This kind of political brinksmanship happens at the federal level so often that we’re almost numb to it. Here in Lousiana, the senate has been keeping their budget adjustments secret for a month. The goal, of course, is to wait until the last possible moment to spring multiple, hundreds of pages long documents on our elected officials who are expected to vote on them almost immediately. If they don’t vote in favor, the whole government will shut down, people in nursing homes will die, the police will stop policing, the teachers will stop teaching, etc, etc.
“Busting the cap”
It sounds like some modern gangster term for killing someone. Well, maybe it is. The term “busting the cap” refers to the spending cap. The idea is to explode spending beyond the limits set up a long time ago as something of an agreement between voters and the legislature. In this particular session, Senate President, Page Cortez (R 1/10), is the author of Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 (SCR3). That resolution’s goal is to throw all inhibitions aside, remove the state’s spending cap, and empty the treasury on his way out the door. The increase he’s proposing is $2.3 BILLION in total.
The only problem is, nobody knows upon what he wants to spend that $2.3 BILLION! Session ends on Thursday, June 8th. As of this writing, the budget (House Bill 1, or HB1 for short) has been sitting in the senate for an entire month. No senate amendments have been made public. They’re waiting to reveal their grand plans for this new spending spree too late for any reasonable debate on any of it. Just pass it, or else.
The Fraud Squad – a gift that keeps on giving
Do you remember “the Fraud Squad“? Those were the 23 Republicans (only 1/3 of the Republican delegation) that joined with a united Democratic Party to elect Clay Schexnayder (R 1/10) as speaker of the house. More Republicans voted against him than for him – and not by a little bit. Nevertheless, the deal struck between fraudulent Republicans and the Democrats made him speaker.
They thought it would blow over by now. After all, it’s only one vote. Voters have a short memory. All of the excuses have faded from our minds, but that one vote, their very first vote, remains indelibly scorched into our memory. The “Fraud Squad” is a label that will follow these 23 Republicans around for the rest of their natural lives. It is this same list of 23 that is behind the effort to let John Bel Edwards empty the treasury on his way out the door.
But let’s not forget the Senate. Their President, Page Cortez (R 1/10), managed to get that position without opposition. That was thanks to dirty backroom politics and deal cutting. That effectively got him into power with a vote of 39-0. In fact, that’s the exact same margin that the Senate approved Cortez’s SCR3 spending spree bill: 39-0. That there wasn’t a single senator who opposed this monstrosity is a sign that there’s still much work to be done in that chamber. Thankfully, we’re in an election year. These senators will have to return home and convince their constituents to re-elect them in the face of this terrible decision.
And then the 36
The theory goes that the Senators, rather than making enemies with President Page Cortez, just abdicated their fiscal responsibility to the House. Normally, to move good legislation in the house, it requires fifty-three (53) to agree. That’s the majority vote with a hundred and five (105) legislators. However, because “busting the cap” breaks the rules, it requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote, or seventy (70) legislators. That means 69 votes won’t do it, so the fiscal conservatives only need 36 to hold the line.
Never before in Louisiana history has the course for our entire future been in the hands of such a small number of legislators. These 36 control the fate of $2.3 BILLION that Page Cortez, Clay Schexnayder, and John Bel Edwards want to squander before time runs out.
The list is guarded, however some legislators have the courage to wear the “36” label on their lapels. They are the mighty 36 – not the fraud squad gang of 23. It’s absolutely fantastic that they are wearing an outward symbol of their oath of office as a clothing accessory.
Failed shenanigans so far
On May 31st, Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R 1/10) called a vote to hurry SCR3 through the process. He tried to break the rules to send it to committee earlier than allowed. That motion failed to garner the required two-thirds vote, achieving only 57:41. Then, yesterday, they held an impromptu meeting at the desk of Paula Davis (R 3/10). Apparently they couldn’t find sufficient agreement so nothing happened.
We’ve heard from several members that the meeting was about finding enough votes to discharge SCR3 from the appropriations committee. That would have eliminated all public comment on the bill. However, of the 57 members who voted to break the rules to send it to committee early, they couldn’t find the 53 votes necessary to avoid public comment.
Call your legislator
Over these last few years, we’ve heard a lot about misinformation / disinformation causing trouble with average citizens. This situation is no different. Some mysterious group of individuals has been calling sheriffs, police, firemen, teachers unions, etc. In fact, teachers dropped 1,400 floor notes on each senator the day after Page Cortez’s (R 1/10) SCR3 “spending spree” resolution passed the senate. They were demanding that, of course, the senate “act” to remove all spending limits. Their hope, it seems, is some crumbs falling from the table would find their way to the teacher’s unions. Never mind that HB1 and HB2 have not been amended by the senate to reflect ANY spending increases for anyone.
Very few are calling to encourage their representatives to be fiscally conservative, Therefore, it’s very important that your legislator (house side) hear from you.