Mar 31, 2010 9:45 PM by Letitia Walker
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - House Speaker Jim Tucker stripped four
lawmakers of their assignments to two highly prized legislative
committees after they voted against his choice for the House's No.
The announcement Wednesday came only hours after Tucker said
some lawmakers would lose their committee positions or face other
punishment because of their votes against Rep. Joel Robideaux as
House speaker pro tem.
"People have to learn that there's a penalty when you break
your word in this process. That's all we've got to make the process
work," Tucker said in a wide-ranging discussion with reporters.
Three lawmakers who backed Rep. Noble Ellington, Robideaux's
opponent for the job, lost assignments on committees that write the
budget and that will redraw the lines of political districts next
year. Ellington also lost his position on the redistricting
A fifth lawmaker who supported Ellington lost his spot on an
audit advisory panel.
The lawmakers were replaced with House members who voted for
Ellington said he was surprised by the move, but he said he felt
worse for his colleagues than for himself. "I've been broke. I've
hoed cotton. I've fed hogs. He can't do anything to me," Ellington
said of Tucker.
Robideaux won the bid to become pro tem in a close and unusually
public dispute over the job. Tucker said lawmakers wouldn't lose
committee seats because they voted against him, but rather because
they broke promises of who they would support.
"You just can't pat somebody on the back and say, 'I'm with
you' unless you mean it," Tucker said.
As speaker, Tucker makes committee assignments, chooses
committee chairmen and assigns a block of apartments set aside for
lawmakers near the Capitol. Ellington provided a copy of a letter
Tucker gave him, notifying Ellington that his apartment lease would
not be renewed and instead he'd be advised of his status on a
Gov. Bobby Jindal personally asked Tucker not to punish anyone
who voted against Robideaux, saying it would create division in the
House and distract lawmakers from the state's budget shortfall and
other needs, said Timmy Teepell, the governor's chief of staff.
"We made it clear to all parties involved that we thought it
would be a mistake for there to be retribution for how anybody
voted," Teepell said. "We need them to be unified and to be
focused on the problems facing our state."
Removed from the Appropriations Committee were Reps. John
LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, and John Schroder, R-Covington. Removed from
the House and Governmental Affairs Committee were Ellington,
D-Winnsboro, and Rep. Charmaine Stiaes, D-New Orleans. They were
all Ellington voters and were given assignments on committees
considered less desirable.
Added to Appropriations were Reps. Rosalind Jones, D-Monroe, and
James Armes, D-Leesville. Added to House and Governmental Affairs
were Reps. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, and Nancy Landry,
R-Lafayette. They were Robideaux voters.
In a statement released with the committee changes, Tucker
described the assignment shuffling as a reworking because of
membership changes in the House, including Robideaux's election of
the speaker pro tem.
The House earlier this week voted 53-48 for Robideaux,
I-Lafayette, over Ellington. It was a narrow margin of victory for
a title that for decades was decided behind-the-scenes.
The selection of the speaker pro tem usually is worked out in
back-room negotiations, with only one member nominated on the House
floor and then approved unanimously. But this time, neither
Robideaux nor Ellington would drop out of the race, forcing a
public roll call vote Monday to decide between them.
The Republican, Democratic and black caucuses all split in the
vote, with members supporting both men. The last time House members
publicly chose between two nominees for the pro tem job was in
1984, said House Clerk Alfred "Butch" Speer.
The position was left vacant when Karen Carter Peterson was
elected to the state Senate. The pro tem often presides over House
debates when the speaker is absent and is included in House