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Mar 31, 2010 9:45 PM by Letitia Walker

House Committees Change After Controversial Vote

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.

2 leader.

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

committee.

A fifth lawmaker who supported Ellington lost his spot on an

audit advisory panel.

The lawmakers were replaced with House members who voted for

Robideaux.

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

month-to-month basis.

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

leadership discussions.

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