Louisiana Democratic leader still backs GOP House speaker

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A key Democratic leader in the Louisiana House said Monday he continues to support Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, despite increased partisan tensions stemming from the GOP’s failed veto session and Schexnayder’s decision to remove two Democrats from leadership jobs.

Rep. Ted James, the Baton Rouge Democrat who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, said he considers Schexnayder a friend and believes Democrats can still work with the Republican House speaker they helped elect to the job.

“Clay Schexnayder is the right person to be our speaker,” James told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

But James said he’s “utterly disappointed” in Schexnayder for ousting two Democratic lawmakers from committee chairmanships after Democrats blocked Republican efforts to overturn any of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ bill rejections in the veto session.

Schexnayder removed Plaquemine Rep. Chad Brown as chairman of the House Insurance Committee and Lafayette Rep. Vincent Pierre as chairman of the Transportation Committee. Republicans will be in charge of 13 regular subject-matter committees while Democrats retain three chairmanships.

Republicans hold the majority in the House, but they need support from a few Democrats or independents to reach the two-thirds vote required to pass key financial bills or override a gubernatorial veto.

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