Friday, May 18, 2018

What was the fight about?

So many jokes about and head shaking over the incivilitude of legislators punching one another in a bar but almost no attention paid to what they were actually fighting about.
The incident happened at the River Room on Laurel Street.

"He's not happy with me over a bill," said Bishop, who as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee blocked a bill from Chabert.

Chabert is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Neither man identified the bill in question.

The argument began on the House floor earlier Tuesday before spilling outside of the Capitol later that night.
Titillation aside,  isn't "the bill in question" really the more relevant bit of information in this story.  Lawmakers are mad at each other. Okay, there's the hook.  But you have to tell people what they are mad about. Otherwise, you aren't reporting on politics. You're just doing celebrity gossip.

It took forever for anyone to figure out what this was about.  The Advocate reporters did. (Four of them are credited in that story! This was an all-hands-on-deck situation.) Here's what happened. 
Chabert said the incident stemmed from ongoing arguments on coastal issues between the two and not a specific bill. Bishop is chairman of the  House Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Chabert is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Bishop said the fight was over a bill to alter the make-up of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board. Chabert's bill, Senate Bill 433, would grant voting power to two legislative members on the executive-branch board, which Bishop changed through amendment.
There's more detail on that bill from Mark Schleifstein here. But even that doesn't get to the heart of the matter which is Norby Chabert wants to be able to dip into the Coastal Protection fund in order to pass out patronage projects to affiliates. I don't know what Bishop's angle is exactly. But there's probably money at stake.

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