How Bobby's Wheels Came Off: The Prequel

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Since my last post on this subject, I have confirmed from several sources some additional information about the “deal” that Gov. Bobby Jindal struck with lawmakers in connection with the much-maligned legislative pay raise. None of what follows conflicts with the facts as set forth in my last post, but it does shed some additional light on what happened — and when.

Early in the session — very early in the session — several key lawmakers met face-to-face with Jindal to discuss the pay raise idea. They wanted to know up front if he was going to oppose it publicly or veto it, because if either scenario occurred they didn’t want to waste time and political capital voting for a highly controversial measure, one they knew would draw voters’ ire, only to have him shoot it down. They reasoned correctly that they wanted Jindal to “hang” with them on this one, or else no one should hang at all.

In that meeting, which occurred in very late March or very early April, Jindal promised he would not oppose the raise — but in return, he secured a promise that lawmakers would pass his voucher (“scholarship”) bill.

It should come as no surprise that the author of the pay raise bill, Sen. Ann Duplessis of eastern New Orleans, also authored the Senate version of the voucher bill. The author of the voucher bill that passed was state Rep. Austin Badon, also of eastern New Orleans, but Duplessis carried the water for both bills in the Senate.

My point here is that Jindal was in on the pay raise deal from the get-go. He did not, according to my sources, quibble over the size of it.  His priority was the voucher bill, and he agreed to let lawmakers determine the size and timing in exchange for what he wanted.

Later, when the bill became hotter than anyone anticipated, Jindal apparently dispatched his chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, with a message that the governor would veto the raise because it was too big (at least, that was the official excuse). At that point, House Speaker Jim Tucker countered with a threat against Jindal’s “reform” agenda — the voucher bill. Obviously, a whole lot of folks don’t consider vouchers a “reform,” and it’s interesting that Jindal never fully identified which bills were being held “hostage” as a result of Tucker’s threat.

The rest of my analysis remains the same: Jindal erred big time by sending Teepell to deliver the veto threat. He should have done that himself. Then again, maybe he sent Teepell in knowing he would be feeding his chief of staff to the lions — as a trial balloon. Either way, it played out badly for Jindal.

Here’s the kicker: Badon’s voucher bill cleared its last legislative hurdle on June 18, a day after Jindal announced he would not veto the pay raise.

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