Apr 2, 2010 6:45 AM by Letitia Walker
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The divisive state House battle over its
second-ranking leader spilled more political gamesmanship into
public view than is typical at the Louisiana Capitol, but lawmakers
said Thursday they hope the dispute won't mar the legislative
Lawmakers disagreed whether the fallout from the vote of the new
House speaker pro tem would be a hiccup or a harbinger of trouble
for House Speaker Jim Tucker in getting his bills passed and
keeping his leadership solid.
Tucker stripped four lawmakers of their highly prized committee
assignments after they voted against his choice for pro tem, Rep.
Joel Robideaux, who won the election in a narrow vote as the
regular session started this week.
"I think Jim did what he felt like he needed to do to make the
process run smoothly for this upcoming session, and we're going to
see how that all plays out. I certainly hope everybody can put all
this behind them. I certainly expect it to be more difficult for
some," said Robideaux, I-Lafayette.
Tucker, R-Terrytown, had said some lawmakers would be punished
for their votes against Robideaux because they broke promises about
their support - though lawmakers disagree over just who said what
Robideaux was chosen over Rep. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, in
a 53-48 vote. Two days later, Ellington lost his assignment on the
sought-after House and Governmental Affairs Committee, that will
oversee the redrawing of political districts next year.
Rep. John LaBruzzo backed Ellington and lost his seat on the
House budget-writing committee.
Tucker "did win, and so I figured, 'We've got a lot to focus
on. We've got a lot of issues for our state.' (I thought) Tucker's
going to want to bring everybody together," said LaBruzzo,
R-Metairie. "But King Tuck thought he wanted to go in a different
direction. If this is how it's going to be, why even have a
constitution that allows us to vote?"
Several lawmakers said their colleagues shouldn't be surprised
they lost a seat on a favored committee since Tucker doled out
those seats two years ago to the people who supported him in his
bid to become speaker.
"Initially, appointments were made because of the speaker's
support, so I'm not surprised that when new appointments are made,
it's because of speaker support," said Rep. Rosalind Jones,
D-Monroe, a Robideaux supporter who picked up one of those
"When people vote against the speaker, things like that
happen," said Rep. M.J. "Mert" Smiley, R-Port Vincent, a
Robideaux supporter. "Whenever you enter the world of politics,
that happens. It's just part of the political process."
As speaker, Tucker makes committee assignments, chooses
committee chairmen and assigns a block of apartments set aside for
lawmakers near the Capitol. In the days after the vote, Ellington
also received notification from Tucker that his apartment lease
would not be renewed. Instead, he'll be advised of his status
Ellington said he didn't think the display of political
retaliation would sit well with the general public.
"I just can't help but believe that public opinion is going to
be that they don't want to see this kind of stuff happen in their
Capitol," Ellington said. "We all ought to be ashamed that this
Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, a Robideaux supporter, said he
doesn't think the dispute will stop legislative work, but he said
it remains to be seen whether Tucker might have trouble getting
two-thirds votes needed for several of his proposals.
Robideaux noted that former Gov. Kathleen Blanco had then-Rep.
Troy Hebert ousted from his insurance committee chairmanship when
Hebert voted against a Blanco-backed tax proposal. Despite the
hubbub, Robideaux said, "It ended up being a pretty smooth