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Apr 2, 2010 6:45 AM by Letitia Walker

Lawmakers Divided In Baton Rouge

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

session.

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

to whom.

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

Appropriations seats.

"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

monthly.

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

is happening."

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

session."

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