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Story Archives: The bandwagon from hell
|The bandwagon from hell|
Since at least the late 19th century, the state of Louisiana has published acts approved by the Legislature in the state's Official Journal.
The state's Official Journal is The Advocate in Baton Rouge, which, as we all know, is Louisiana's capital city. Thus, it makes sense that a newspaper which hails from the capital city would serve as the Official Journal for the state.
The purpose of publishing legislative acts in the Official Journal is to provide a means for an independent entity—besides the government—to inform the people about the actions taken by their government, or the Legislature. That independent entity would be the press, which historically has served as an independent watchdog of government.
If we relied solely on the government, or the Legislature, to inform us about the decisions state lawmakers made in a given legislative session, there would be no independent party, or an independent watchdog if you will, to shed light on the actions taken by the Legislature, good or bad.
In a nutshell, that's the intent of publishing legislative acts in the Official Journal.
If state Rep. Hunter Greene had his way, though, that long-held practice would come to an end.
Greene, a Republican from Baton Rouge, sponsored legislation that calls for the state to quit publishing legislative acts in the Official Journal in lieu of posting the acts online on the Legislature's web site.
Touting a savings of some $200,000 per year for the state, Greene's handiwork is being floated in two pieces of legislation. They are House Bill 431 and House Bill 446, which are under consideration in the regular legislative session.
HB 446 provides for the state statute to do away with the state's Official Journal. It was approved by the House of Representatives last week with 62 votes in favor, while 38 House members correctly voted no on the bill. Five representatives were absent.
HB 446 has moved to the Senate, awaiting action in the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.
On the other hand is HB 431. It is a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with the Official Journal matter, which is awaiting action by the House of Representatives. A two-thirds vote in favor, or 70 votes, is needed to send HB 431 to the Senate since it is a proposed constitutional amendment.
Both bills must be approved by the Legislature as a whole for the Greene proposal to be placed on a ballot for voters statewide to decide whether they want the state to utilize an Official Journal.
In short, Greene wants to amend the state's constitution to do away with an independent watchdog providing the people with the means to read about official acts passed by the Legislature.
When Greene introduced his bills to squash the state's Official Journal, a question arose.
It could have something to do with Greene being a bit miffed with the Louisiana Press Association, which convinced the Legislature—over Greene's objection—to provide tax incentives for newspapers that invest in new machinery such as printing presses or other major equipment needed to produce a newspaper. Even as chairman of the House's tax-writing committee, Ways and Means, Greene's opposition to the tax incentives bill fell on deaf ears.
The fight Greene picked over the Official Journal issue also could have something do with his beef with the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, specifically the publication's owner and publisher, Rolfe McCollister Jr., and J.R. Ball, the executive editor. The Business Report has questioned Greene's commitment to ethics reform. From most accounts, he didn't appreciate it.
Then there is The Advocate itself.
Liberals don't care for the newspaper, and conservatives don't like it either. That tells us The Advocate must be doing something right. It also would help explain why so many members of Baton Rouge's legislative delegation voted in favor of HB 446.
Yet, Greene is a so-called conservative, though he requests state funding for projects in his district as if he were a free-spending liberal.
Let's make no mistake, however, Greene is committed to his effort to do away with the state's Official Journal.
It's obviously a personal issue with him.
That much is evident by Greene walking up and down the aisles in the House, courting votes for his measure, "tick" sheet in hand. He's been counting votes to determine if there exists 70 votes in support of his proposed constitutional amendment.
It's been suggested, too, that Greene is using his position as chairman of Ways and Means to lean on his colleagues to vote in favor of his Official Journal legislation. Remember, as chairman of Ways and Means, Greene controls the state's capital outlay bill, or the bill that provides state funding for lawmakers' pet projects in their districts.
Last year when then-candidate Bobby Jindal was bouncing all over the state running for governor, he campaigned on the dire need to clean up politics in Louisiana. Transparency in government was a must, Jindal said.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell Greene.
In light of the response in discussing the Official Journal issue with lawmakers recently, there's no doubt Greene hasn't told his colleagues that Louisiana ranks 49th in the country in the percentage of households with access to the Internet.
If a fellow wanted to hide the Legislature's business from the people, he should jump on the Hunter Greene bandwagon.
For those who care to see Louisiana continue on a progressive course which has garnered positive, national attention, it's time to ditch the Hunter Greene bandwagon.