When State Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) was removed from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month by Piyush Jindal through his surrogate, House Speaker Chuck “The Eunuch” Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), he offered an interesting revelation about the way the administration micromanages the legislative process.
“Everything they (legislative committees) do is scripted,” Harrison said in an interview with LouisianaVoice hours after his demotion. “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.”
Harrison’s comments were made in the heat of the aftermath of his smack down by Piyush for having the temerity to vote against The-Man-Who-Would-Be-Vice-President (or at least a Romney cabinet member) on the proposed contract that called for Blue Cross/Blue Shield to become the third party administrator for the Office of Group Benefit’s (OGB) Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).
Strong words to be sure, but now they have been corroborated by yet another legislator who shall remain nameless for the time being though we will go so far as to acknowledge that the lawmaker is not a member of Jindal’s political party.
Not that that seems to matter, given the events that occurred in the wake of the surprising defeat of Republican president candidate Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
Jindal turned on Romney like the self-serving hypocrite he is. (Well, after all, he never got his 30 pieces of silver—read: a cabinet appointment in the anticipated Romney administration—so why not?)
When we asked our legislator friend (we’ll just call him Kyle) if Harrison was accurate in claiming that committee members are given questions by administrative officials in advance of committee hearings, he responded with a quick, “Absolutely.”
But then he continued. “Not only that but they text committee members during committee meetings and even send text messages to legislators during floor debates on bills in the House and Senate telling them how to vote on certain bills.
“They’ll also send text messages to legislators instructing them to speak for or against a bill and even tell him or her on what to say and they’ll pop up out of their chair and immediately rush to the floor microphone,” Kyle said.
He said he occasionally speaks to school groups about how the legislative process is designed to work. “I always leave laughing at myself for trying to tell the kids that we have three branches of government—the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
“We no longer have a legislative branch of government in Louisiana; we’re (the legislature) just an extension of the executive branch.
“The sad part is we have only ourselves to blame. When I say we, I mean the legislature as a body, not as individuals because there are some members who will stand up to Jindal when they feel he is wrong. But the legislature—the House and the Senate—have capitulated to the fourth floor and I lay the fault at the feet of our leadership, the Speaker Kleckley and Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego).
“They are both likeable men, very personable, but Alario’s looking out for Alario. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the Capital Outlay Bill and see how many projects are in it for Jefferson Parish. It’s loaded down with Jefferson projects and Alario wants to keep it that way,” he said.
He said he also did not understand the motivations of Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville). “Here is a state senator who had a state mental hospital in his district (Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville) closed by the governor who gave him no advance warning of his intentions and yet, as chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, he did exactly what Jindal told him to do and steamrolled the Blue Cross/Blue Shield contract with OGB down everyone’s throat.”
Harrison and our friend Kyle weren’t the only ones to reveal the ongoing instructions to legislators. Yet another source (not a member of the legislature) said he witnessed a legislator receiving text messages from the governor’s office even as he testified not before a legislative committee, but before the New Orleans City Council. “They were letting him know they didn’t like what he was saying in his testimony,” the second unnamed source said.
LouisianaVoice sent separate emails to Piyush Press Pontificator Kyle (no relation) Plotkin and to Chief of Staff Paul Rainwater asking just two simple questions:
• Does the administration think it is appropriate to micromanage the legislative process in this manner?
• Would this (practice) not blur the lines between the executive and legislative branches of government?
We never receive an acknowledgement of either email.
Ah, transparency and accountability. Where would we be without ‘em?