Sam Hanna Jr.

Monday, Jan. 13 will be a big day in Louisiana.

John Bel Edwards will be sworn in for a second term as governor, and state lawmakers will take their oaths of office as well.

More importantly though, LSU will square off against Clemson in the College Football National Championship in the Superdome in New Orleans. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Though writing about LSU’s prolific season on the gridiron would be far more enjoyable and far more entertaining than any dribble about politics and government, we’ll leave it to the sports writers and columnists to tell us what to expect when the real Tigers take on the other Tigers from South Carolina. I’ll step out on a limb now and predict LSU brings home its fourth national title.

Edwards, to some degree, has already earned a place in history. He’s a Democrat from the Deep South who defied the odds to get elected governor — twice — in what is considered a Republican-dominated state. Once he takes the oath Monday, he will become the first Democrat governor to serve two consecutive terms since Edwin Edwards did it from 1972-1980.

While Edwards’ record as governor isn’t what we should describe as remarkable, the fact remains he is the governor, and he whipped the Republican establishment in Louisiana — twice — to get where he is today. Let’s not overlook Edwards securing a second term against a mega-wealthy Baton Rouge businessman who benefited from President Donald Trump paying three visits to Louisiana to campaign against Edwards. That was a big deal.

Edwards, however, is facing choppy waters ahead. Republicans will control nearly two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, which was far more favorable to the Edwards agenda during his first term, Republicans, including some rather hardline conservatives, will occupy two-thirds of the seats.

As of this writing, Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, is expected to be elected by his peers to serve as Speaker of the House. Mack would be considered a hardline conservative in some corners, but he is a lawyer and sometimes conservatives confuse the legal profession with satanic worshipers.

While Mack’s election as Speaker would give us some idea of what to expect from the traditionally rambunctious House, pay close attention to which lawmakers are awarded key committee chairmanships once the Speaker’s election is finalized. If any Democrat lands a committee chair, we’ll then know Mack had no choice but to wheel and deal with the opposition, including Democrats, to secure enough votes to turn back Rep. Clay Shexnayder, his primary opposition in the Speaker’s race.

The Senate is a different story. Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, sewed up the votes in short order to become the next President of the Senate.

Cortez’s rise to power was a clear signal that the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry and Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby will wield a great deal of influence in the Senate over the next four years. Bluntly put, LABI and Grigsby will be calling the shots.

The picture I just painted — on the surface at least — doesn’t bode well for Edwards. He’s somewhat on an island by himself.

Yet, Edwards is the governor, and in Louisiana the governor controls much, such as appointments to board and commissions, which lawmakers’ constituents desire. And lawmakers who don’t make nice with the governor often discover their wants and wishes are ignored, such as appointing a constituent to a board or commission.

There’s another key component to the legislative process, or the appropriations process, that requires the governor’s blessing. That concerns House Bill 2, better known as the Capital Outlay budget. Lawmakers put it together, but the governor has the sole authority to determine which projects, or which appropriations, get forwarded to the state Bond Commission for funding. And lawmakers who don’t make nice with the governor often learn what the line-item veto is all about.

Quicker than any of us can say Hail, Caesar.

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

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