The political landscape in Louisiana has a way of luring state residents to sleep during the off-season.
Many Louisianians rightfully keep a watchful eye on the actions – or, as some call it, “shenanigans” – during the regular and special sessions at the State Capitol. Many times we will see some of the most blatant political games come to play once the session ends, when much of the action will not appear so well on the radar.
It’s a part of the chess game, which finds its way straight to the top official in the state, as we saw June 29 when Gov. John Bel Edwards instituted a line-item veto on a mere $250,000 in state funding to help in the construction of a new fire station between Killian and Springfield.
State Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, made the capital outlay request during the regular session to help an area direly in need of more protection. The first responders in that area do a great job, particularly in an area rife with back roads and heavy boat traffic, but the distance between those two rural areas made the push for another fire station seem a logical move.
Instead, it fell to politics. Schexnayder rallied against the Edwards Administration tax reform and the budget recommendations of the governor, something which apparently drew the ire of our state’s chief executive.
Edwards has been vocal in his disappointment of House Republicans who rallied against his policies during the regular and special sessions this year. Apparently, he saw Schexnayder’s request as a means of payback.
It’s not an uncommon practice among our state leaders, Democrat or Republican. Gov. Bobby Jindal took the same route when he nixed TIFF funding requests for Juban Crossing in 2012 and 2013. Many saw it as a retaliatory measure against Livingston Parish for its opposition to the Common Core legislation he aggressively championed.
The move by Edwards is a disappointment, in particular, because it comes across as an “about face” after he took an active role in the emergency response to the flooding in Livingston Parish on Aug. 13, 2016. We gave him strong accolades for his response to the parish, particularly in light of Livingston Parish’s overwhelming support for David Vitter in the 2015 gubernatorial runoff.
The veto is also a letdown because the Tangipahoa Parish native likely knows the geographical makeup of the area, which is not far from his home turf.
From the political standpoint, he nixed a project for perhaps the most Democratic-friendly area of otherwise Republican-dominant Livingston Parish.
In the end, however, politics should not take precedence over public safety. A $250,000 allocation to help with improved fire protection seems worthy, particularly compared to the millions the state shells out for splash parks, commemorative areas and other entities, which should figure as lagniappe in comparison to safety.
The governor’s veto may come across as a means of one-upmanship against Schexnayder, but the residents in the Springfield-Killian area will suffer most in the long run. They deserve better.