Our Views: Far from a lame duck

Is Gov. Bobby Jindal a lame duck?

That question arose during a recent roundtable discussion of the current session of the Legislature sponsored by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana. PAR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that studies state issues.

Jindal “parked” his tax change legislative package at the start of the legislative session, ditching the centerpiece of his legislative agenda after fierce opposition to the plan by a wide cross-section of constituencies that included left-leaning public policy groups as well as business interests.

Jindal’s retreat was a startling move for a governor who’s typically gotten his way at the State Capitol.

Bu the consensus of the PAR panelists is that Jindal is far from finished in shaping the state’s course.

The reluctance of Republican state Reps. Joel C. Robideaux and Brett F. Geymann to answer the “lame duck” question said a lot of Jindal’s perceived staying power in state politics. Neither Robideaux nor Geymann seemed eager to question the influence of a chief executive who might take the “lame duck” talk a little personally.

Robideaux, a Lafayette lawmaker who chairs the House Ways and means Committee, and Geymann, a Lake Charles legislator who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, both said that Jindal continues to have the ability to shape events at the Capitol, although they conceded that the side-lining of the governor’s tax plan was a setback for him.

State Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat who sits on the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, was more candid. Morrell said the governor lost momentum by focusing on tax issues that seemed more driven by national conservative policy wonks than local voters. “He tackled an issue that was more tied to a national concern,” Morrell said of Jindal, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. “I think it’s the Greek parable of Icarus: he flew too high, and he got burned.”

Morrell said that unless the governor can get back on message, he could, indeed, be perceived as a lame duck.

Melinda Deslatte, who covers state politics for the Associated Press, was more optimistic about Jindal’s prospects.

“Never underestimate the power of Louisiana’s governor to wield authority over the Legislature,” said Deslatte.

Deslatte’s comments are worth noting. At this point, Jindal is down, but not out.