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Term limits in Baton Rouge 

Clancy DuBos says the shifting landscape in the Legislature will have an impact on New Orleans

Term limits had a huge impact on legislative elections in 2007, the year Bobby Jindal won his first term as governor. Nearly two-thirds of the Legislature came into office with him, mostly as a result of term limits. That won't be the case when Jindal's successor wins the governorship later this year.

  Seven of 39 state senators are term limited this year. In the House, only 14 of 105 cannot seek re-election. Four years from now, that political landscape will change dramatically — 19 senators and 48 House members will be term limited.

  Governors are limited to two successive terms, whereas legislators can serve three — and then they can run for the other legislative chamber. It's far more common for term-limited state representatives to seek Senate seats than the other way around, but it's not unheard of for senators to try to stay in the game by running for the House.

  Of course, voters ultimately decide who stays and who goes, at least among those eligible to run. Depending on how things go in this year's "fiscal" legislative session, a lot of incumbents who are eligible to seek re-election could find themselves in spirited contests after Labor Day.

  Election Day 2015 is Oct. 24, and it will be a very crowded ballot. All six statewide offices are up for grabs, as are all 144 legislative seats — and a host of local and parochial offices (outside New Orleans) such as sheriff, assessor, parish council member, parish president and the like.

  In Orleans and Jefferson parishes, history suggests that term limits are more likely to account for legislative turnover than voter unrest, but you never know. Of this year's term-limited lawmakers, only one senator and three House members represent districts in metro New Orleans.

Voters ultimately decide who stays and who goes, at least among those eligible to run.

  Sen. Edwin Murray, dean of the New Orleans delegation, is the only local term-limited senator. In the House, the area term-limited reps include Jeff Arnold of Algiers, Austin Badon of eastern New Orleans and Tim Burns of Mandeville.

  Jefferson Parish won't be losing any members of its delegation to term limits, which makes it one of the strongest delegations going into the next term (assuming most or all get re-elected). The Jefferson delegation includes several committee chairs as well as Senate President John Alario of Westwego. Alario also is the dean of the Legislature. He first won election to the House in 1972 and is considered the most powerful person in the Capitol next to the governor.

  The imminent loss of Murray, Arnold and Badon as members of the city's delegation will deal a blow to New Orleans' legislative clout. Murray is widely respected for his quiet effectiveness and mastery of legislative procedure, and he serves on several key committees (including the budget-writing Finance Committee). Arnold chairs the House Judiciary Committee and is dean of the House. His Monday night open house gatherings at his Pentagon Barracks apartment also make him quite popular among his colleagues. Badon chairs the Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs, which considers most "local" bills, particularly those of importance of New Orleans.

  Burns chairs the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, which considers most reform bills. He is the only member of the St. Tammany delegation who cannot return to his current post because of term limits.

  When term limits were first proposed for Louisiana legislators, they were enormously popular among voters, not so much among lawmakers. The chief argument in favor of them was the need for fresh ideas and "new blood." The main argument against them was the claim that they force senior legislators to focus on their next job rather than their current one — and the fact that they destroy lawmakers' institutional knowledge by forcing veteran legislators to move on.

  It's ironic that the guy who authored Louisiana's term limits bill is now the leading candidate for governor: U.S. Sen. David Vitter. If Vitter wins the governor's race, it will be interesting to see how he gets along with a Legislature full of restive, newly term-limited lawmakers.


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