“We are a body that’s in complete chaos. The House doesn’t have leadership,” says Baton Rouge Representative Ted James.
A Democrat, James has used his Friday, Saturday and Sunday away from the Capitol to talk with other members about making a change in House leadership: in particular, “The Speaker, the Chairman of Appropriations.”
James isn't alone in questioning Speaker Taylor Barras' efficacy. One week before the regular session's end, the Lafayette Republican's hometown newspaper posted an editorial calling for Barras to step down.
And, as James notes, the final 30 minutes of the regular session Thursday evening made clear to all watching what legislative insiders already knew: Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry controls the House, rather than Speaker Taylor Barras being in charge.
James also says many members in the Republican-controlled House clearly have one motive when they cast their votes.
“We are so busy trying to make sure that the governor fails that we have lost sight of what we are really elected for.”
Governor John Bel Edwards’ public position on changing the leadership is “hands-off.”
“The House is going to have to figure that out for itself. But they ought to take a good objective look at what played out, and decide whether they’re happy with that.,” the Governor says. “The House is going to have to solve its own problems. It is an independent institution and it is dysfunctional.”
Kenner Republican Julie Stokes agrees with that “dysfunctional” evaluation, saying, “We’re letting politics destroy our ability to govern.”
Stokes was one of ten Republicans, along with the two independents, who joined the 41 House Democrats in the vote trying to force House agreement with the Senate version of the budget last Thursday.
“We had the majority. We had 53 votes,” notes Opelousas Democrat Dustin Miller.
That’s the same number needed to remove the Speaker.
The question is, did that coalition hold, expand, or contract through the weekend?
The House convenes this morning at nine.