Sam Hanna Jr.

Unbeknownst to the average citizen, there’s some serious politicking still going on Louisiana, some two weeks after voters had their say in the general election.

While this particular politicking could have a profound impact on the lives of each citizen in Louisiana, it most definitely will determine whether there will be any peace and harmony between a Republican-controlled Legislature and a Democrat governor, John Bel Edwards.

The politicking in question concerns elections for Speaker of the House of Representatives and president of the state Senate. The outcome of the two leadership races will be determined in January when newly elected lawmakers take office. House members will select their Speaker while in the Senate, senators will choose their President. The jockeying among the candidates for the two leadership posts is fierce. Without a doubt, the two lawmakers who rise to House Speaker and Senate President will tell us whether the Legislature will accomplish anything over the next four years.

First, let’s reflect for a moment on the outcome of this fall’s legislative races.

Republicans fell just two seats short of capturing a super-majority of the 105 seats in the House. That means Republicans account for 68 members of the House, and while that’s an impressive number on the surface, it’s still not enough to override a governor’s veto, assuming House members voted strictly along party lines. Which doesn’t occur often in the Legislature.

In the Senate, which traditionally is regarded as the center of power in the Legislature, Republicans will control a super-majority of the seats. While Republicans will hold 27 of the 39 seats in the Senate, leaving Democrats with just 12, the decision-making in the Senate could very well be determined by which Republicans align with Democrats to cobble together 20 votes to pass or kill a bill.

For example, tort reform, which is near and dear to the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, will require 20 votes to pass the Senate but it would need 26 votes to override the governor’s veto. The point is lawmakers would be wise to pass legislation that the governor can sign into law.

That requires leadership in the Senate, particularly a Senate President, who can work with Republicans and Democrats alike. Not a firebrand.

Already, one senator who wishes to serve as Senate President has suggested a package of tort reform bills that he says will accomplish much of what LABI wants without risking a veto by the governor. The senator in question is Rick Ward, a 36-year-old attorney, who also is a Republican.

Ward is no firebrand by any means. Yet, he’s an example of the kind of lawmaker the Senate needs to get controversial legislation approved and signed into law in a toxic political environment.

Make no mistake. Republicans will hold the upper hand big-time in the Legislature beginning in January, but they should recognize they don’t have veto-proof working majorities in either the House or Senate.

That’s important to remember.

More importantly, though, Republicans need to be reminded that in politics, pigs get fed but hogs get slaughtered.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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