Greg Hilburn, Monroe News Star
What regions carry the most clout in the Louisiana Legislature? You might be surprised.
Editor’s note: The following is an analysis from Greg Hilburn, USA Today Network’s Louisiana political reporter.
Leadership means everything when considering clout in the Louisiana Legislature, which is why mayors and chamber of commerce leaders and police jury presidents keep a close eye on where their hometown lawmakers rank in the power structure.
Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, top the list, followed by the committee chairmen and women they’ve appointed.
Legislators in power can change the landscape of their districts with roads, lakes, bridges and other pet projects.
Where they landed in this term was primarily determined by whether they were on the winning side of the speaker’s race won by Schexnayder and the president’s race won by Cortez.
Those who were with the winners earned plums. Those who chose the wrong side, in many cases, got crumbs.
The pockets of regional power are clear in this new Legislature.
Acadiana, with Lafayette as the hub, and the Capital area, with Baton Rouge as the hub, dominate the Legislature for the next four years, while the Bayou region with Houma as its anchor will punch above its weight.
New Orleans, the state’s signature city, is as light on legislative leverage as perhaps it’s ever been, although as a region its clout is less sparse.
Northeastern Louisiana, northwestern Louisiana and central Louisiana are virtual deserts of legislative power.
Following are the regional power rankings in the Louisiana Legislature:
► No. 1 — Acadiana (tie): Acadiana scored big with Cortez winning the Senate president’s race, but the region also sits pretty with six standing committee chairmanships.
Among those is Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, where all tax bills are considered as well the state’s Capitol Outlay bill where lawmakers tuck in local projects to be funded.
Some other key Acadiana leaders: Sen. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, chair of Senate Natural Resources; Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, chair of Senate Health and Welfare; Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, chair of House Natural Resources; and Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, House Transportation chair.
Acadiana bonus: Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, is the House Republican Caucus chairman, which is elected by members.
► No. 1 — Capital region (tie): The Capital region not only gets the top spot in the House with Schexnayer as speaker, but the area scored 10 standing committee chairmanships.
Among those chairs is Sen. Bodie White, R-Baton Rouge, who’s leading the powerful Senate Finance Committee that puts the upper chamber’s stamp on the state budget.
Some other key leaders: Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, chair of House Commerce; Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, House Insurance; Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, House Criminal Justice chair; and Sen. Rick Ward, R-Senate Transportation.
► No. 3 — Bayou region: The Bayou region can’t match the Acadiana, Capital or New Orleans’ regions in numbers, but it nailed three key positions that shape taxes, capital projects and the state budget.
State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, won the speaker’s pro-tem race and can sit in on any committee in the House. He was also one of the architects of Schnexnayder’s win and has the speaker’s ear.
Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringe, another of Schnexnayder’s lieutenants, leads the House Appropriations Committee where the state budget is crafted.
And Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, is chairman of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committee that considers tax bills and the Capital Outlay Bill to fund projects.
► No. 4 — New Orleans region: The region’s top player isn’t from the city, but Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, will lead Senate and Governmental Affairs, which will take on added importance because it will be charged with redrawing the state’s political boundaries following the 2020 Census.
Hewitt was also elected chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, which holds a super majority in the upper chamber.
In total, the New Orleans region has seven standing committee chairmanships. Among them are Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, Senate Labor chair, and Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, Senate Insurance chair.
New Orleans bonus: Sen. Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, leads the Legislative Black Caucus.
► No. 5 — Southwestern Louisiana region: The region anchored by Lake Charles secured two committee chairs. Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, who had run for Senate president, leads the Senate Commerce Committee. Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, chairs House and Governmental Affairs, which like its counterpart in the Senate will redraw the state’s political boundaries.
► No. 6 — Northwestern Louisiana region (tie): The region anchored by Shreveport-Bossier city has two committee chairs.
Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, chairs Senate Judiciary A, while Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, chairs House Health and Welfare.
► No. 6 — Northeastern Louisiana region (tie): The region with Monroe-West Monroe as its hub has a lock on the Legislature’s agriculture committees.
Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, chairs House Agriculture, while Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-West Monroe, chairs Senate Agriculture.
► No. 8 — Central Louisiana region: Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, is the only committee chair from the region with Alexandria as its hub. Harris chairs House Retirement.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1