By Robert Mann
If you observe the Louisiana Legislature long enough, you might become inured to the narrow-minded, selfish view of the world that too often pervades the place.
I will never forget watching a 2003 Senate committee debate on an ethics bill during which a senator berated the legislation at length, not on its merits, but because parts of the proposed law would harm him financially.
I had been around politics for more than 20 years then, so the idea of self-serving politicians was not an alien concept. What was new to me was the brazenness of this senator’s self-interested discussion of the bill, and the utter lack of shock or contempt in the room after he was done.
No one seemed to think anything was wrong when a senator voted against an ethics bill purely because it would make him a bit poorer.
Over time, I came to realize that such statements were not at all rare among legislators.
This bill is needed more in Louisiana than almost anywhere else. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune recently noted,
Only Wyoming, at 67 cents, has a wider gender pay gap than Louisiana, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. The average man in Louisiana makes $46,313 a year, nearly $15,000 more than the average woman in the state, according to the American Association of University Women, or AAUW.
It’s a nationwide problem, of course. A 2012 report by the AAUW found that
just one year out of college, women [nationally] are paid, on average, 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers. The report further shows that women are paid 7 percent less than men even when they work in the same job, major in the same field, and work the same number of hours per week. By some estimates, women could lose up to $1 million over a 40-year career because of the pay gap.
he could see the [equal pay bill] “opening the door for litigation” for small businessmen like himself.
Appel said his wife asked him to vote against SB153 because “it’s not fair to the women who are successful in this world, such as my wife.” She makes more than the men with whom she works and the law could prompt businessmen to pay everyone the same, he said.
Yes, you read that correctly. Appel voted against the bill because he’s concerned that someone might sue him, and because his wife — who apparently draws a very comfortable income — asked him to.
A more self-aware person, having just uttered such shocking words, might have apologized, saying something like, “My God, did I just say that out loud?”
A more principled and ethical group of senators might have hooted Appel off the floor for voting his self-interests and paying no mind to the greater good or even the substantive merits (or demerits) of the bill.
But, of course, nothing of the sort happened.
That’s because it’s just not unusual to observe a House or Senate member blatantly vote his or her interests.
They’re not all selfishly devoted to their own personal and financial wellbeing, of course. But far too many members seem to be — and too many others are apparently desensitized to the appalling greediness and ignorance in their midst.
If a member can safely stand on the floor of Louisiana’s Senate and announce his opposition to a bill based on how it personally affects him and his wife, something is dreadfully, terribly corrupt in Baton Rouge.
Is there any hope for an institution whose members do not know shame?
- How low can we go? Louisiana higher education leaders decry deep budget cuts (bobmannblog.com)
- Louisiana senators vote to keep creationism in science class – again (richarddawkins.net)
- They can’t handle the truth: Why the LSU Board won’t let Fred Cerise testify before the Legislature (bobmannblog.com)