The Governor of Oz

By Robert Mann

What is it about Louisiana’s governor that strikes abject fear in the hearts of so many legislators? Like the Cowardly Lion of Oz, the lawmakers who follow the asphalt roads to Baton Rouge tremble at the sight of our great and powerful wizard, otherwise known as Bobby Jindal.

Our illustrious wizard rules from behind the curtain of the Capitol’s fourth floor. “Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful governor!” he roars when questioned. “Or I will veto the state budget.”

To be sure, he is a fearsome presence. He spews dreadful smoke and fire. “Nobody gets in to see the wizard,” his guards bark. “Not nobody.”

Doesn’t our ragtag legislative band of lions, scarecrows and tin men know that behind the curtain stands the slightest of men, who pulls levers, twists knobs and pushes buttons to manipulate the hideous facade that obscures the reality of his limited official powers?

If only one of them possessed the courage to expose him. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” he would shout, but it would be too late. “Why, you’re just a man,” they would say, shocked by his unimposing countenance. “A very bad man!”

“I’m a very good man,” our wizard might respond. “I’m just a very bad wizard.”

Indeed, our leaders don’t seem to recognize that the great and powerful Jindal is mortal. He has no mystical powers (save, perhaps, for exorcism). Lawmakers constitute an independent branch of government but act as if they need the governor’s permission to have a heart, use their brains or muster some courage.

Ask just about anyone around the state Capitol, and they’ll tell you Louisiana has one of the nation’s most powerful governors. He anoints the House speaker and the Senate president. He knights the committee chairs. He writes the budget. He wields a magic veto pen with indelible ink. Legislators scrape and bow in his presence, fearful that the slightest hint of disloyalty might get them cast them into the dungeon of the House Retirement Committee.

Perhaps before granting the governor’s every wish, legislators should read the state’s Constitution. That document does not empower governors to appoint legislative leaders and committee chairs. The legislators have always simply allowed it.

Although the governor writes the first draft, legislators must vote on the state’s budget and other legislation that funds the government. How many of them know they have the right – perhaps even the duty – to defy the governor and enact a budget that displeases him?

Oh, but there’s the dreaded veto, they’ll say. That’s just more smoke and mirrors. They can override vetoes with a two-thirds vote. In fact, the Constitution mandates an automatic veto session unless a majority of both houses votes not to convene. In other words, legislators are required to do nothing other than show up and vote again for the same bills they approved in the regular session.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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9 Responses to The Governor of Oz

  1. Joe Delatte says:

    Perfect image !

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  2. Stephen Winham says:

    Since dead serious treatments have failed to make this point, let’s hope humor will work. Though it reads like a fantasy, the pure truth is here for anybody who wants to understand it. Governor Jindal has no extraordinary powers not granted to him by others, most notably the legislature. The legislature is provided responsibilities and legal authorities by law and doctrine that they allow the governor to assume. Remember why there are 3 branches of government rather than 1?.

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  3. Pingback: The Governor of Oz | having a day | Scoop.it

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  5. Michael Wade says:

    There is undoubtedly something of a fear factor, but it strikes me that the legislators’ subservience has more to do with Jindal and the legislators being more or less bought and paid for by the same people, Louisiana’s “usual suspects” who historically have treated the state as their own private economic playground.

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  6. Gene Sands says:

    Very insightful, Bob. Unfortunately, I see the same problems with our president.

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  7. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says:

    Actually, he’s a ‘very bad man but a very good wizard.’ He has the Leg believing in all this power he doesn’t really have, a true piece of wizardry. On the other hand, destroying the minds of the children of the State you govern, hurting their health, and encouraging the maddest of them in their paranoias are signs of a VERY Bad Man.

    However, remember that THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was merely the first book in a long series, twenty of which were by Baum (and are available for free at Gutenberg or on various e-Readers) and in the later books it is the Scarecrow who becomes the true Ruler of Oz.

    (On a more serious note, be careful of getting what you wish for. In other deep red states, the Governor is bad enough, but giving the legislature it’s head, weakening the governor to where he is as relatively powerless as the one in that large state next to you, can be even worse. Even the Governors you expect to be disastrous — ad so often are — like Fallin, Brewer, and Hutchinson, have shown moments of sanity that have kept the worst laws from taking effect. When the Legislature has the power, the tendency for it to turn into a true mob can be overwhelming. Again, I reference the current Texas idiocy where the Givernor has been forced to ‘oversee’ US military maneuvers because too many people believe they are part of a plan — involving Walmart — to establish Martial Law, allow terrorists into the country, and keep Obama in office for life.)

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    • Stephen Winham says:

      Good point on Texas and I have heard for many years that the Lieutenant Governor of Texas is more powerful than the Governor. There has to be a balance and each state has to find its own. We clearly haven’t really tried.

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  8. Mary A Sternberg says:

    Love it!!!
    And how shall we inspire the faint of heart?

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