The Louisiana Senate’s new Republican president will continue a tradition of bipartisan leadership across the majority-GOP chamber’s subject-matter committees, but Republicans will take charge of the key financial and redistricting panels.
Senate President Page Cortez, a Lafayette Republican unanimously elected to the top job, released the membership breakdown of the Senate’s 17 standing committees Friday. He named Republicans as leaders of 12 panels and gave Democrats—including the head of the state Democratic Party—the chairmanships of five panels.
The most closely watched committees with domain over the budget, taxes and the redrawing of political district lines, however, will be firmly in Republican hands in a chamber where the GOP holds 27 of 39 seats.
Committee chairmen have wide latitude in scheduling hearings on bills assigned to their panels and in deciding how those bills will be debated. Cortez says he tried to divvy up the jobs in line with the proportional makeup of the Senate membership along gender, racial and party lines.
Senate rules require the Senate Finance Committee to include at least one member from each congressional district. But Cortez also extended that to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will be overseeing the politically sensitive task of redistricting—the remapping of legislative and congressional political boundaries.
“I asked for requests from everyone, and I tried as much as I could to meet their requests by interest area,” Cortez tells The Associated Press. “That played probably as big a part in it as anything.”
Baton Rouge area Sen. Mack “Bodi” White will helm the Finance Committee that draws up the state’s annual operating budget. Sen. Bret Allain of Franklin will oversee the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee that handles tax policy. And Slidell Sen. Sharon Hewitt will take charge of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that governs redistricting. All are in the GOP.
Democrats will take charge of the education, labor, local affairs and retirement committees, along with one of three judiciary panels.
Among the Democrats, Sen. Cleo Fields of Baton Rouge, returning to the Senate after a 12-year absence, will chair the education panel. New Orleans Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, will oversee the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee, which deals with local government oversight. Sen. Gary Smith of Norco will continue to lead the Judiciary B Committee, which handles criminal justice issues.
Though Cortez’s committee leadership team is bipartisan, his decisions still strike a more Republican-focused, independent course for the chamber. Read the full story.