Lafayette area Rep. Phillip DeVillier is expected to be chosen as the next Louisiana House Speaker. (Photo from Louisiana Legislature)
Rep. Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, is expected to become the next Louisiana House speaker after five other major candidates vying for the position dropped out of the race Monday.
DeVillier, 47, is an affable, conservative Republican who has pushed large tax breaks for the business community as a lawmaker. He is about to enter his third four-year term in the House of Representatives and is a friend of Gov.-elect Jeff Landry.
Landry and DeVillier’s older brothers hung out together when DeVillier was younger. DeVillier was also one of the first lawmakers to make an appearance at Landry’s election night victory party Oct. 14.
Landry praised the DeVillier’s apparent selection in a written statement Monday.
“I am pleased to see leaders from across the [Republican] Delegation stand behind [DeVillier] as the next Louisiana Speaker of the House,” Landry said. “There are significant challenges facing our state. Having strong leaders in all aspects of government will allow us to make the changes necessary to move Louisiana forward.”
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The new House speaker won’t be officially chosen until Jan. 8, when state lawmakers are sworn in and take a vote on their new leadership. The House Republican Caucus has been trying to settle on a candidate ahead of time to make the transition of power easier.
The House GOP Caucus intends to endorse DeVillier as its speaker nominee at a Dec. 4 meeting, ensuring he will have enough votes to get the speaker’s job early next year.
One of DeVillier’s rivals in the speaker’s race, Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said the federal court system’s decision to throw out Louisiana’s congressional map last week pushed the House Republicans to build a consensus around a speaker candidate earlier than expected.
The Louisiana Legislature has been given until Jan. 15 to come up with new congressional district boundaries. The court said the redrawn political districts must give Black voters more say over who represents their communities in Congress.
“We’ve got to be prepared to get moving,” McFarland said.
Lawmakers consider DeVillier an easy-going colleague who gets a long with a wide range of lawmakers. Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, said his deep Catholic faith guides him in legislative business and his approach to other people.
“He has a calm demeanor,” said Emerson, who was also running against DeVillier for speaker and shares a desk with him on the Louisiana House floor. “He treats everyone with respect. … He’s very humble.”
DeVillier, who sits on the House committee that oversees taxes, is also known for filing unsuccessful bills that would have produced massive tax breaks, particularly for the oil and gas industry.
In recent years, he also pushed legislation to create education savings accounts — a government measure by which parents, regardless of their income level, could draw down state dollars to pay for private school tuition.
His K-12 school bills have also failed to pass, but conservative-favored education savings accounts will likely gain more traction once Landry takes office.
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On Monday, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, also praised his expected successor.
“I think Phillip is an excellent choice. He was a member of my leadership team,” Schexnayder said. “He is very grounded.”
Democrats from Acadiana said they have also enjoyed working with DeVillier, and that he will be a boon to the region.
“I think it’s a tribute to our area that so many people are chosen for leadership positions,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, said. “I don’t see it as a territorial thing.”
The Louisiana Senate settled on its leader last month. Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, is expected to be selected as the upper chamber’s president Jan. 8 with no opposition.
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