Musical Chairs At The Capitol

More than a third of the lawmakers now serving in the Louisiana Legislature will be forced to abandon their seats in 2019. That means 36 representatives out of the 105-member House will be making their exit at the end of this term, along with 16 out of 39 senators.

This deadline has many lawmakers racing the clock and searching for a place to land. For example, some term-limited members are openly looking for another office either higher up the political food chain, like a statewide post, or one that’s laterally located, like a parish council seat.

And in what amounts to a clear sign that elections really are starting earlier than ever, there are already at least a half dozen declared candidates actively campaigning for legislative seats that won’t become available for another 32 months or so — all connected to term limits.

Of course, with this current crop of lawmakers, we haven’t had to wait around long this term for some election action. In just the past 12 months alone — the first full year of this legislative term — five special elections have either already been held, had to be called or were in some way triggered or signaled.

The next vacancy will come courtesy of Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, who was appointed by the governor as wildlife and fisheries secretary during the holiday break. Then there’s Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Shreveport, who is about to become Congressman Mike Johnson from the 4th District. Former Rep. Tom Willmott was elected to the Kenner City Council last fall and former Reps. Bryan Adams and Joe Lopinto took a shared bow from elected life months earlier in 2016.

These special elections, however, were not entirely related to term limits. Simply put, better jobs just came along in many of these instances. But it helps underscore a growing chorus of concern about morale levels in the Legislature. It’s jokingly being said at fundraisers and cocktail parties that every member of the Legislature is either developing or implementing an exit strategy.

The job of a legislator has become a grueling one over the past year. A partisan divide has taken hold of the process and there’s little chance of reversing that trend. The fiscal problems are about as challenging as they have ever been. Moreover, the hours are longer, the people are grumpier and the view never changes. No wonder so many people are leaning toward the door.

In fact, there could be two more special elections just around the corner for the Legislature. Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, is likely to make a bid for a seat on the Jefferson Parish Council and is considered by local politicos to be an early favorite.

Plus, there are at a minimum six lawmakers thinking about running for state treasurer to replace U.S. Sen.-elect John Kennedy, including Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville; Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte; Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans; Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia; Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington; and Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Metairie.

House members who are term limited are in a much better position than their counterparts in the Senate. It has become a natural progression for a representative to seek office in the upper chamber, but it’s rare for a senator to downgrade his or her position to a House seat, although it has been done. In 2019 we my see two of the Legislature’s longest-serving members — Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi — give it a shot.

It’s actually in the Senate where the biggest shift will take place with this next round of term limits in 2019. That’s when 41 percent of the Senate will be replaced. It’s also likely to grow more conservative in the process, a trend that has already started. Whereas the upper chamber has always been a backstop for any sitting governor, it could begin to act more independently next term, especially with Alario leaving a top leadership void.

Term limits have certainly left their mark on the Louisiana Legislature since being enacted in 1995. The constitutional provision was added as a way to bring fresh voices to the Capitol, and that has definitely been accomplished. But we’ve also lost institutional knowledge along the way and a new kind of politics have been invited into the Capitol — politics that encourage more job-shopping and extend campaign seasons.

Yet this current term of the Legislature — with 52 lawmakers out of 144 on their way out — gives us one more experiment with term limits to record. How many are actually ready to ride off into the sunset? Will voting patterns in the House and Senate change as the months roll by? Will we continue to see vacancies ahead of the 2019 deadline?

The answer to the final question will most likely be delivered in the affirmative. Everything else will just take time, which is appropriate, since time appears to be the chief enemy of legislators heading into this new year.

SPONSORED: What to Expect This Time Around

When the Louisiana State Legislature convenes on March 12, one issue will overshadow all others — the budget. It will be the absolute

Alford: Defining The Louisiana Mood

I was eating boiled crawfish last Friday night with my wife and children in Baton Rouge — Crawfish season! Finally! — when I received a text

Rabalais: That Year There Was No Mardi Gras

When the good times (and parades) didn’t roll for Dutch Throughout history, only cataclysmic events such as invading Yankees, Yellow

Political Chatter

— Congressional aide Michael Willis’ BAD JOKE OF THE WEEK: “How do you catch a unicorn? Unique up on it!” (P.S. Happy Mardi Gras!) —

Gamard’s Beltway Beat: Another Shutdown?

It’s a good thing our congressional delegation got their Carnival fill at the 65th Parish a couple of weeks ago, because pending votes on

#HBD TRACKERS

— Tuesday 02/06: Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Laura Veazey, Stephen Waguespack, Kellee Hennessy, Tom Fitzmorris and Cindy

JBE SAVES MARDI GRAS: Not-so-special session delayed

LaPolitics embarking on annual Carnival break Friday is the new deadline (instead of tomorrow) for the GOP-led House and the

5 Hard-Hitting Campaign Ads

It’s time to review your opposition research, fire up your cameras and get ready to pay your media consultant extra. In this episode, we’re

POD: Liz & The Supremes

In our 48th episode of the LaPolitics Report, we talk to Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill a few weeks after she gave oral arguments

SPONSORED: A Congress Divided

When President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address this week, it arrived on a Congress as divided as Washington

Lowdown: Your German-Born Governor

We'd like to introduce you to Michael Hahn. He was Louisiana's only German-born governor, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, the original

Capitol Gains: JBE, Re-Election Politics & Chicken Stuff

Gov. John Bel Edwards was the guest for our inaugural episode of Capitol Gains, Louisiana’s only Sunday morning political talk show. In

Hashtag Louisiana: Todd Graves & One Love For Mardi Gras

Our new podcast meets you at the intersection of Louisiana politics, social media and business with host Ira Wray. This first episode is

LaHistory: Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid

Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid In 1995, Louisiana’s political landscape was shifting. Frustrated with problems in the gambling

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 01/30: Congressman Mike Johnson, Denise Thevenot, Matt Holliday and Sonny Cranch — Wednesday 01/31: Congressman Garret

A Very Looziana SOTU (and Other Chatter)

— In case you missed it last night, the Bayou State owned the first five minutes… — U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise got one of the

Special Session Cat-and-Mouse Begins

— THE BOTTOM LINE… is a bit fuzzy. If you ask the top supporters of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the special session is a go. Working under that

LaPolitics Lowdown: Louisiana’s German-Born Governor

Go pull those lederhosen out of your closet and fire up those frankfurters, because the country that gave us Albert Einstein and Bach and

Capitol Gains: JBE Talks Re-election

Gov. John Bel Edwards is the guest for this inaugural episode of Capitol Gains. He talks about his campaign's fundraising totals from last

SPONSORED: It’s Not Just About Mardi Gras

The Picard Group (TPG) traveled to Washington D.C. this week not only to celebrate Washington Mardi Gras but to meet with Congressional

NEW POD: Hashtag Louisiana

Welcome to Hashtag Louisiana, your monthly podcast guide to the intersection of social media, business, and politics in the Pelican

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 01/23: Rep. Julie Stokes, former Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll, John Diez, John Mathis and Sterling LeJeune — Wednesday

LaHistory: Mr. Long Goes To Washington

Thursday will mark an anniversary for the United States Senate — 86 years since the Kingfish himself took the upper chamber by storm, and

Democratic Group Wants More Elected Women in Louisiana

Emerge America, a national organization whose sole purpose is getting Democratic women elected into public office, has spread its roots to

The Beltway Beat: Shutdown Edition

— Marriage Advice: Don’t use C-SPAN to tell your wife that you bought a new vehicle. — TODAY’S POLITICO PLAYBOOK: As the Senate was