Louisiana House Speaker gives lawmakers who voted with him plum committee assignments

Democrats continue to lose out on leadership positions, despite backing Schexnayder in election

By: - May 2, 2022 2:20 pm
Speaker gives Louisiana House day off while asking judge for more redistricting time

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, has given two political independents desirable committee assignments after they sided with him in a March standoff with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards over a veto of Louisiana’s congressional map.

Schexnayder appointed Rep. Joe Marino of Gretna chairman of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice last week. He also put Rep. Roy Daryl Adams of Jackson back on the powerful House Appropriations Committee after removing Adams from the same committee last year.

Adams and Marino voted with Schexnayder to override the governor’s veto of a U.S. House district map the Legislature passed in February. As independents, the two lawmakers are crucial votes on any veto override because Republicans need 70 votes to overcome Edwards, a Democrat, but only have 68 GOP members in the House.

Unlike some other states, gubernatorial veto overrides in Louisiana are rare. The congressional map override was only the third in modern state history and the first in 30 years.

In 2021, the Legislature failed to override Edwards’ veto of a bill to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, in part because Schexnayder wasn’t able to get support from Marino or Adams.

Marino didn’t attend the 2021 veto override session, and Adams sided with the governor. After the vote, Adams admitted publicly that he flip-flopped on the speaker, initially telling Schexnayder he would vote to override and then backing out of that promise. 

The failure embarrassed the speaker, who had said he was confident he had enough support to negate the governor’s veto just days before the override vote took place.

Subsequently, the speaker removed Adams from the House Appropriations Committee. Earlier this year, House leadership also redrew Adams’ House district in a way that could make it harder for him to win reelection.

As the new criminal justice chairman, Marino replaces former Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who resigned from his House seat in January to take a job in the Biden administration.

Schexnayder kept the criminal justice chairman’s seat open for over half the 2022 legislative session, even as dozens of bills moved through the committee. Many thought the speaker was intentionally waiting to fill the seat to see how Marino would vote on the redistricting veto override. Schexmayder may also have been monitoring other legislators who were interested in the job.

Marino’s appointment might upset both political parties.

Republican Caucus Chairman Blake Miguez, R-Erat, has criticized the speaker for not selecting a Republican as chairman. The criminal justice committee oversees gun bills, and Marino doesn’t always vote in favor of legislation to expand gun rights, Miguez said. 

Marino also has left-leaning stances on other aspects of criminal justice policy as well. He has advocated for shorter criminal sentences and more opportunities for parole.

His selection could still be a slight to the House Democrats though, after they threw their weight behind Schexnayder in the 2020 speaker’s race and helped him defeat a more conservative candidate, Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany. In exchange, the Democrats negotiated with Schexnayder for committee chairman slots, including the job leading the House criminal justice committee. 

Now Schexnayder is replacing James with Marino, who may have more liberal views on criminal justice matters but is not a Democrat.

Schexnayder has removed Democrats from other committee chairman positions as well. Following the 2021 veto override failure, he bumped Democratic Reps. Chad Brown of Plaquemine and Vincent Pierre  of Lafayette from their jobs running the insurance and transportation committees, respectively. Republicans took over both roles.

Schexnayder isn’t the first person to reshuffle committee assignments for political reasons though. Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal both had legislative leaders remove lawmakers from committees over political disagreements or criticism.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.