Jim Beam column:Republicans have total control

Published 6:33 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Some may find it hard to accept, but Republican Gov. Jeff Landry and a supermajority GOP Legislature are in complete control of Louisiana government. If Landry doesn’t want to accept $71 million from the federal government to feed poor kids in the summer, that’s the final word.

The situation in Washington, D.C., is pretty much the same. Louisiana has two of the most powerful Republicans in control of the U.S. of Representatives. If House Speaker Mike Johnson of Benton and Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Jefferson and their GOP colleagues don’t want to approve more aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia, that’s it.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Landry during the current special session plans to reverse criminal justice reforms enacted during 2016 and 2017 by both Republican and Democratic state legislators. Crime is all Landry talked about during his gubernatorial campaign.

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The governor took part in only one debate, so voters didn’t know too much about his plans other than tackling crime. Now that he is in office and is asked about any of his questionable actions, we get the same reaction — “no comment” or no response when asked for comment.

Bryan Hale of Metairie in a letter to The Advocate Monday pretty much explained what the current political climate looks like in Louisiana. The headline on his letter said, “Clay Higgins’ views are mainstream, no longer ‘far right.’”

Higgins is our 3rd Congressional District representative and Hale said, “I have watched Higgins over the years and applaud his convictions. He is spot-on in this day of political correctness by so many on the left and our media.”

Consider the votes our seven Republican congressmen received the last time they ran for re-election.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge received 59% of the vote on Nov. 3, 2020, and he is perhaps the least liked among the seven. Sen. John Kennedy of Madisonville picked up 62% of the vote on Nov. 8, 2022.

Scalise of the 1st District on that same date received 62% of the vote. Higgins received 64%. Johnson of the 4th District was unopposed. U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow of the 5th District polled 68%. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of the 6th District received 80% of the vote.

Then came the blame game. Hale said, “It is our media that has been slow to adapt to the changes and has led to the rot of so many. But the worm has turned.”

Yes, it has, but even though we apparently won’t be able to change the political decisions that are coming, that doesn’t mean we have to accept current political events.

State Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1 at the current legislative session that makes it lawful for any person 18 years of age or older who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry a concealed weapon without a permit that requires training..

Law enforcement officials have reservations about the bill, but there is every indication it’s going to be approved.

The Public Affairs Research Council, which is part of Reset Louisiana’s Future along with the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) and the Committee of 100, is asking legislators “to make decisions based on data and best practices known to reduce violent crime rather than  backpedaling on reform.”

Unfortunately, backpedaling is exactly what Landry has in mind. He is apparently going to refuse to take advice from these good government groups, which is pretty much the way he operated for eight years as state attorney general.

The Advocate reported that bills up for debate include measures to revoke almost all prisoners’ access to parole, limit early release based on good behavior, expand qualified immunity for the actions of police officers and allow the state to resume the death penalty via nitrogen hypoxia and electrocution.

Juvenile court records that are not publicized in order to protect the state’s young people who get into legal trouble are also expected to be made public, which the newspaper said would affect mostly majority-Black cities.

Democratic state legislators have complained that they weren’t consulted about Landry’s crime plans. Landry has apparently concluded he doesn’t need anyone’s advice on anything.

Louisiana has become one of the most conservative Republican states in the country. Those who may be unhappy about that should never forget that 63.7% of the eligible voters in this state never went to the polls on Oct. 14, 2023. That is when Landry won in the primary with 52% of the vote.


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