Jeremy Alford called Senate Natural Resources Chairman Norby Chabert of Terrebonne Parish the other day to ask him what kind of a show Louisiana can expect when the Legislature holds its annual session this year, which starts on April 8.
As Alford writes in his new column, a former Democrat turned Republican and the third member of his immediate family to serve in the Louisiana Senate, Chabert knows politics, from managing campaigns and precinct-level turnout to policy angles and leveraging gavels.
“What are the fireworks gonna be like?” Alford asked Chabert. “Will there even be fireworks?”
He laughed, but then sighed because most people don’t expect much controversy or even a spark of emotion from the coming session—primarily because it falls just a few months before re-election bids.
The legislators want to look good for the voters. That’s the historical model for a year like 2019. In other words, the final year of a legislative term is typically non-confrontational, somewhat guarded by the elected members and lacking in substantive accomplishments.
“It won’t quite be the Fourth of July,” Chabert said flatly, “but it’ll definitely be New Year’s Eve.”
This legislative term, to be sure, has been radically different from those of modern note. In 2016, for example, this current crop of lawmakers spent more time in session than any of their peers dating back to 1812, and each annual regular session thus far has been accompanied by one or more special sessions.
What if this final regular session is as equally different? Where can the fireworks be best viewed? For starters, the main budget bill and Louisiana’s revenue challenges, in general, will continue to dominate serious conversations. So the potential for disaster begins there.