In our previous posting, we had noted that there were several hurdles that had to be cleared before voters could decide whether the southeastern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish would be able to form its own school district. We also noted that it was the House (not the Senate) where the bill has been unable to generate the necessary (which in this case is 70) votes for passage.
This afternoon, the House held a vote on the first of two bills. The first bill only required a simple majority for passage, but since it is the second bill (the constitutional amendment) that requires a 2/3 vote, this bill was in a sense a “test vote” for the constitutional amendment vote.
(REVISED 5/31 AM) Given that similar votes last year in the House generated 66-34 and 61-35 votes, what does today’s 57-36 vote mean?
As the situation stands right now, the bill is in trouble if you examine the three successive House votes through the prisms of previous House votes and relevant “voter blocs” on this issue.
(REVISED 5/31 AM) Republicans/Independents: Previously, there were no defections among these 60 legislators (58 Republicans and 2 Independents) the first time the bill came to vote, although on the second vote last year, 4 Republicans abstained. This time, there were 4 “no” votes and 5 abstentions. To put it simply, on three successive votes since 2012, this critical demographic voted 60-0, 56-0, and 51-4 on the bill. Had the vote fallen along the same lines that it had on the first vote in 2012, today’s 57-36 vote would have been 66-32 (4 votes away from the 2/3 majority needed);
(REVISED 5/31 AM) Black Democrats: On three successive votes, the Black Caucus has flexed its muscles. Both votes in 2012 were 0-22 with 1 abstention. This time, the vote was 0-22, with 1 abstention (who, incidentally, voted “no” both times the bill was up for a vote last year). So in a sense, today’s 57-36 vote tally has to be, in reality, considered as a 57-38 vote – 3 more than necessary to derail the proposed amendment assuming no vote switching from “no” to “yes” occurs.
White Democrats: Before today’s vote, we assumed 60 solid votes (Republicans + Independents combined) for the bill, which meant that only 10 Democratic votes would be needed. Given the loss of four Republican votes, the bar has theoretically been raised now to 14 Democratic votes. And that is assuming that the 5 abstentions on the Republican/Independent side can be present for the upcoming vote on the constitutional amendment. How would those backing the breakaway school district need to proceed in light of today’s vote?
(Likely Yes): We had previously noted that three House Democrats (Jim Fannin of Jonesboro, Mickey Guillory of Eunice, and Major Thibaut of New Roads) voted “yes” both times the bill came up last year, and that these three votes theoretically were the “low hanging fruit” in the effort towards getting 10 additional votes. While Fannin and Thibaut again voted with the Republicans/Independents, Mickey Guillory this time switched his vote to “no.”
(Probably Yes): Similarly, we had considered three more House Democrats (Mike Danahay of Sulphur, Dorothy Sue Hill of Dry Creek, and Jack Montoucet of Scott) in the “probably yes” category, since they were absent on the second vote last year. While Danahay and Montoucet voted “yes”, Rep. Hill was not present for today’s vote;
(Switched) Last year, Democrats Karen St Germain of Pierre Part and Harold Ritchie of Bogalusa “straddled the fence” by voting “yes” and “no” on the two votes held last year. This time, St Germain abstained, while Ritchie’s “no” vote remained a “no.”
(Likely No) In the next category (white Democrats representing black majority districts), we had assumed that those four Democrats (John Bel Edwards of Amite, and Jeff Arnold, Walt Leger, and Helena Moreno of New Orleans) were “no” votes. In today’s vote, all but Rep. Arnold voted “no” (Rep Arnold abstained).
(Theoretically possible votes) There were 10 white Democrats who we have not yet discussed whose votes were thought to be obtainable. While there was some improvement in this group (Reps Armes and Reynolds switched from “no” to “yes”), the vote among this group was 2-5, with 3 abstentions.
The bottom line
Given today’s vote, the “path to 70” needs the following sequence of three events to occur for the constitutional amendment to be placed before the voters:
- Get the 4 Republican “no” votes to switch to “yes” – that would bring the vote tally to 61 “yes” votes;
- Make sure that the 5 Republicans/Independents who were absent are present for the constitutional amendment vote – that gets you to 66 “yes” votes;
- Of the 8 Democrats who were absent on today’s vote, 6 are white Democrats. Four of those six (Dorothy Sue Hill, “Truck” Gisclair, Karen St Germain, and Neil Abramson) are in white majority districts and are theoretical possibilities. The remaining two (“Andy” Anders and Jeff Arnold) are in black majority districts. For the constitutional amendment bill to pass, a MINIMUM of 4 votes from this group is necessary.