‘LaPolitics’: Qualifying closes today; Louisiana Legislature not finished

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the state treasurer’s seat is an open race on the Oct. 14 ballot and that Ron Henson holds the seat in the interim.

If you want to seek elected office on the Oct. 14 ballot then you only have a few more hours remaining to put your name on the line. Today marks the conclusion of the three-day qualifying period, with Secretary of State Tom Schedler and clerks of court preparing to close the books at 4:30 p.m. As is the case elsewhere in Louisiana, voters in Baton Rouge will encounter a small ballot this fall. Across the entire parish there are just four races, with the election of a new state treasurer leading the list. Candidates locally also can still qualify for the open seat on the Public Service Commission, a city judgeship and a post on the parish school board.

—Almost a month has passed since the Legislature adjourned its special session, so it’s only natural that special interests and good government groups are starting to wonder what comes next. The Public Affairs Research Council is one such outfit, and the organization made a couple of predictions recently in its report summarizing the legislative sessions of 2017. “As busy as our elected officials have been, they have a lot of work left to do and a lot of politically difficult decisions to make,” the report states. It wasn’t all doom and gloom at the Capitol this year, of course, and PAR summarized that, among other things, a “solid budget is a welcome sight and has been a rarity lately.” Yet a “great deal was left undone” in many others areas, including taxes. Gov. John Bel Edwards wanted lawmakers to address the temporary tax revenue—mostly in the form of an increase in the state sales tax structure—that expires in 2018. But that didn’t happen. As a result, Edwards is expected to call another special session, which would be the fifth of this term, sometime in the fall or potentially early next year. “Unfortunately, the Legislature still has a $1 billion-plus problem left to handle,” according to the PAR report. “The fiscal cliff is staring us in the face and the state will have to deal with it head-on.”

—Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain recently told an audience gathered at the Louisiana Farm Bureau Annual Convention that they would both seek re-election in 2019. And they aren’t the only statewide officials trying to get ahead of the political curve. Gov. John Bel Edwards has been saying since last year that he would seek re-election in 2019. He has also been aggressively fundraising. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, in a recent interview with LaPolitics, said he has the job he wants right now as well and intends to pursue it next cycle. Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Attorney General Jeff Landry have said much of the same, although Landry’s name continues to be tossed into news stories about potential candidates for governor. The biggest question mark, of course, is hovering over the position of state treasurer, which is up for grabs in the fall. Ron Henson currently holds the seat in the interim. Voters will place someone into that job this fall.

—They said it: “It’s like Christmas Eve, it’s five in the afternoon and you forgot to go shopping for your family of 10.” —Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, explaining how the end of a legislative session works, on KATC-TV

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at  JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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