Time to Go Snake Hunting at State Capitol
Rep. Ford Stinson, who served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1936 to 1972 with a little time out during World War II to go kill Nazis, was one of the legislature’s all-time best bill-killers.
Legislative sessions are defined by the media based on what passes. That’s “news.” But very often the real news of a session is what bad bills get killed, thereby saving the taxpayers untold hardship and grief.
Ford Stinson was one bill-killing machine! He had an uncanny knack for knowing when a terrible bill was about to be called off the calendar, usually late at night or when members were tired and just wanted to go home.
“Please, I’ll vote for anything, just let me go home!” I must have heard that a thousand times when I was a member of the House from 1972 to 2000. The body is weak!
As soon as the bad bill was called from the calendar, Ford Stinson was ready. He had picket signs especially made for the nefarious bill. He would walk down the aisle, carrying his sign and hollering “Snake, snake!” and everybody knew the game was on! His sign would say something derogatory about the bill or its author, always something humorous and not too cutting. Just enough to get people thinking.
Ford Stinson was a conservative who knew just what to say to turn conservatives against the bill. Often, he was secretly in league with his supposed arch-enemy, ultra liberal New Orleans Rep. Sal Anselmo, who would go to the mike and turn the liberals against the bill. They used facts and law plus plenty of humor and a comfortable amount of ridicule to do the job.
As a page in the House in the 1960’s, many were the times I saw Stinson and Anselmo kill a bill and then shake hands gleefully in the back of the Chamber.
Quite often, conservatives and liberals can agree on which bills are bad, because they stink up the place.
This year I see several bills affecting East Baton Rouge that are “snakes” and need to be killed. Here are some of my least favorites:
• HB 1151 by Rep. Ponti — To provide that all five City Court judges in Baton Rouge would be elected citywide. Back in the early 1990’s, when Baton Rouge was 60-40 white to black, I thought it was a mistake to have five white city judges. So I helped push through subdistricts to give us two black judges and three white ones. Now that Baton Rouge is 60-40 black to white, I think it’s a mistake to have five black judges. The subdistricts should be rearranged but kept in place. HB 1151 is a snake!
• HB 1178 by Rep. Honore — To reduce the EBR school board to seven members with six from districts and one at large. Districts would have 62,000 residents, and the at-large seat would have 376,000 residents! It would take $50,000 just to run for school board. Another snake!
• HB 1212 by Rep. James — To have St. George voted on parishwide instead of in St. George. Ever heard of self-rule and democracy?
As Ford Stinson would holler, “Kill that snake!”