House Speaker Chuck “The Eunuch” Kleckley Friday removed House Appropriations Committee vice chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Appropriations Committee member Joe Harrison (R-Gray) one day after each voted for a motion by Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) that the administration opposed.
(Eunuch: (1) a castrated man placed in charge of a harem; (2) a man deprived of the testes or external genitals (3) one who lacks virility or power—Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.)
Henry was reassigned to the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee while Harrison was moved to the House Commerce Committee.
When Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) jokingly referred to himself as the “former member of the Senate Finance Committee” during Thursday’s joint hearings by the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee, he was closer to the truth than even he wanted to admit.
Claitor had just objected to a motion by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) to defer action on the proposed contract between Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) and the state that called for BCBS to take over as third party administrator for the Office of Group Benefit’s (OGB) Preferred Provider Organization health coverage plan.
His objection forced a vote on Alario’s motion and the motion subsequently passed by a vote of 11-3 but the House never got a chance to vote because Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols pulled the contract from the committees’ agenda before the House members could vote on Rep. Katrina Jackson’s substitute motion to reject the contract.
Claitor, at this writing, still has his seat on the Senate Finance Committee but that, as Jindal has shown, is subject to change on very short notice.
The latest purge brings to four the number of legislators Gov. Piyush “The Putsch” Jindal has teagued this year for having the temerity to oppose the state’s absentee chief executive. Earlier this year, Reps. James Morris (R-Oil City) and Harold Richie (D-Bogalusa) were removed from the vice-chairmanship of their respective committees.
Morris was demoted from the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee for opposing Jindal’s decision to use one-time money to fund recurring expenses in the state’s General Budget. Richie opposed tax rebates for those who donate money to private and parochial schools.
Jindal has made it abundantly clear on several other occasions that dissention will not be tolerated in his administration. There is simply no room for dialog. This incredibly petulant governor has never learned that politics is the art of compromise. He has fired department heads, university presidents, physicians, attorneys, board members and rank and file employees at the slightest hint that they are not 100 percent on board with his agenda.
Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates, of course, issued the standard denial that the administration had requested (read: demanded) that Harrison and Henry be removed.
The administration did provide a prepared statement from the governor who, as usual, is campaigning, ostensibly, for Mitt Romney in Ohio: Speaker (“Eunuch”) Kleckley is a fair-minded and proven leader,” Piyush (or Timmy Teepell or Kyle Plotkin—who knows who writes this stuff?) said. “We support the Speaker and the decisions he makes regarding the organization of House committees.”
While he didn’t say so, it is rumored that Jindal also has some ocean front property in Kansas that he’s willing to sell.
Just how long the legislature—and the state’s citizens—will stand for his unabashed grab for absolute control of every facet of state government is anyone’s guess but Henry and Harrison were livid over their ouster.
Harrison, interviewed by LouisianaVoice, said the occupants of the State Capitol’s fourth floor “are not people of good character. Their word is no good.”
Seven members of the Appropriations Committee are elected by members of the House—one from each congressional district—and Harrison was the leading vote getter for the position from the Third Congressional District when Kleckley (aka “Gelding”) approached him and asked that he withdraw as a candidate so that the second-leading vote-getter, Rep. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) could be on the committee. “He (Kleckley) said he would then appoint me and he promised that he would not remove me,” Harrison said.
Ironically, Champagne was promoted by Kleckley to Henry’s old vice chairmanship.
“I agreed and when he called me on the phone to tell me I was no longer on the committee, I reminded him of that. I said, ‘So, you are not a man of your word.’
“He didn’t even show me the dignity of calling me into his office to fire me; he did it over the phone. And he wouldn’t even give me a reason,” Harrison said of Kleckley. “He just said some other Republicans had complained about me. I asked, ‘Which Republicans, Timmy Teepell?’ He said, ‘I don’t take my orders from Timmy Teepell.’ I said, ‘Yeah, right.’”
Harrison lashed out at the administration, saying, “Everything they do (on the legislative committees) is scripted. I’m not making this up; I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.
“That is not how the State Constitution defines the three branches of government,” he said. “We no longer have a legislative branch of government.
“I don’t mind following men, but I don’t follow boys,” he said in obvious reference to the gaggle of young aides with which Jindal has surrounded himself. “We’re being directed by a bunch of youngsters on behalf of a man not even in the state. How can we, in the critical financial situation this state is in, have inept youngsters telling us what the governor wants when we don’t even see the man?”
He then singled out Jindal’s former chief of staff Timmy Teepell who resigned a year ago to hed up the Baton Rouge operations of OnMessage, a political consulting firm out of Maryland. OnMessage has no Baton Rouge address or phone number and Teepell apparently runs his consulting business from the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.
“Teepell is the puppeteer in this administration. How can you have a man serving as de facto head of state government who never went to school and who never interacted with other people while growing up? The man is anti-social,” Harrison said.
Henry was no less critical of Jindal.
“It is the job of legislators, particularly those serving in leadership roles, to ask the difficult questions necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and wisely,” he said.
“I have been at odds with the speaker and the administration over fiscal issues for the last several years, asking questions about the constitutionality of the state budget; use of one-time and contingency money, fund sweeps and disastrous mid-year budget cuts that impact healthcare systems like LSU, as well as higher education.
“This action by the speaker and the governor demonstrates that they are afraid of having legislators do the job they were elected to do. The people of Louisiana are suffering as a result.”
He said what he called a series of “irresponsible decisions by the speaker and administration” demonstrate that they are not serious about fiscal discipline and following the Constitution.
“The State Constitution contains clear and strict limitations on the budget process for a very good reason,” he said. “These sensible limitations on deficit spending exist so that we can craft realistic, fiscally-responsible budgets through a transparent and deliberative process. Following the constitution is the only way to have a stable, sustainable budget that best serves the needs of the people, families and businesses of Louisiana.”
He said he was disappointed but not surprised at the administration’s action. He said Jindal and Kleckley were trying to ensure they had “yes-men and yes-women” on important committees who would trust the administration and not challenge it.
“We didn’t get elected to trust people. We got elected to ask questions,” he said.