‘LaPolitics:’ Speaker discusses tort reform, infrastructure

During an interview from his Gonzales district office Thursday, newly elected House Speaker Clay Schexnayder fielded a few questions from LaPolitics on what could be the defining issues of the current term. See the full Q&A below: 

A major theme this term could be the veto override. You’ve stated recently you want the body to avoid that scenario and to search for compromises. But do you think a veto override in the House this term is possible?

Do I think it’s possible? Of course I think it could be possible. But I will do everything in my power to not have that happen. If you look at my past as a legislator, I always tried to work toward a compromise.

Tort reform appears to be positioned as the first true litmus test for the House and it could end up being the biggest issue of the term. Do you agree with that statement?

Yes.

Why?

I think over the past couple of years it has gained momentum. When I was first elected in 2012, I don’t think a whole lot of people were educated on what tort reform was. I think people understand it a little more now—they want lower car premiums, they want good insurance—and knowing that, we have to put forth a bigger effort. The governor knows that. We’re not trying to harm trial lawyers by any means 

We just want to find the right path. Maybe it’s not all tort reform policies. Maybe we just focus on the insurance side.

Are there any other issues you see sneaking up on us? Anything that could suck the oxygen out of the room this term?

Tort reform is the big one, obviously. I think we have a huge opportunity in this first session to put some good cards on the table and to get something done. I think the other big issue will come not this session but in the next, and that’s infrastructure. I think that’s a huge issue moving forward, especially in terms of where we get the dollars. That’s what we’re digging into now.

Is your team taking another serious look at raising additional revenue off of gasoline or anything like that?

I haven’t seen anyone talk about a revenue bill or a tax bill on it. I’m sure it’ll be a part of the conversation, but it’s not something we’re looking at right now.

Rep. Stuart Bishop, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, recently told me that his top priority, while he has the gavel, will be infrastructure. Is that something you two are strategizing on?

We’ve had brief conversations about it and we both agree that it’s a top priority. Stuart and I will be meeting again on it soon and we’re eager to get a variety of input. That’s something that will be different this term, as compared to the last eight years. You’re going to see us reaching out and bringing different groups in and just having discussions to see where everyone is. There’s going to be a line of communication for all members. This is going to be important for us as we file legislation and pass legislation.

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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