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Lawmakers Say Their Farewells

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With all the uncertainty over the budget at session’s end, I wasn’t able to share with you one of the legislature’s charming traditions—the end-of-term farewells.

“Farewell speeches, you know they’re not really farewell. Y’all get that, right?” Rep. Karen St. Germain asked during her speech.

For the 21 term-limited lawmakers leaving the Legislature, it was a chance to say public thank-yous, shed a few tears, and reminisce on their time at the Capitol.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley looked back to his first bill.

“The Insurance Dept. called up and said, ‘We need you to handle a piece of legislation for us.’ I said, what does it do? They said, ‘It just changes one word’,” Kleckley told House members. “I thought, I can handle that, then I said, what’s that one word? ‘Well, it goes from may to shall’.”

Bogalusa Rep. Hal Ritchie took a comedic approach to his departing discourse.

“I’ve worked with 3 different Speakers, all of them great leaders: Joe Salter, Jim Tucker and Chuck Kleckley. You would probably think Chuck and I had a rough start--and we did!” Richie said, generating chuckles from House members.

Three days into the 2012 session, Kleckley stripped Ritchie of the House Ways and Means vice-chairmanship, after Ritchie voted no on a school voucher bill.

“I broke Troy Hebert’s record. Troy lasted 3 months. I did it in 3 days,” Richie remembered, propmpting applause and more laughter.

Hebert chaired the House Insurance committee under Governor Blanco, till he ticked her off with a no vote, and got the boot from that position. He thereafter called her the “Queen Bee”. Now he’s Jindal’s Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

“Hey, I’ve got a chance,” Ritchie joked. “In somebody’s new administration I could become commissioner of something or other. So John Bel (Edwards), don’t forget me when I leave.”

Ritchie, a Democrat, is running this fall for the state senate seat being vacated by Ben Nevers, who is also term-limited.

“I love this House, and I hate to leave it,” Ritchie said, in closing. “I hope I can figure out who did this term limit deal and get a chance to pay him back.”

He might get that chance. David Vitter authored the 1995 constitutional amendment setting term limits for state legislators.