The House Versus the Senate

“Every year we send a lean thoroughbred race horse to the Senate in the form of a budget, and they send back a dairy cow. Full of milk and a whole lot of fat.”
—A wise House member

(A Battle Never Won By The House)

Nothing that you see in the above is original content from the LaPolitics team.

We didn’t write that headline. We didn’t come up with that kicker. And we have no idea who the anonymous legislator was who provided that quote about the budget transforming into a variety of bovine.

All of that copy was ripped, word for word, from the beginning of Chapter 10 in The Outhouse Report: Politics in the Louisiana Legislature (Quotable Quotes, Short Stories, and Thoughts on a Misunderstood System).

The book is a slice-of-life accounting of the Capitol from 1992 to 2002, which is when District Attorney Charles Riddle served in the House. Riddle, the book’s author, spent an entire chapter on the dynamics of this historic divide between chambers — yes, the same blood feud that’s slowly taking centerstage during the ongoing regular session.

In fact, you may have thought to yourself that the headline, kicker and quote were appropriate ways to summarize current events in Baton Rouge. Even if the content is roughly 25 years old.

For an overview that’s more up to date, here’s the lay of the land in our post-Riddle Legislature…

The House passed the 2018-2019 budget last week, but the Senate leadership is leaning against hearing the spending bill at all because its funding reductions are too severe. Senators also believe, rightly so, that a budget can be passed in the year’s second special session, which is expected to convene in mid- to late-May.

The special session will host tax debates that could soften the state’s $648 million shortfall. But some Republican representatives would prefer to wait even longer to convene again, just in case revenue projections continue to improve and sweeping tax increases aren't actually needed.

The resulting political environment — and it ain’t pretty — has led reps to label senators as obstructionists, and senators to accuse reps of not doing their jobs. These exchanges aren’t playing out behind closed doors, like they did during the Riddle era. They’re taking place over live microphones, in media reports and on social media.

It’s probably best that lawmakers will likely punt the budget to the special session. Given the time constraints of the regular session, in concert with the souring mood, the last thing the Capitol class needs is a contentious conference committee.

Just ask Riddle. Those conference committees can get a little weird, or, as the district attorney wrote in The Outhouse Report, they can also get a bit stinky: “You know what happens to a bill that goes to conference committee? It goes in looking like a cat, comes out barking like a dog and smelling like a skunk!”

So, who will win this round? Will it be the Senate (Riddle’s go-to pick) or will it be the House? Honestly, as long as we don’t all end up as losers, it really doesn’t matter.

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