Session And Budget Done, But Is The Moderate Coalition Done, Too?
“I move the House of Representatives adjourn sine die,” the “dean” of the House Andy Anders intoned Friday evening, receiving cheers in response.
The second special session of the year delivered a budget only marginally different than the one proposed by the Senate during the regular session. That had many – including Governor John Bel Edwards – wondering aloud whether the special session had truly been necessary.
“I do believe this was much harder than it needed to be, and it certainly took longer than should have been necessary,” the governor said at his post-session press conference. “I think that’s obvious because we circled back to just about exactly where we were when the process fell apart.”
But House Speaker Taylor Barras insisted the similar budget version could not have been adequately addressed at the end of the regular session.
“It just had all the makings for a lack of debate, a lack of discussion, and I just consider House Bill 1 way too important,” the Speaker said, adding, “And, you know, didn’t quite appreciate how it was done.”
The Speaker was referring to the fact that House Democrats passed out copies of the conference committee report on the budget bill, showing it was signed by four of the six committee members, but not by the Speaker or the Appropriations chairman. A coalition of House Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents then tried to force a vote to approve the conference committee report – a procedural move that failed when the regular session timeclock ran out.
Perhaps the special session was needed, to stretch the wings of the fledgling coalition in the House, which ended up with enough votes to ultimately approve the similar budget..
Yet Speaker Barras doubts the GOP House members who voted for the current budget will continue to align themselves with the coalition.
“I don’t know that those twelve are an indication that they stick,” he said.
Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, who was the point man for the coalition in both the regular and second special sessions, concedes their unity might have been temporary, the result of session fatigue.
“Well, you know what they say in politics – no permanent friends, no permanent enemies,” he said with a chuckle.
But in all earnestness, Leger believes this alliance has the potential to ultimately break through the House’s partisan paralysis over needed tax reforms.
“I do think it can be the beginning of an ongoing working group that can try to continue to build consensus between the parties.”