N.O. area lawmakers expect some bipartisanship during Edwards’ second term

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Three New Orleans area state lawmakers weigh in on the new legislature Gov. Edwards will have to work with during his second term.
Three New Orleans area state lawmakers weigh in on the new legislature Gov. Edwards will have to work with during his second term. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -As Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards prepares to be sworn in for a second term, a more conservative legislature will also come into office early next year with him. Still, some New Orleans area state lawmakers believe Democrats and Republicans will find ways to work together on some of the governor’s agenda.

Senate Pres. John Alario is the dean of the legislature and leaves office in January because of term-limits.

“While we have super-majority of Republicans in the Senate and almost that count in the House of Representatives I think there are reasonable people on both sides of that,” said Alario, R-Westwego.

At times, Edwards and Republicans who already control the legislature butted heads during his first term. But they also reached a compromise to solve the $2 billion budget deficit Edwards inherited from former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Still, Rep. Cameron Henry, who is the outgoing chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said GOP members of the legislature will work with Edwards where they can. Henry moves to the Senate next year after winning an election in October.

"I don't think it's necessarily standing your ground. I think if the governor has some good ideas, you know, obviously we'll consider them and work with him to get those good ideas passed, just like I’m sure we’ll have some good ideas we’ll like his support on and we’ll all work together,” said Henry, R-Metairie. “I think one of the things we have to start looking at is the sales tax that's temporary, [it] rolls off in about five years. And you can't start four years from now addressing where that money is going to come from or reducing your spending at that point. You really have to start now."

Rep. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat, represents New Orleans in the legislature. Duplessis said he is hopeful that there will be less partisanship.

"I am very optimistic, you know, I'm a realist at the same time. But I think if we look at this weekend and what this election says not only to elected officials, but to the people of Louisiana is that the leadership style of Gov. Edwards is something that we do embrace and that we can exist in a non-Washington style fashion,” said Duplessis.

Edwards said his top priority during his second term is to increase the state’s investment in early childhood development.

Henry thinks such an idea would have bipartisan support.

"That's always one that's usually pretty easy for members to support. It's really the dollar amount that we could afford to do and prioritize with all of our other spending and also to make sure that the program is spending the money wisely,” Henry stated.

Duplessis agrees.

"Absolutely, I think the investment in people in general, that's always been a top priority for the governor, but I think it's a shared priority amongst both parties, Republican, Democrat and Independents. We saw an investment, historic investment made just this past legislative session in early childhood education. We saw teachers get a pay raise for the first time in a decade, so there is a shared commonality and an interest,” said Duplessis.

And Edwards vows to make another attempt to get the legislature to approve a higher minimum wage for Louisiana workers. Republicans have blocked his earlier efforts to win approval for a higher minimum wage.

Duplessis said he supports the governor on the issue.

"I absolutely stand with it, I believe that people not only deserve it, but it also makes good business sense. When you have a well-paid, healthy workforce you get better outcomes and better production from your businesses,” Duplessis stated.

Henry concedes that the governor’s efforts on minimum wage have met resistance.

"I think that's been a difficult bill for all parties to pass. It hasn't had much success getting out of committee…Obviously, we’ll see, I’m sure those bills will be filed again, and we’ll see whether there’s an appetite for it this coming session next year,” said Henry.

Alario thinks the idea remains a non-starter for many Republicans.

"It is at this point, it's kind of a rallying call for Republicans from that side, I don’t quite understand it because most of us in business and most Republicans who are in business pay much more above the minimum wage, so I don't always understand the struggle about it, but I understand the philosophy that they just don't want government telling them what to do,” said Alario.

And the three state lawmakers agree that voters want the legislature to get something done to improve the state.

"We're not Washington. We have a timeline and we have to get something accomplished and you know we have constituents that expect progress,” Henry said.

"Going back to this weekend, I think the voters of Louisiana said, look we don't want to do Washington-style politics, we want a legislature, we want a government that works together, that puts the people first,” said Duplessis.

"I think everybody wants their children prosper, they want their grandchildren to have a good fighting chance,” said Alario.

Edwards says throughout his first term he was able to work with Republicans to make progress and will continue to do so over the next four years.

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