The independent expenditure group that helped Republicans overtake the Louisiana Legislature, under the leadership of outgoing U.S. Sen. David Vitter, has been reborn. More than a dozen of the original board members from the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority have been reenlisted and collectively they have pledged $1.5 million to spend on the 2019 election cycle.
During a dinner party last month at Pigeon & Prince, chef John Besh’s private event venue in New Orleans, Attorney General Jeff Landry made a pitch to put all of the pieces back together again. Landry his taking over for Vitter as the new figurehead for LCRM.
Those who attended said Landry thanked the group for backing his failed 2007 run for the state Senate, when LCRM otherwise made impressive gains in the Legislature. He talked about picking up where Vitter had left off and emphasized how important fundraising would be for the reincarnated LCRM.
By the time Landry finished speaking and dug into his meal, 15 board members were back in the fold, including donor heavyweights like Boysie Bollinger and Joe Canizaro.
The $1.5 million in seed money over the next few years will help fund an all-out assault during the 2019 legislative elections. That will give LCRM a budget comparable to the 2007 and 2011 election cycles, which led to historic victories and the GOP controlling both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
After skipping a cycle, director Kyle Ruckert is said to be eager to make up for lost time. He has brought back on pollster and consultant John Diez and together they’re supposedly working to add new members and partner organizations as soon as possible.
It’s going to be an aggressive approach, one that has already kicked off with recruitment efforts in key legislative districts.
But the biggest political play on the immediate horizon involves the 2017 fiscal session, which is when Gov. John Bel Edwards will be pushing lawmakers to approve hefty tax changes. Independent expenditures from LCRM are expected to coincide with important votes next year and metrics are being developed for grading and rating incumbent lawmakers on those votes.
Senate could be battleground
Republicans already have a decent majority this term in the state Senate, 25-14, but you couldn’t tell, analysts and pundits claim, based on the bills it passes and the support it provides to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
With Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, term-limited, along with 41 percent of the entire chamber — 16 out of 39 seats — the Senate looks to be a real area of opportunity for the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.
Through his raw legislative skill sets and healthy doses of tradition and institutional knowledge, Alario has enjoyed a tight grip over the Senate. When it loosens at the end of this term, Republicans hope a different voting pattern will emerge.
But there’s no guarantee that happens with the current membership. That will likely lead to LCRM endeavoring to flip a few Senate seats from incumbent Republican to ultra-Republican next cycle. It also means LCRM will have to keep its sights set on the Senate president’s election in 2020.
Gov. Edwards has already said he plans to run for re-election and speculation about Attorney General Landry opposing him on the ballot has reached a fevered pitch. If that’s the matchup, legislative leadership positions may actually become an issue in that top race in 2019.
In the House, 38 out of 105 seats will be open due to term limits, or 36 percent of the chamber. The overall goal there may be to at least maintain the current 59-42 majority — there are also two independents — and to build on it where possible. But much like the Senate, the big gavel is what’s really in play. Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, who Edwards did not want to see elected by the House, is term limited.
Schroder: Remember spending, budget fixes
According to Capitol sources, Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, sent a letter last week to the co-chairs of the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy.
In the letter, Schroder raises concerns about the task force’s approach to producing a final report for lawmakers by Nov. 1. That report is supposed to include recommendations for lawmakers to vote on during their 2017 fiscal session, where tax and budget issues are expected to take center stage.
The lead author of the legislation that created the task force, Schroder directed his comments to Dr. Jim Richardson, an LSU economist, and Revenue Secretary Kim Robinson. He wrote that the task force is spending too much time on preliminary findings related to tax policy as compared to budget structure.
“Therefore, I request that the final report be balanced between budget and tax policy, including any options for reducing expenditures,” Schroder wrote.
He added, “Also, it appears the task force is targeting a specific amount of revenue to raise instead of making recommendations to give Louisiana the most efficient and fair tax policy for individuals and businesses… Without reviewing the state’s budget process in detail and recommending long-term budget changes that may produce savings, I’m not sure how the commission can recommend a target amount of revenue.”
They Said It
“Playing country lawyer without a license ain’t easy.”
—U.S. Senate candidate Troy Hebert, after a judge refused on last week to block a televised debate
“In my district I’m a Republican; in Baton Rouge I’m a Democrat.”
—An unnamed state representative from north Louisiana, speaking to a visiting fact-finding group from California, in The Marin Independent Journal