
— Kennedy on Congress: “Every single one of them ought to hide their head in a bag.”
— Kennedy on incumbency: “It’s true you can’t fix stupid. But you can vote it out.”
— Kennedy on Kennedy: “I’ll be tougher than a $3 steak.”
— Kennedy on romance: “I believe love is the answer. But you ought to own a gun.”
There were many instances during the U.S. Senate race, which Kennedy won, when most of the candidates seemed to be fighting over who was the most like President-elect Donal Trump.
“I’m the different one, just like Mr. Trump is,” said retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness.
When he qualified to run, Congressman John Fleming spent some time speaking about Trump’s personality and politics. “And I'm that way too,” he quickly added.
Our year in politics likewise got slightly meta when former Gov. Edwin Edwards got to talking about new Gov. John Bel Edwards. “When I was sitting in prison I never thought I would be attending an inauguration for another Edwards,” said the four-term former governor.
Gov. Edwards, meanwhile, sounded like he was channeling the other Edwards when newspapers dug deeper into legal contracts his administration had awarded to his campaign’s political allies. “Since when am I obligated to do business with people who don’t support me?” Gov. Edwards told The Advocate.
Despite the mini-controversy, Gov. Edwards’ approval ratings remained high this year and a leading Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate even tried to model his campaign on Edwards’ 2015 run. “Foster Campbell has literally grafted, pretty much, John Bel Edwards’ campaign team onto his campaign team,” Gambit’s Clancy DuBos said during a recent panel discussion. “The problem is, he didn’t strap on a parachute and grab a rifle and jump out of airplanes and go to West Point.”
Some of the funniest quotes from the year that was 2016 weren’t intended to be comical or unusual at all. Which brings to mind the prayer delivered before the House of Representatives this year by freshman Rep. Beryl Amedée, R-Houma.
“Today, right in this moment, I want to invite those in this room who know the Lord to stand in the gap before God and confess the sin of government's bad stewardship to God and ask him for forgiveness,” Amedée said during her prayer.
Lawmakers are no doubt accustomed to fighting the allure of sin in their everyday lives, but most probably weren’t aware that eternal hellfire and damnation could be a byproduct of public service. If 2016 is any indication, though, 2017’s political environment may force lawmakers to actually consider hell as an attractive alternative to elected life in Louisiana.