Monday, February 20, 2006
By Alain A. de la Villesbret
Local legislators who serve St. Landry and Evangeline parishes were less than delighted with the results from the special session of the state legislature that ended Friday.
They say they were disappointed with the leadership of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration, the watered-down versions of bills that eventually passed, the lack of will on housing issues and the manner in which the legislators conducted themselves. The latter particularly irked some elected leaders because they are aware that the entire nation is watching.
"It was the worst session I have ever seen," said state Sen. Donald R. Cravins Sr., D-Arnaudville, who has served under four governors. "For a while, it was completely out of hand. Legislatively, it was a mixed bag. But it also was very contentious with a lot of fighting and power struggles. "The governor demonstrated an inability to reign in the legislature, and it began almost immediately. Different factions began fighting rather than working toward common ground. Enemies were made."
Cravins said legislators were jockeying for political advantage instead of taking care of business and the governor did not take charge until the final days.
"Some legislators sensed an opportunity because of the population shift. Some saw it an opportunity to push their own agenda and to get a mayor of their liking elected in New Orleans. An underlining issue in all of this is race. A big part of the problem, however, was that the governor did not have a clear cut agenda or plan for the session," he said.
Again, Cravins laid some blame on Blanco.
"A strong governor would have reigned in the legislature, told them we did not have time to waste on this foolishness. A strong governor would have brought in the key players and moved the process forward," Cravins said.
State Rep. Donald Cravins Jr., D-Opelousas, said that lack of organization led to a lack of clarity from the governor's administration.
"When you don't have a clear plan, and leaders are not making the hard decisions and leading, then what you have is a bunch of people scrambling for position, a bunch of people trying to control the discussion, and that makes it more difficult. We were dealing with complex issues. We had people who were there for the right reason, and others who sense a political opportunity to rebuild our state along what their philosophy might dictate.
The representative went one step further in chastising his peers.
"We are going to have to start voting for people who can make the hard decisions, who are leaders and who have bold new ideas, who are not just looking at the next election when making decisions. We just don't have that right now," he said.