Jim Beam column:PAR, CABL have right solutions

Published 6:31 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Louisiana House has managed to steamroll a number of questionable bills through the lower chamber and send them to the Senate. Republican members of the House make up a supermajority and they have been “chomping at the bit” to pass almost anything requested by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry.

The Advocate in its latest legislative update asked an important question: “What will the Senate do?”

Senate President Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, gave some answers to that question, but nothing definitive.

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“You have a lot of seasoned legislators who have been through multiple governors, and we want to make sure this governor doesn’t make the same mistakes as past governors,” Henry said.

John Alario of Westwego, who served in the Legislature for 48 years as both Senate president and House speaker for two terms each, told the newspaper the Senate is populated with veterans from the House and the House has 33 freshmen.

Alario said senators are more experienced and are less likely to be cowed by the governor’s power or fear the wrath of voters. He said they feel like they want to slow things down to make sure they’ll work, but that may not be what’s happening this year.

All members of the Legislature would be wise to take some solid advice from two of the most effective, nonpartisan, good government agencies in this state — the Public Affairs Research  Council (PAR), and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL).

PAR was formed in 1950 and is an independent voice offering solutions to critical public issues. Senators should read an April 22 PAR commentary on the state’s public records law. That law is the target of one of the most disturbing bills in the current legislative session.

Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, is sponsor of Senate Bill 482. PAR is urging legislators to reject the bill that it says “would take a hatchet to the state’s public record law.” Unfortunately, Cloud’s measure has been endorsed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the state attorney general.

Cloud says she knows her bill needs some serious work, but PAR has a better idea: “A better solution is to shelve the bill,” PAR said.

CABL was formed in 1962, a time when business leaders were concerned about the economic and political well-being of Louisiana. Its website says, “They lamented the fact that a century earlier Louisiana was one of the wealthiest states in the nation.”

In a recent news release, CABL listed five current bills that it said “deserve more scrutiny, consideration, and debate than has been had thus far.”

Here are the five bills:

House Bill 533 would allow the governor to appoint justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court who have been elected by the voters for 100 years. It hasn’t been heard yet by the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 181 would allow the governor to make more appointments to the State Civil Service Commission. The Senate approved it 26-11 and it is awaiting action in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

SB 403 would give the governor authority to appoint chairs of all the higher education boards and name the commissioner of higher education. It is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

SB 462 would allow the governor to appoint the chairs or any other officers of virtually any state board or commission unless the constitution states otherwise. It is awaiting final passage in the Senate.

SB 497 would remove the presidents of the state’s private colleges from nominating members to the Board of Ethics. It is also awaiting final passage in the Senate.

CABL urged lawmakers to put these proposals on hold and tread carefully. “More time for transparency and evaluation on weighty measures is never a bad thing,” the agency said.

Apparently it’s too late for any of that. The Senate has already passed HB 181, and it is probably headed for quick approval in the House that aims to please our new governor with few questions asked. Two of the other four measures are up for a final Senate vote.

Senators are rightly concerned about three anti-labor bills passed by the House. They reduce unemployment benefits, end lunch breaks for teenage workers, and reduce benefits for workers injured on the job.

Is there no end to this legislative madness?

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than six decades. Contact him at 337-515-8871 or jim.beam.press@gmail.com.


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