Anders appointed as House leader

Published 12:04 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

VIDALIA — A Concordia Parish farmer will briefly lead the Louisiana State House when it opens for its organizational meeting Monday.

But he’s hardly a political neophyte when it comes to the workings of the government in Baton Rouge, and District 21 Rep. Andy Anders said it’s possible the selection of a permanent House leader might not be a simple up-and-down vote.

A Democrat who lives and farms in Clayton and keeps his district office in Vidalia, Anders is now the longest-serving member of the House after term limits pushed out other long-serving members. Because of his seniority, he has been appointed the dean of the organizational session that will happen Monday, when the new governor and legislators will take office.

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This year will mark Anders’ 10th year in office. He first took office in 2006 following a special election to fill the seat vacated by Bryant Hammett, who became then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries. Anders has been re-elected three times since then, including without opposition in 2015.

Anders said the chance to serve as the dean — the speaker of the house before the speaker is officially chosen — is “a great honor,” but it will hopefully only last an hour-and-a-half.

The order of business will be to open the organizational session, swear-in new members, hear any election objections — which Anders said he does not expect — and pick a new speaker.

It’s the last item on that list that might prove exciting to political watchers.

“I had a meeting (Tuesday), and there is a kind of battle between Republicans and Democrats, so we might have to take a roll call vote on it,” he said.

“(Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards) has indicated he wants (District 91 Rep. Walt Leger) to be speaker, but with 62 Republicans in the House, some are in line with the governor but some have other ideas.”

Procedurally, if only two candidates are put forward for the speakership, whoever receives 53 votes will become speaker. Anders said he hopes some kind of arrangement will be brokered before Monday.

“When you have two friends you have served with, you’d rather it be decided before you cast the vote,” Anders said.

“Being the speaker, I can vote first or last, but it’s not going to be a surprise — I have let them know I am not voting against the governor — that is not good intentions.”

Some discussion about possibly suspending the rules that would have the House members vote alphabetically during a roll call has even floated, Anders said.

“If they vote to suspend the rules, they could have the roll read from Z-to-A instead of normally, which is A-to-Z, because somebody is doing their homework, and how somebody votes might influence others,” he said. “I am preparing for any and all hand grenades coming my way.”

Once the early procedural matters are out of the way, Anders said he expects the governor to call a special session for early February to discuss the state’s financial standing, which could include a mid-year shortfall of more than $750 million.

“We are going to try to figure out what to do with these mid-year cuts and keep our universities and schools running,” Anders said. “We will be abreast of what we have got to do and see if we can get it done.”

The 2016 regular session of the Legislature will start March 14.