Capitol Access

  • Hosted by Wallis Watkins

Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy.

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Last week, the 72nd Louisiana Legislature convened for the first time, electing new leaders in a brief organizational session.

After months of backroom negotiations, they settled on Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, for Speaker of the House and Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, as Senate President.

Both positions were hotly contested behind closed doors, but things boiled over in the Speaker's race.

Democrat John Bel Edwards officially began his second term as Louisiana Governor Monday, taking his oath of office on the Capitol steps.

A drizzling rain fell over the crowd for much of the morning. Still, hundreds filled the capitol lawn to witness the ceremony. 

The Louisiana Legislature is days away from the start of a new term. Monday morning, lawmakers will gavel in the 2020 Organizational Session.

Once, everyone is sworn in, lawmakers will set committees and, most notably, elect new leaders.

Campaigns for Speaker of the House and Senate President are fought outside of the public eye and have been underway for months.

Today, we're taking a look back at the year in Louisiana politics.

In 2019, we saw some things change and others stay the same.

Democrat John Bel Edwards earned another four years in the governor's mansion, but it was a lonely victory. Republicans won every other statewide race and have unprecedented control in the House and Senate.

And there were some changes on this program as well. Wallis Watkins has left Capitol Access, but she was kind enough to come back and talk through some of the big stories of 2019.

Governor John Bel Edwards held his traditional year-end press conference last week. It marked not only the end of 2019, but the end of his first term.

His core message?

“Our state is operating from a position of strength, not the position of weakness where we were four years ago,” Edwards said.

The Democratic governor touted budget stability, GDP growth, Medicaid expansion-- all familiar talking points from the campaign trail.

And his plans for 2020 sounded awfully familiar too.

For the second straight year, Republican lawmakers have refused to accept state economists’ forecast of expected revenue in the upcoming fiscal year, a crucial benchmark for crafting the state budget.

The partisan stand-off over the budget could also delay funding for several projects in Louisiana, including the reopening of the Algiers Ferry, coastal restoration in Plaquemines Parish and payments associated with the Harrah’s Casino contract.

In Thursday’s meeting, Representative Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), on behalf of House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), voted down updated forecasts presented by the Legislative Fiscal Office and pision of Administration.

The big news out of Washington this week is house Democrats unveiling of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress surrounding his dealings with Ukraine and conduct during the subsequent investigation.

As the inquiry continues, members of Louisiana's congressional delegation on key committees and in leadership roles are positioned to influence these historic proceedings.

Here to discuss is Elizabeth Crisp, Washington Correspondent for The Advocate. 

Democrats have a formula-- a recipe for success in Louisiana elections. Demographer Greg Rigamer explains.

"You need, as a Democrat, to win 90% of the African American voter and a third of the white vote," Rigamer said.

And African Americans need to account for at least 30% of the votes cast.

"That's been the formula that has held true for every every race since really 2003," he added.

With the 2019 election behind him, Governor John Bel Edwards’ focus has shifted from winning a second term to figuring out how to get his initiatives through an even more conservative legislature.

He talked about his priorities last week at his first press conference since the election.

By now, you have no doubt heard that on Saturday night, Governor John Bel Edwards won re-election over Republican challenger Eddie Rispone. 

But how did the Democrat incumbent score victory in ruby-red, Louisiana?

To talk through the results, I'm joined by demographer and Edward's campaign consultant, Greg Rigamer.

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