The Legislative Guide To Winning Friends & Influencing People

As of the writing of this column, the Louisiana Legislature and the Edwards Administration still had a little more time to throw down all shields in a grand display of cooperation. (The special session, which has once again pitted the House against the Senate and governor, must adjourn by midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 23.)

By all indications, however, the special session is expected to come to a close without new friends won inside the rails of the Legislature and without that delicate touch of diplomatic influence that has been so badly needed.

The tension between the House and Senate in particular was palpable during the closing days of the special session. So was the bad blood that was brewing between some members of the House and the administration.

There were divisions and sub-divisions to behold and fractions of factions to unravel. Very little in the way of communications, in regard to policy negotiations, has changed since the tumultuous sessions of 2016.

At one point the governor, in a late night press conference, suggested the House leadership wanted to halt conversations with the Senate altogether — and was keeping its own members in the dark.

“The House Republicans, I believe, wanted to do a bilateral negotiation with me that left out Democrats in the House, but also left out the entire Senate,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Leaders in the House GOP shook off the suggestion and countered that the governor was only trying to create controversy. Not that anyone needed to create it; drama and controversy climbed into public view regularly during the special session.

During a floor debate last week over revenue and spending priorities, Democratic Rep. Sam Jones filed what he called the “Dishonest Lawmaker Amendment,” which questioned GOP budget tactics. That in turn prompted freshman Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican, to refer to Jones and the governor as “dishonest.”

Jones, an old hand at the Capitol, didn’t miss a beat. “I want to thank Rep. Magee for protecting my integrity,” he said with a laugh.

It was seen on the Senate side, too, when Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur asked his committee colleagues to send Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry’s supplemental budget bill to the floor without action— a procedural move that ignores an actual committee vote. LaFleur said the committee was going to “treat Cameron Henry like we treated our president.”

The most important takeaway from all of this — and the one most feared by politicos involved in the process — was just how excruciatingly tough the regular session will be.

That cannot be overstated. The regular session that convenes on April 10 will be more pressure-filled than anything this current Legislature has seen, with $1.5 billion in temporary taxes that need to be addressed and another budget shortfall of a few hundred million dollars.

There was only one question that mattered in the special session: Who will bend first? It’s also the key question to the entire legislative term.

During the special session the House, Senate and governor had three different sets of numbers for how much should be cut overall. They also disagreed on the amount that should be taken out of the emergency Rainy Day Fund, how much money unfilled positions would create and how much cash should be siphoned from the attorney general’s office.

At times that led to mini-wars between staffs. Accusations that numbers were wrong flew left and right — although none of the players involved were willing to say they were wrong.

“Some people are saying, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts,’” added Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne, Edward’s chief budget advisor, even slammed House Republicans during the special session for allegedly claiming they would find the money “somewhere” to erase the current fiscal year budget shortfall of $304 million.

“We don’t have a department of somewhere,” said Dardenne. “We don’t have a secretary of somewhere.”

Each time the Legislature reached a disagreement over policy, it was the same pattern. The governor would offer a high number, the House leadership would lowball it and the Senate would emerge with a compromise figure.

Another important question moving forward is whether the Senate has been negotiating on behalf of the governor or if it’s attempting to emerge as the voice of reason between the lower chamber and the administration. If it’s indeed the latter, the Senate may have the most important role to play of all during what remains of this term.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, as the session was winding down, appeared to be negotiating publicly from the Senate floor with the House, noting the pattern described above. The governor went high on what he wanted out of the Rainy Day Fund, the House went low and the Senate tried to land in the middle, hoping the House would bite.

But it was clear to anyone listening that the Senate didn’t know what to expect. “At this point we’re kind of shooting in the dark,” said Morrell.

And that kind of shooting will most certainly continue into the spring regular session. So keep your head down.

