Arkansas or Louisiana in the Race for Floridication

Arkansas Louisiana Politics

New Orleans       The other day, sitting on a dock on an inlet in Stinson Beach that joins the Pacific Ocean, I was asked an interesting question by a friend and comrade who follows politics on hyper speed and at mine shaft depth.  He asked me which state was worse now, Arkansas or Louisiana?

By “worse,” he was referring simply to what I have called the Floridication of these states by their now superconservative governors and super-Republican majority legislatures.  Floridication means following Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ playbook to the letter from “don’t say gay” to state imposition of controls on education, anti-union legislation, and more.  Both have turned so hard right under new governors, first Hutchinson Sanders in Arkansas and now, Landry in Louisiana, that it’s a hard call.  I was tempted to say Louisiana, because that state is deep into the current legislative session, and it has been horrific, but despite being jet-lagged, I read the local papers quickly when I returned, and now I would have to say that it’s still a close call, but Arkansas may be winning this race to the bottom for its people.

The Louisiana session has hardly two more weeks, so most of the damage that can be done has in most ways been done, because the clock is likely to run out on some of the other outrages where they are able to get on the floor in time for a vote.  Despite being blood-red, the Louisiana Senate under its presiding officer has been very effective at putting boulders in the governor’s fast track to the right.  That doesn’t mean Louisiana didn’t pass “don’t say gay” or actions against trans-individuals, but way more evil hasn’t been enshrined, than has gone to the governor for signature.

One surprising example I could cite has been the aggressive anti-union package for public employees.  One bill sought to bar public workers from even being able to even discuss wages with coworkers.  Another bill would have made it almost impossible for unions to collect dues from their public worker members.  Both failed to get out of committee.  Another proposal on unions holding secret ballot elections likely will be timed out of committee.

That’s not all.  The Senate flatly rejected efforts by Landry to block all freedom of information requests that involved the governor and his staff.  This was also an issue where Hutchinson Sanders overreached.  The governor’s efforts to call a constitutional convention, which is his cure all, but was never even hinted during his campaign, has also been stalled.  Very importantly, Landry’s effort to create special educational accounts that would divert money from public schools to anywhere and any institution parents decided, is in trouble as well.  First, the legislature has insisted that all schools, public or private, which receive public funds through this program or any other, will have to require the same testing and essential curriculum.  Secondly, many legislators have raised the issue of the cost of these new educational entitlements and refused to write a blank check.  Landry wants the constitutional convention to be amended to allow public school funds from the state to be diverted, but it has become a hard sell.  In what must be embarrassing to the new governor, trying to undue what the work of the previous eight years under a moderate Democrat, was the legislature’s refusal to allow him to take over control of virtually all state agencies where he wanted to make most of the appointments.

Please remember that none of this is to say that there are happier days in Louisiana, now that in Arkansas.  Misery loves company, and there’s plenty of bad legislation being passed and the governor has succeeded in many measures, particularly those that attack New Orleans, as well as some performative things like sending some National Guard to hang around the border in the pretense of helping Texas with its crazy.  We’re just not Florida or Texas yet, and it may take the red team a little longer to beat Arkansas to the bottom as well.