NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Governor John Bel Edwards took the oath of office to begin his second and final term in office during a ceremony that offered a lot of pomp and circumstance despite the on and off rainfall in the area.
Cadets of the respected West Point Academy sang during the ceremony. Edwards, a military veteran is a graduate of West Point. The inaugural also included a 19 canon salute and flyover by F-15s.
Edwards, 53, placed his hand on a family Bible and was sworn in by chief Justice Bernette Johnson of the La. Supreme Court on Monday (Jan. 13) before hundreds of people seated and standing in front of the state capitol building which was adorned in red, white, and blue decorations.
As the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, Edwards urged the state to reject the partisanship of Washington D.C.
Like his first four years in office, Edwards again will have to work with a Republican-controlled legislature to get his agenda passed. During his first four years as governor, Edwards worked with state legislators to solve a $2 billion budget deficit and now state government has a budget surplus.
Edwards said meaningful progress was made because people worked together.
“The primary reason we have been able to make so much progress is because we chose not to let the dysfunctional, hyper-partisan politics of Washington D.C. paralyze our state,” said Edwards.
Edwards took on the White House in winning reelection in a deep-red state. President Donald Trump visited Louisiana three times in the fall to urge voters to reject Edwards and hand the governorship to a Republican, but on November 16, 2019, Edwards emerged as the winner of a runoff with businessman Eddie Rispone, a Republican, who had not sought elective office before.
Edwards says increasing state funding for early childhood education is a top priority during his new term in office, as is raising teacher pay. Edwards also wants to increase workforce development in the state and invest more money in roads and bridges. He also says the state must do more to address its shrinking coastline and work to have the best cyber security defenses in the nation.
"Today isn't just about past successes, so I want to challenge this new legislature and the people of Louisiana to think boldly to envision a Louisiana with a fully diversified economy, a steady reduction in poverty and an educational system that prepares our people for the jobs and careers that will keep them here at home,” Edwards said during his inaugural address.
Edwards says he will again propose a higher minimum wage for Louisiana residents and push for laws to ensure equal pay for women who do the same jobs as men.
State Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, believes the legislature could have a better appetite now for considering a higher minimum wage proposal.
"I think that business can thrive and we can see a prosperous economy while still investing in the people who need it, that's increasing a living wage, actually getting a living wage, so I still have hope for that and I think we'll achieve it this term,” said Duplessis.
Former State Sen. J.P. Morrell whose tenure in the legislature ended on the same day Edwards took the oath said the governor could have an easier time of it with Republicans given he is barred from another term in office as governor.
"I think the House and the Senate are both very conservative, but I think when you're looking at a governor in a second-term there's less incentive to fight with him because he's already reelected and he can't be reelected again. I think really what you're going to see play out is a real fight over policy because everyone's angling right now to see who the next governor is going to be,” said Morrell.
Edwards had the college championship game on his mind as he concluded his speech. The football team for the state’s flagship university, LSU, would meet Clemson University’s football team hours later in New Orleans for a game that brought Pres. Trump to town as a spectator.
"God bless the great state of Louisiana, God bless the United States of America and go Tigers,” said Edwards.
Edwards canceled the traditional inaugural ball so that he could attend the game.