I had the privilege to visit the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge today. I was there with Americans For Prosperity-Louisiana to lobby against HB 542 which would increase gas taxes and impose new fees on electric and hybrid cars.
I’m not going to rehash the arguments against the bill in this post but if you’re interested, here’s an article I did for The Hayride. Instead, this post is going to urge everyone, regardless of how you feel politically to get involved with the process.
I have a confession to make. I have been writing about Louisiana politics for over four years for The Hayride. Today was the first time I had been to the Louisiana capitol since I was in college. I usually just watch the live stream of the debates and meetings from my computer.
I decided to do more than just lobby my state representative about a bill. I decided to actually stay and watch a session live and in person. It was an eye-opening experience.
Louisiana’s legislature has only been in session for a little over two weeks. Most of the bills that are normally debated and voted on are non-controversial. But that was not the case today.
The most controversial bill of the day was HB 372 by Rep. Kirk Talbot which dealt with insurance rates. Not to weigh in too much on the merits of the bill, but Louisiana has among the nation’s highest car insurance premiums in the country and it has become a serious problem.
The other controversial bill of the day was HB 425 by Rep. Katrina Jackson which is a constitutional amendment that stipulate that abortion was not a right under the Louisiana constitution. The bill passed easily and with no debate.
The rest of the bills were generally noncontroversial that dealt with local issues and tax credit issues. The bills all passed unanimously or near unanimously.
The Louisiana legislature is famous for having a more laid back atmosphere than most other legislative bodies. Members will vote each other’s machines if they’re not on the floor. When a newly elected representative presented his first ever bill, another member put a placard around his neck that said “first bill”. Finally, there was even an instance of a member changing his vote after the result although in fairness it involved a voting machine malfunction.
Admittedly, there were times when I wondered how some of these legislators got this far in life. It simply strengthened my resolve to have these people as uninvolved in my life as possible.
So the moral of the story is this, go see how state and local government work in person. Go see how the sausage is made.
Finally, get to know everyone that represents you and let them you know you exist. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you think about an issue and engage in a dialogue with them. Most of them are actually (superficially at least) charming and will be nice to you. After all, they want your vote somewhere down the line.
Democracy goes to those who show up. I believe we would have a better government if those who were governed knew what happened and were engaged.