The Legislature has typically been so compliant to the wishes of Gov. Bobby Jindal that even the smallest gestures of legislative independence are worth noting. There have been a few expressions of such legislative backbone during the ongoing session at the State Capitol, although not enough to suggest a full-scale rebellion against the governor’s policies.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, the Lafayette Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, struck a keynote of legislative autonomy early in the session when he said that his committee didn’t plan to hear bills dealing with tax repeal, which had been a part of Jindal’s legislative package.
More recently, an unusual alignment of House Democrats and Republican fiscal hawks implemented a procedural move that was intended to promote a debate about Jindal’s proposed use of one-time money to plug holes in the state budget. In previous legislative sessions, Jindal has usually gotten his way on budget matters after little serious debate.
In another rebuff of the governor, a state Senate panel recently endorsed a revamped Medicaid expansion plan for the state. Jindal has opposed the Medicaid expansion that is a part of the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The measure passed by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee faces stiff sailing in the full Senate. Even so, the approval of the expansion plan in committee is a marked departure from earlier sessions, when the Jindal administration exerted firm control of committee actions.
On other fronts in the Legislature, the governor’s influence is still evident. Bowing to Jindal’s wishes, a House panel rejected a bill that would have opened up more records in the governor’s office to public inspection. Meanwhile, the Senate Education Committee rejected a bill to repeal a 2008 law that’s been criticized for promoting creationism in public school classrooms. Jindal had opposed the repeal, but lawmakers were probably bowing as much to vocal constituents as the governor in opting to keep the law on the books.
There’s no virtue in opposing any governor simply for opposition’s sake. Jindal is a bright and capable leader, and we have vigorously supported his ideas when we believed them to be good for the state.
We hope, though, that lawmakers recognize the Legislature as a separate branch of government — one obligated to vigorous oversight and independent thought, and not merely a rubber-stamp for any governor’s policies.