New Governor John Bel Edwards suffers defeat on house speakership

Taylor Barras of New Iberia elected as new Louisiana House speaker

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Democrat John Bel Edwards began his term as Louisiana's new governor Monday, the first democrat to move into the governor's mansion in years.

But his political muscle was tested even before the oath of office was administered.

After winning a landslide victory against republican David Vitter, Edwards said he wanted New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger, a fellow democrat, promoted to House Speaker. However, not long before the inaugural ceremony began, Edwards was handed a defeat.

House republicans used their larger numbers to promote one of their own to house speaker, Rep.Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.

Soon after the vote, FOX 8 News spoke to Barras who was a little shocked at how things unfolded, but said he welcomes the challenges ahead.

"I'm looking forward to working with him and our new body and our new elected members," Barras said. "I'm looking forward to working on a lot of improvements for Louisiana."

Leger, who was already in the number two position in the state house, will retain that position.

"I'm glad that we have the speaker that we selected and I'm glad that we have the pro-tem that we have," said Rep. Tom Wilmott, R-Kenner. "So between the two I think that we're in good hands."

On the senate side, republican John Alario remains in place as Senate President, a position he held during Governor Bobby Jindal's time in office.

There are plenty of new faces in both the house and the senate as well.

Troy Carter, who served in the state house years ago was among the 11 new senator sworn in Monday.

"We will have a tough job ahead, but at the end of the day everyone is committed to really making a difference," said Carter, D-New Orleans.

Wesley Bishop made the move from the house to the state senate Monday. He knows that the legislature and the new governor have big problems to slay.

"It's a big challenge," Sen. Bishop, D-New Orleans, said. "We knew that coming in with nearly a $2 billion deficit."

Given the state's fiscal crisis the new governor said tax increases are on the table, but some legislators aren't ready to embrace that just yet.

"I think before we deal with actual tax increases to actual citizens, I think the first step will be looking at tax exemptions and tax credits which more affect larger businesses," said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, who won re-election.

And despite the tough decisions facing the newly elected officials, many hope there will be less partisanship in the state capitol during 2016.

"I think everyone in Louisiana wins when we take off those titles and do what's best for citizens," said Sen. Carter.

Governor Edwards will call state lawmakers into a special session to tackle the budget problems in February.

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