Editorial: Eyes of the state now turn to Senate

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.