November 01, 2012
It’s not easy for the Legislature to call itself into special session.
And that’s not entirely because of the fact that legislators are almost entirely in the grip of Gov. Bobby Jindal and his hand-picked leaders of the House and Senate.
The process of calling a special session is easy for a governor. He issues a proclamation, and that’s that.
If lawmakers want to call themselves into session, they must meet two hurdles. First, at least a third of each body, House and Senate, must petition for a vote on the session. Then, a majority of members of each body must vote, by mail, to call the session.
Such a high hurdle is reasonable enough: Special sessions ought to be for a purpose that is special.
There’s got to be a good reason for not waiting for the regular session, that, after all, comes along every year.
But the largest hurdle to lawmakers calling themselves into special session is that they have to organize themselves to do it.
In other legislatures around the country, members consider themselves an independent branch of government. If there is an issue or a crisis big enough to need a session, lawmakers can call one.
Typically, of course, the process of calling a special session would be worked out between governor and legislative leaders. That level of a shared-power relationship simply does not exist in Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Legislatures just don’t have the backbone to assert themselves in sessions against the power of governors, much less organize themselves out of session to push back against gubernatorial policies.
That a third of the members of the House have agreed to the first step, a petition calling for a vote, is a rebuke of sorts by those members against Jindal’s recent budget cuts, which among other things will gut the existing charity hospital system.
Yet even if today’s deadline sees another such petition by one-third of members of the Senate, we have little confidence that the votes ultimately will be there for a new session.
Maybe one day that will change. That will require a considerable level of political change in Louisiana.