By: Stephen Waguespack
Louisiana voters turned out in large numbers this election cycle. Now, only a few weeks removed from a contentious and competitive election season, the question becomes what was the message these voters intended to deliver to elected officials by their votes?
To find out, don’t grind over the crosstabs from some fancy biased poll, YouTube a bunch of nasty political commercials or sort through a stack of leftover glossy political mailers that filled your mailbox the last few months. Instead, go talk to real people around Louisiana that could care less about politics but care greatly about their desire to simply work and raise their family in the state they love.
This week, one of our LABI team members met such a person. This man runs a company that provides non-emergency medical transportation in a rural parish. During a policy discussion, when the subject of legal reform came up, he grew increasingly animated. He described his difficulty finding commercial auto insurance, his experiences with frivolous and predatory lawsuits, his frustration with being sued for $49,999 – magically just $1 short of the $50,000 jury trial threshold. He’s fed up, and he’s ready to see action from his elected officials.
He’s not alone. Far from it.
He’s had enough of frivolous lawsuits, his business is suffering because of the high cost of auto insurance, and if these costs drive him out of business, he wonders who will drive his clients to meet their medical needs in such a large, rural area? To him, these aren’t just clients — they are his neighbors, friends, family members and fellow parishioners. In this case, our broken legal system is not only threatening families and small businesses working to find a good job and afford auto insurance, it is also affecting a rural community’s critical access to health care.
This small business owner echoed the collective cry of Louisiana voters when they elected a whole new type of legislator in the 2019 cycle. Pundits analyzing our governor’s race have opined ad nauseam about how that race was far more about mudslinging than substance. They are correct. However, while there may be no clear mandate from that race, there is a deafening mandate from Louisiana voters for change as voiced in their collective choices for legislators around the state. In fact, voters across Louisiana sent to the Capitol the most reform-minded Legislature ever elected and they sent them with a clear mandate. They want to see meaningful legal reform. They want a better tax code. They want fewer regulations strangling startups and entrepreneurs. They want economic opportunity. They want their kids to find a job here when they graduate. They want Louisiana to finally reach its infinite potential.
This new freshman class of legislators is full of smart, diverse, business-minded leaders who know how policies enacted at the Capitol play out in real life across Louisiana. And that’s critical for progress. They campaigned on these issues, and their voters are sending them to Baton Rouge with clear instructions to get it done.
That sentiment stretches across our state government, to our Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where all eight elected members of our state’s highest school board are reform-minded education champions uninterested in the status quo, focused instead on opportunities for our students, on critical workforce development needs, and on building a brighter future through our education system.
It continues to our State Supreme Court, where Judge Will Crain was elected to fill the seat vacated by Justice Greg Guidry who was appointed to the federal bench. Judge Crain is an unyielding advocate for judges applying existing laws rather than expanding law or “legislating from the bench.” Simply put – he calls balls and strikes, and as a conscientious jurist will fairly and evenly apply the law.
Louisiana’s newly elected legislature, our state school board and our latest Supreme Court Justice represent a voting public saying “no” to more excuses and “yes” to more opportunity. They don’t ask for much, at least in their mind, it doesn’t sound like very much. In fact, it sounds pretty darn easy to them. Fix our economy. Safeguard our tax dollars. Improve our schools. Build roads we need and cut programs we don’t. Stop all the silly lawsuits raising costs and chasing away jobs and just make it easier to afford insurance and own a small business.
That mandate is straightforward and simple. It was delivered strongly. No political party owns all the answers to get this done and voters don’t care who gets the credit. They just want it done.
The voters spoke clearly. Hopefully the elected listened. Rest assured, the voters will be watching.