Political observers say the La. House could continue to shun outside influences on leadership decisions

Louisiana Political Changes
Louisiana State Capitol
Louisiana State Capitol (Source: WAFB)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Before Governor John Bel Edwards raised his right hand on Monday and took the oath for a second four-year term, members of the House of Representatives had chosen their leader and, in the process, spurned outside pressure for who that person should be.

The House voted 60 to 45 in favor of Republican Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales becoming House Speaker.

Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins, Ph.D., discussed the House’s decision.

“What we see here is the House of Representatives asserting its independence,” said Collins.

A majority of the 105 House members sided with Schexnayder even though some well-known statewide elected Republicans had for months worked to get another GOP member, Rep. Sherman Mack of Livingston Parish, elected to the powerful position.

Schexnayder owes his win to a breakaway faction of Republicans and House Democrats who voted for him as a bloc.

Rep. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat, who is part of the New Orleans legislative delegation applauded what they accomplished during the vote.

"I think it's a good thing. I think we as elected leaders have to send a message that we have to show the people who sent us here that we don't bow to outside influences and that we can come together and elect someone in a bipartisan way,” said Duplessis.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and state Attorney General Jeff Landry, both Republicans, had pushed for Mack to get the position.

Collins noted that four years ago on the day Edwards began his first term as governor that the Republican-controlled House bucked tradition and rejected Edwards’ choice for Speaker of the House.

"I think this time the statewide elected Republican officials thought that they could perhaps influence the speaker's race to get the candidate that they wanted, but I believe the Republicans in the state House of Representatives basically found that to be just as problematic as the governor trying to influence the election,” said Collins.

He believes the House will continue to exhibit independence.

"Now that we’ve seen this two election cycles in a row, I think from this point forward we’re going to see the Louisiana House of Representatives asserting its independence in handling its business internally which has not been the historical trend,” said Collins.

Even though the new House Speaker showed a willingness to reach out to Democrats in the lower chamber to win the post Collins does not think Gov. Edwards will fare any better this year as he tries to push through a higher minimum wage for Louisiana residents.

"I don't see any possibility of minimum wage getting through the House at this particular time, nor do I see any possibility for the equal pay for women legislation getting through,” said Collins.

Still, he thinks Schexnayder will help Democrats pass some of their agenda.

"I think it will give the governor more influence simply because this House Speaker could not have been elected without Democratic votes. The Democrats voted as a bloc for him, so he needed those Democratic votes, so now he does owe the members of the Democratic Party in the House,” said Collins.

In the Senate, Republican Page Cortez of Lafayette was elected president by a unanimous vote.

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