(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 7:02 PM
A state lawmaker’s announcement earlier this week that he had gathered enough signatures to satisfy the first requirement to call his colleagues into a special section provides welcome news for the state.
Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, I-Thibodaux, said he and 38 other House members had signed a petition requesting a special session next month. State law requires that at least one-third of each chamber of the Legislature — in this case 35 members of the House — sign a petition requesting the special session.
At least 13 members of the Senate must sign the petition to then require mail-in balloting on the subject. If at least 13 senators concur, a majority of the members in each chamber — 53 in the House and 20 in the Senate — must return a ballot calling for the session.
Many legislators have become agitated over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to implement severe cuts in the LSU-run hospital system and close Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy and a state-run psychiatric hospital in St. Tammany Parish.
Richard said he wants the Jindal administration “to come to the table” to explain the reasons for the cuts and how those decisions were made.
The state’s implementation of a voucher plan that allows students at low-performing school to receive stipends to pay for their tuition at private schools may also be revisited. Two members of the Louisiana Senate and Government Affairs Committee told The Monroe New-Star they believe state Superintendent of Education John White lied to the committee during his May confirmation hearing about his teaching experience and how schools that were applying to enroll scholarship transfer students would be vetted.
All of this is the first inkling of state lawmakers standing up and deciding to become an equal branch of government.
Quite frankly, they were run roughshod by Jindal and his administration during this year’s regular session. If they didn’t toe the line, they were punished in many cases. Other times, legislators who had the temerity to question the governor’s agenda were stripped of their committee chairmanship or vice chairmanship.
Serious questions about how health care will be doled out at these whittled-down hospitals abound. The same holds true for the clumsy handling of vouchers and a new teacher evaluation system that apparently only White and a few of his Department of Education underlings understand and endorse.
On top of that, the governor has been conspicuously absent, save for a few cameos to take credit for economic development projects.
Jindal has been gallivanting around the country, stumping for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican hopefuls. Meanwhile, his administration is becoming known as one that pays no heed to legislators or residents’ concerns and has made a mockery of transparency by invoking a mysterious “deliberative process” privilege to shield from the public’s eyes how decisions that affect the majority of Louisiana residents coalesced.
To a degree, state lawmakers are responsible for ceding power to the Jindal administration. But that was then. This latest petition has the makings of at least long-overdue questioning of some of the governor’s policies and at most, an all-out revolt.
The eyes of this state now turn to the Senate.
Who has courage? Start counting.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.