Jeremy Alford

We should have known, back during the first week of April, that this was going to be different kind of regular session.

To be certain, all of the sessions held this term have been “different” — in terms of pure weirdness, at least. But this year’s annual session lacked the bitterness and animosity that derailed all of the Legislature’s other policymaking gatherings conducted since 2016.

Instead, there was more straight talk, a noticeable increase in go-along-to-get-along solutions and an unmistakable eagerness to cut through the politics and end this term.

“This isn’t personal,” Treasurer John Schroder said not long after the session was convened, back when a disagreement on the Revenue Estimating Conference was threatening to derail yet another year of work.

“This is math.”

Members of the REC were bickering over the amount of money the state was supposed to have available to spend, but the issue petered out before it had an opportunity to become a true controversy.

While not intentional, Schroder’s math-related comment kicked off a still-ongoing thread of pragmatism that has been baldy needed this term.

At some point, apparently, the obvious has to be stated, as even elected officials can be oblivious to the obvious. “The first thing we ought to shoot for in the budget,” said freshman Rep. Tony Bacala, “is creating an accurate document.”

As some of the mystery around the budget faded, lawmakers were allowed to focus their efforts elsewhere. Like the time Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, pushed his colleagues to make “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” an official state song. “I mean,” Chabert said, “how is it not already?”

Legislators, lobbyists and politicos of all stripes had no shortage of opinions or ramblings during the regular session that was slated to adjourn Thursday, June 6.

For the past 26 years, these quotes and quips have been collected by the staff of LaPolitics.com and chronicled under the title of “They Said It.”

Few have been as skilled at “saying it” as Senate President John Alario, who is finishing up his final year in the Senate after first being elected to the House in 1972. A certain style of pragmatism ruled the Capitol roost when Alario showed up win the scene, but politics have clearly become a touch more difficult in recent years.

“It’s hard to get a two-thirds vote for a Mother’s Day resolution,” Alario said to laughter around the time the state budget started to snake through the legislative process.

Alario rarely missed a moment to showcase his sense of humor, as well as his understanding of fundamental Capitol politics. “I’m so happy to be here,” the Senate president said before addressing the Senate Judiciary B Committee recently.

“And I’m so happy to have appointed all of you to the committee.”

The best term-limited comment of the session, however, probably came courtesy to Sen. Mike Walsworth, who will be seeking a local office this fall. “I believe in term limits,” Walsworth said, “so I’m coming home to run for Clerk of Court.”

Elected to the Senate in 2010, Sen. Norby Chabert said his farewells this session, too, and remarked on one of the more substantial differences between serving in the Legislature now versus yesteryear. “Now,” he said with a grin, “they record everything.”

Perhaps that fear of a watchful eye was why Rep. Johnny Berthelot took special while introducing a nun who was visiting the House Municipal and Parochial Affairs Committee. “Thank you for being here, sister,” said Berthelot. “We could use some guidance.”

As for the issues that kept legislators yapping and reporters scribbling, sports betting offered one touchdown after another.

Louisiana Casino Association Director Wayne Duty, watching lawmakers attach several amendments that weighed the sports betting bill down, attempted to offer a warning on the matter. “You have now put enough baggage on this plane that it will not get airborne,” he said.

It was a tough policy pill to swallow for some around the Capitol. “Everyone in this room knows a person who has bet on this,” observed Rep. Joe Marino.

Sen. Danny Martiny, staying on theme, added, “When I walk into a sports book there, I know half the people.”

Lawmakers likewise had the opportunity to yammer on about all kinds of edible curiosities that generated more debated than what was probably needed.

There was the almond milk dustup and the cauliflower rice controversy and tofu sausage.

“There is nothing worse that biting into a veggie burger,” said Rep. Terry Brown.

That may be true, but it’s far better than letting the Capitol take a bite out of you. Martiny, another longtime legislator who’s returning home, tried to offer such words of advice during his final session. They were words that should probably be etched onto the side of the Capitol, for all to see.

“Life’s not always fair,” Martiny said, “especially in this building.”

Jeremy Alford can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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