Posted: Jun 14, 2012 10:09 AM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A northwest Louisiana lawmaker who was a vocal critic of Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget proposals has been removed from his leadership position in the Legislature.
Rep. Jim Morris, a Republican from Oil City, was stripped of his position as vice chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee after the legislative session ended. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley confirmed the change, but he wouldn't say why Morris was ousted from the job.
"I don't talk about those issues, those personnel issues. I have no comment," said Kleckley, a Jindal ally who gained his leadership job with the support of the Republican governor.
Morris was among a group of conservative House Republicans who unsuccessfully fought Jindal's plans to use piecemeal funding to balance next year's budget.
The so-called fiscal hawks called it irresponsible to use nearly $270 million in one-time money that is uncertain to appear year after year for ongoing services and programs. Morris repeatedly criticized some of the governor's spending plans as unconstitutional.
A second-term lawmaker who represents parts of Bossier and Caddo parishes, Morris also opposed Jindal's centerpiece education bills, which will make it tougher for a teacher to reach the job protection status called tenure and create a statewide voucher program that will use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools.
Morris wasn't immediately available for comment Thursday.
Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said a decision hadn't been made yet about Morris' replacement. While he wouldn't comment on his decision, he called Morris a "good friend."
"He has represented his district very well, and I think he will continue to represent his district well, and he'll continue to be my friend," Kleckley said.
Morris wasn't the first lawmaker who bucked Jindal's wishes to be ousted from a leadership job by Kleckley.
In March, the House speaker stripped Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, of his position as vice chairman of the House Insurance Committee, a day after voting against a tax break bill sought by Jindal.
The measure opposed by Ritchie, which has since been signed into law, will give a dollar-for-dollar state tax rebate to people who donate money to a nonprofit organization that gives out grants or scholarships to private schools.
At the time, Ritchie blamed the loss of his chairmanship on his vote against Jindal's bill, saying Kleckley told him he was disappointed with the vote. Kleckley never said why he removed Ritchie as vice chairman.