A Conversation With House Clerk Butch Speer

Jeremy Alford: So… Now what?

House Clerk Butch Speer: Well, it’s true that legislatures all over the country — but this one in particular, ours in particular — seem to wait until the boat disappears from under their feet before they start bailing. I think they’re at that point. They can’t put it off any longer. Whether their hair is one fire or whether they’ve run into the wall — whatever the metaphor is — they’re at a point where they have to. And I believe, strongly, that there are two-thirds of people out there who want to do something. There’s certainly that close-to-a-third who want to do nothing and make it as bad as it can be.

JJA: Where do you see the remainder of this term heading? We’re halfway through it and it seems like the body is still evolving and developing.

BS: It is. This is the first term in modern Louisiana politics. Every session before this term operated on a completely different paradigm. The power structure was different. But the ability to encourage members to go along with the desires of leadership was different. An elected group doesn’t learn how to be independent and how to exercise a power independently just by having power given to them. They have to learn how to use that power. This group is learning. Regrettably, I see the next two regular sessions as not being improvements on the collegiality but actually continuing this divide that’s begun amongst them, that they just will find more and more things to separate themselves, and fewer and fewer things to bring themselves together.

JJA: Does this term of the House remind you of any other term in particular?

BS: It doesn’t because, like I said, the whole paradigm of power is different. One could think back to the Roemer term, when we were about as disorganized and rudderless as one could be, and yet we weren’t completely. The governor still had a speaker that was his ally, he still had committee chairs that were his allies, he still had an Appropriations and Ways and Means Committee that were his allies. I mean, at the time, we all thought, “How could it be this bad” Be careful what you wish for. It might come true.

JJA: What about a comparable session? I keep thinking back to that December special that Kathleen Blanco, where Jim Tucker finally organized Republicans and they shut that one down.

BS: They didn’t shut it down having done nothing. They just shut it down before they did everything that the governor wanted done.

JJA: Is there any update on how the election to replace you is going to play out?

BS: No.

JJA: Are you hearing about any candidates?

BS: Obviously, the members have done nothing about actually getting behind someone to give them on-the-job training. I have no clue.

JJA: Has this session reinforced your enthusiasm about retirement?

BS: It certainly has not changed my mind.

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