The Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee met this morning and unanimously (12-0) passed HB 509, the bill that would shift the Pelican state's presidential primary back from the second (or third) Saturday in February to the first Saturday after the first Tuesday in March. HB 509 was the first bill considered, and the discussion of the legislation was non-controversial; lasting only about five minutes. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Representative Alan Seabaugh (R-5th, Shreveport), and Louisiana Republican State Central Committee member, Mike Bayham, spoke on behalf of the bill. Each made the case before the committee that the move to February in 2007 was made to make Louisiana a relevant player in the 2008 presidential nomination process. Furthermore, both pointed out that both Louisiana Democrats and Republicans would be penalized1 by their respective national parties if the state's primary was not moved into compliance (on or after the the first Tuesday in March) with the national parties' rules for delegate selection event timing.
The bill now moves on to the floor of the House for full consideration there.
As an aside, John Maginnis, founder of LaPolitics.com, wrote in a column about the presidential primary in Louisiana this morning that Republicans would forego the presidential primary in favor of a caucus if the state legislature did not pass a law changing the date of the primary (citing the state party chair, Roger Villere). The premise of the column is simple enough: Louisiana Democrats, in a year when their nomination won't be contested, are willing to offer up the presidential primary (and the $6 million it would cost) as a cut in spending that Republican legislators and Governor Jindal -- parties interested in cuts -- should consider. That is obviously not part of HB 509, but will likely be a part of the discussion as the bill continues its route through the legislature.
1 Seabaugh and Bayham, both Republicans, correctly identified the Republican penalty for violation (50% of a state's delegation) but overstated the Democratic penalties, seemingly falling back on the 2008 Florida/Michigan precedent. Both went on record as saying the Democrats would strip a non-compliant Louisiana Democratic delegation of its entire slate if the state failed to move. That is wrong (see Rule 20.C.1.a). That argument might work better in the
DemocraticRepublican-controlled state Senate if the bill crosses over into the upper chamber. [Due to party switches in the state Senate since the first of the year, the Louisiana Senate is no longer controlled by Democrats.]