Rep. Taylor Barras Elected Speaker Without Promising Chairmanships

On paper, the Speaker of the Louisiana House has enormous power.  Unlike Congress, where seniority is important in choosing not only committee chairmen but the members of each committee, Louisiana does not have a seniority system at all.  As a result, under House Rules, the Speaker appoints every single House committee chairman.  Not only that.  He also appoints the members of every committee, which allows him to “stack” committees and ensure a favorable outcome for controversial legislation.

That’s what the rules say but the reality has been different. Governors have handpicked Speakers and then told the Speaker who to appoint as chairmen and who to appoint to committees.

In addition, candidates for Speaker promise chairmanships and committee assignment to legislators when they are running for Speaker.  So Speakers have always been constrained both by the governor and by their own commitments.

New House Speaker Taylor Barras is unique.  He has no obligations to the governor, who opposed him, and made no promises for chairmanships during the less that 12 hours that he was a candidate for Speaker.

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