La. Representative Loses Leadership of Ins. Committee

March 25, 2004

A House committee chairman has been removed from his post following his vote against Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s business tax legislation.

Rep. Troy Hebert, D-Jeanerette, was booted from his leadership position on the House Insurance Committee.

House Speaker Joe Salter, D-Florien, said Hebert was removed for voting against a $160 million tax renewal on business utility bills that passed in the House without a vote to spare.

No replacement has been named, Salter said Monday. The governor’s office would not comment.

“Troy knew when he made the vote what the consequences might be,” said Salter, who informed Hebert of the decision Friday. “I explained how critical it was to the administration and me and the House, that if he was going to occupy a leadership position, he was going to have to go along with major votes like that.”

Hebert was appointed to the chairman’s seat about three years ago.

Last year, he presided over committee debate over a controversial legislative strategy to encourage more property and casualty insurers to offer coverage in the state. Bills approved included one reducing the insurance price-setting functions of the state Insurance Rating Commission. Hebert ultimately supported the bill and Gov. Mike Foster allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

Some House members saw Hebert’s removal as a negative high-pressure tactic by the administration.

“I think it’s a sad day for the House,” said Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, who is on the insurance committee. “There’s an old saying that when two people agree on something then only one person’s thinking.”

Since Blanco was elected, the Legislature has followed its long tradition of letting the governor deeply influence its major positions. Hebert’s reappointment to lead the insurance panel had Blanco’s blessing in the beginning. He was a supporter of Blanco for governor during the primary.

Salter, who has the authority to name House committee leaders, said other representatives had made a hard decision to go along with Blanco’s tax bill, and he wondered why a committee chairman had refused to do the same.

“The governor didn’t make this decision. I made this decision,” Salter said.

In the Senate, Sen. Max Malone, R-Shreveport, who was supported by the governor to become chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, also voted against the tax bill but still has his job.

“I told her from the beginning I was in favor of cutting taxes,” Malone said Monday. “She called me up to her office the day of the vote. She said she just wished that she could get all her chairs to vote for it.”

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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