A new regime: Gov. John Bel Edwards and other statewide officials take office

Leslie D. Rose @DvilleNewsie @Editor_Citizen
Gov. John Bel Edwards takes oath of office.

     BATON ROUGE – It was ceremony filled with glee on a brisk, yet sunny winter day, as Gov. John Bel Edwards took oath of office.

     Seated next to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, and among other former Louisiana governors, Buddy Roemer, Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Gov. Edwards fully accepted his new role as he was sworn in by the Honorable Bernette J. Johnson, Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

     “We are here because you have chosen to rise above partisan politics and put Louisiana First,” said Gov. Edwards in his inaugural address. “I was not a business-as-usual candidate, and I will not be a business-as-usual governor. I am, first and foremost, a proud Louisianan.”

     He took time in his address to acknowledge the state’s deficit, giving a full account on how he intends to plug the holes, as well as items he plans to further address, such as poverty, fair and living wages and tuition.

     “We must be honest with ourselves and one another,” Edwards said. “I can tell you I'd rather be here today inheriting a billion dollar surplus, than a $1.9 billion shortfall, but there isn’t a challenge we won’t meet. We must be grounded in reality and see the facts as they are, not as we want them to be.

     We face a daunting fiscal crisis. We can no longer afford to lurch from year to year, cobbling together temporary fixes and expecting to realize permanent sustainability. If we don’t fix the structural budget deficit, we can’t fix any of our other problems.

     Those are the facts. We are one of the richest states in cultural and natural resources, yet our performance lags in almost every critical category.”

     To that end, Edwards advised the large audience that his immediate focus will be to keep his election promise of Medicaid expansion, beginning with the acceptance of federal funding on Jan. 12.

     “I am going to accept the federal funding to expand Medicaid so that working families in Louisiana can get access to healthcare,” he said. “Your tax dollars should not be going to one of the 30 other states that have expanded Medicaid when WE are one of the states that expansion will help the most.”

     As part ofd the ceremony, other statewide elected officials received oaths of office, including Tom Schedler, Secretary of State; Jeff Landry, Attorney General; John Kennedy, Treasurer; Mike Strain, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry; Jim Donelon, Commissioner of Insurance; and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

     Nungesser addressed the inauguration audience to speak on the anticipated team work of Louisiana politicians.

     “We are not here as republicans and democrats – we are here as citizens of Louisiana,” Nungesser said.

     Various elected officials attended the ceremony, including U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Cassidy, Congressman Cedric Richmond, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, Louisiana Supreme Court members, 2016 State Legislature and Senate, including newly elected Speaker Taylor Barras, and a bevy of other leaders, statewide.

     At the end of Edwards’ address, he spoke of his plan to restore hope in Louisiana residents.

     “We are not a perfect state, but we are a resilient one. Following shared sacrifice, there WILL be shared prosperity. I am bullish on our future. Louisiana’s best days are certainly ahead, and I want you to be as excited and optimistic as I am.

     Remember, after Katrina we battled back and, in fact, we still celebrated Mardi Gras. After the Red River flooded, families still gathered at the state fair. After the oil spill, we didn’t give up fishing for oysters and shrimp. The sugar cane still grows in Louisiana. Tourists still flock to the French Quarter. And new industries continue to emerge.

     If there are two things we’ll never run out of in Louisiana – it’s gumbo and gumption.

     The people of Louisiana want and deserve a state government as hopeful as they are. I pledge to you that we will deliver on that hope.”

     The ceremony concluded with a flyover by F-15s of the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana National Guard, just after a performance by the glee club of Edwards’ alma mater, United States Military Academy West Point. 

Taylor Barras elected Speaker of the House

     BATON ROUGE – In an election that took place just before the inauguration of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana House of Representatives elected Taylor Barras (R – New Iberia) as Speaker.

     While it is unusual for a governor’s pick to be denied the position – Edwards had been backing another candidate, New Orleans Democrat Walt Leger – Barras received the role with 56 of the 105 House members votes.

     The move sets a tone for what might be a partisan term as the majority of members in the Louisiana House are Republicans, serving with a Democratic governor.

     "Republicans across Louisiana are exceptionally happy today to learn that Taylor Barras has been chosen as Speaker of the House," said LAGOP Chairman Roger F. Villere said. "We look forward to working closely with Speaker Barras and moving Louisiana forward."