Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Who gets it when Hines gets even?

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know by now the state Legislature heads into special session Friday. That is, unless Sen. Noble Whittington manages to pull off a coup and get 20 of his partners to move for adjournment after the Leg. is gaveled into session.
Perhaps the most interesting sub plot of the session, though, could be whether or not Senate President Don "Doc" Hines of Bunkie follows through on his promise to "get even" for the state bond commission's refusal to pass a favorable recommendation on guaranteeing half of the $135 million cost of a proposed sugar cane syrup mill in his home town. Following a 9-4 turndown of the bond guarantee, Hines told a reporter the following day, "“I’m not mad about the syrup mill; I’m just going to get even, that’s all.” The question that begs an answer: with whom will Hines get even, and what will "even" cost?
Gov. Kathleen Blanco was initially criticized for wanting to hold off on a special session until after the first of the year. Now, she's catching heat for calling the session (a) for 10 days only to consider spending roughly $1.6 billion is surplus from two fiscal years, (b) calling the session BEFORE the end of the year and (c) asking Legislators to switch their Christmas shopping time for 10 days in Baton Rouge. Not so surprisingly, some Republicans who had petitioned for the special session are now wondering if it's a good idea. Often, a governor is sorta like an umpire..only half the people are happy with your calls, and it's not always the same half.
As Senate president, Hines wields a load of power when it comes to handling his governor's legislation. He may be able to kill or permanently damage many of Blanco's proposals. The governor is talking about pay raises for teachers, state employees, law enforcement officers and others; she's looking at returning insurance premium dollars to state residents; infrastructure needs could be addressed under another proposal...all these could be held hostage if a hostile Legislature is led by one who wishes to get even.
Hines really has little to worry about. He is term limited (as are about 43 percent of those who will be called into session), and that means no "get even" from the great unwashed. This session could indeed be very special.


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