John Bel Edwards will be sworn in to a second term as Louisiana governor with the same pomp and circumstance of other inaugurations, but with much more sense of urgency to wrap it all up.
After the swearing-in ceremony Monday, Louisiana officials are hightailing it to New Orleans for the college football national championship game that features No. 1 LSU trying to cap off an undefeated, Heisman Trophy-winning season with a victory over No. 3 Clemson.
The governor, other statewide elected officials and many Louisiana lawmakers are planning to attend the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, 80 miles away from the State Capitol. Talk of the championship has overshadowed nearly everything about Inauguration Day.
Edwards, his wife, their family and friends, along with other officials will start the inaugural festivities Monday with an invitation-only Catholic Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge, a few blocks from the Capitol. The swearing-in ceremony will follow at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol steps where Edwards took his oath of office four years earlier.
In an upending of tradition, the governor canceled the usual inaugural ball because he’ll be attending the LSU-Clemson game. Instead, Edwards and wife Donna will host an “inauguration reception” Monday afternoon in New Orleans at the House of Blues.
Before Edwards takes his oath, Louisiana’s six other Republican statewide elected officials will individually be sworn in for their latest terms: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. Nungesser also will deliver a speech.
Before the inauguration ceremony, the House and Senate will gather in their own chambers at 10 a.m., where they’ll be sworn in for the new term. The majority-Republican Legislature will have many new faces because term limits forced out several longtime lawmakers, including the House speaker and Senate president. The 105-member House will have 45 new lawmakers, and 20 new senators will be among that chamber’s 39 members.
Sen. Page Cortez, a Lafayette Republican, appears to have locked up the vote to be the Senate’s next president. But the situation in the House is much messier, with a heated competition for House speaker between Republican Reps. Sherman Mack of Albany and Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales.
Mack is the front-runner, with backing from Landry, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and a majority of GOP House members, but he’s been unable to definitively wrap up the 53 votes needed to win the election. Negotiations among House members continued behind the scenes through the weekend.
The House and Senate also will elect new chief administrators, after long-serving House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer and Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp announced their retirements. The chambers are expected to choose women trained by Speer and Koepp for the roles, and they’ll be the first women in the jobs. Read the full story.