LOWDOWN: How A Podcast Gets Made

Here at LaPolitics, we like to use our videos and podcasts to teach you something you don’t already know. So in this week’s Lowdown, we’re

Ronnie, Riverboats & Re-Election Campaigns

His father pitched for The New York Yankees before gaining his political chops in Bunkie, Louisiana, just like his son did. So who is it

SPONSORED: Celebrating 25 Years Of Burkenroad Reports

Twenty-five years ago, Professor Peter Ricchiuti founded a unique learning opportunity for Tulane University graduate students that has not

PRE-SINE DIE Q&A WITH SEN. BRET ALLAIN

LaPolitics: That final Finance vote in HB 1 was such a break from the session rhythm. Quick, unemotional and transactional. Was that

ALFORD: The Capitol’s Dirty Little Secret

The governor of Louisiana is not politically omnipotent. (I’m referring to the storied position of governor, not the man or the woman who

RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY: John Breaux’s Last-Minute Win Over Henson Moore

U.S. Sen. Russell B. Long’s announcement that he would retire after 36 years in the upper chamber was unexpected, as he had been building

PHOTO GALLERY: The Final Four Hours Of The Special Session That Never Was

   

“Members, It Is 12 a.m.”

It’s called a photo finish for a reason, not that the House, Senate and Edwards Administration would need photographic evidence to help sort

VIDEO: Who’s The Man Behind The Tree?

When politicians want your money, the idea is bound to come up. "Don't tax you. Don't tax me. Tax the man behind the tree." But who is

The LaPolitics Report: Meet Monty

This episode features Monty Sullivan, the president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, who provides a political read

LaPolitics Weekly Special Edition: FISCAL CLIFFHANGER

THE RUNDOWN Weekend action slated at Capitol… Sunday is budget-tax day on Senate floor… Sales tax amendments doomed… But the rate is still

LaPolitics Weekly: THEY SAID IT

“I didn't write the Constitution. I’m just trying to follow it.” —Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, during HB 1 floor debate “I’m trying

Major Moves In SOS Race: Free announces, Werner out & JNK wades in

Like he did during last year’s special election for state treasurer, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is picking sides again in the special election

FISCAL CLIFFHANGER: A Political Melodrama Told In Three Acts

FISCAL CLIFFHANGER A POLITICAL MELODRAMA TOLD IN THREE ACTS How a failed sales tax bill set the special session’s tone, bridged a deep

What The Heck Is John Alario Saying?

Have you ever listened closely to the words being said into the mic Senate President John Alario while he’s overseeing the business of the

SPONSORED: CGI Announces Major Louisiana Expansion

During his special session speech on May 22, Gov. John Bel Edwards, along with IT company CGI executive Dave Henderson, announced that CGI

#LA: John F. Jones & Social Media Advertising

“Social media is not magic. It’s just one of our many channels that we can use.” That’s the view of CenturyLink Public Policy and

JBE, Mitch & The Donald

This story was originally published in LaPolitics Weekly on May 18, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by

SPONSORED: Congratulations to Bruce Greenstein and LHC Group!

Congratulations to Bruce Greenstein on this week’s announcement that he will return to Louisiana to lead innovation at LHC Group as Chief

THE LaPOLITICS REPORT: Picard, Politics & Ponies

In our latest podcast episode of The LaPolitics Report, Tyron Picard of The Picard Group drops in for a conversation about a bygone era in

CAPITOL GAINS: At Home with Clay

 “This is what America wants to see.” That was the promise from a beer-toting Congressman Clay Higgins in this episode of Capitol

SPONSORED: The 106th First Lady’s Luncheon

The Picard Group was honored to attend the 106th First Lady’s Luncheon, honoring The First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump. Held on

IT’S PERSONAL

This story was originally published in LaPOLITICS Weekly on May 4, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by

THIS COULD BE YOU

You could say legislators in Illinois really dropped the ball when they failed to pass an operating budget for their state prior to the 2016

POD: Politics & Drilling, According To Briggs

In this episode of The LaPolitics Report, we talk to Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Gifford Briggs, who recently succeeded his