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|Was it fear or a honeymoon?|
State lawmakers either granted Gov. Bobby Jindal one heck of a honeymoon or they feared being perceived by the electorate as obstructing that runaway train called the Jindal reform movement.
How else can we explain the success Jindal enjoyed in passing his legislative packages in the two special sessions lawmakers tackled and completed in less than 70 days into their new terms in office. Not only did the Legislature handle its business at a record clip, for all practical purposes members signed off on everything the new governor sought.
It was a tall order, too.
In the first special session, or the ethics reform session, lawmakers grudgingly approved a host of measures aimed at cleaning up the state's image. That included legislation which reigned in the amount of money lobbyists could spend feeding any given member of the Legislature. It also included a bill that prohibited legislators from doing business with state government. There was that snippy offering as well to cut out free tickets for sporting events, luncheons and the like, which lawmakers have enjoyed for years.
The momentum the Jindal administration built in the first special session carried over to the second one, which the governor called to give the business community some tax relief. Completed late last week, the second session also focused on Jindal's plan to spend some $1 billion in surplus funds left over from the 2006-07 fiscal year.
While some of the more conservative pundits in Louisiana took issue with Jindal leading the charge to spend a $1-billion surplus, it is worth noting the money was appropriated—for the most part—for infrastructure concerns. The appropriations entailed funding for bridge and highway construction projects, development of a host of ports around the state and other endeavors geared toward creating jobs, or creating an environment in which the business community could create jobs for the people.
There's no doubt the special session on ethics reform, or the first special session, paid big dividends if one was concerned with Louisiana's reputation for being a haven for corruption in politics. The second special session, though, will be remembered for years because Jindal convinced the Legislature to expedite some cuts in taxes the business community pays on debt, machinery purchases and utilities.
The expedited tax cuts were a welcome change in light of the state's mark for being somewhat unfriendly in the tax corner for folks who are in the business of employing people. Unfortunately, that point fails to register with many people who, by and large, have never met a payroll or paid payroll withholding taxes or paid quarterly taxes or set aside money to extend Christmas bonuses during the holidays.
Yet, the most surprising development in both special sessions had nothing to do with ethics reform or a Republican governor cutting taxes while spending a healthy surplus.
Instead, the shocker centered on the lackluster opposition Jindal encountered in prodding the Legislature to allow taxpayers to deduct private school tuition expenses on their state income tax returns. The legislation in question will affect parents who home-school their kids, too.
Let us recall that it wasn't too long ago the teacher unions possessed the influence to beat back any effort to grant some tax relief for people who go the private school route. The unions were successful in labeling an effort in that regard as a blow to public education. As unfounded as it was, it worked for years.
Thus, that raises the questions?
Did the Legislature grant Jindal a honeymoon by going along with the new governor's ideas to improve Louisiana's lot in life?
Or did the Legislature sense the electorate was dead serious about change when it overwhelmingly elected Jindal in the primary election just five months ago?
Suffice it to say, we'll learn the answer to those questions as time passes and Jindal and the Legislature spend more time together.
It will entail a love-hate affair.