by Sheila McCant, Public Information Officer
At 10 a.m. Monday a new era begins for the Louisiana House of Representatives when the 69th Legislature since statehood convenes.
The House will be called to order by its senior ranking member, Representative Wayne Waddell, who was elected in 1997. Following the opening preliminaries and the judging of qualifications and elections of the members, 104 elected members will take the oath of office, one short of the 105 total members of the body. (Mike Powell, who was re-elected without opposition, resigned December 31, and that seat will remain open until filled by special election scheduled for February 9. Two people qualified to run for this seat, Thomas Carmody and Barrow Peacock. Both are Republicans.)
It is a diverse group of 104 members being sworn in, 53 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 2 Independents. Further, there are 91 males and 13 females (a decrease of 5 females); 83 white, 21 black, and 1 Hispanic in the class. This is a loss of 6 Democrats, a gain of 6 Republicans and a gain of 1 Independent. Fifty-nine members will begin their first term with no legislative experience, with the exception of one member -- Noble Ellington. Ellington served as a state representative for seven years, from 1988 until 1995, before being elected to the Senate, where he serves through the end of this term. This gives him the most legislative experience, 18 years. The returning 45 members all have less than 10 years of legislative experience. Prior to this term, there were four representatives with over 30 years of legislative experience. John Alario, the most senior member, ended his House career with 36 years. With the advent of term limits, we won't see this kind of experience in the near future.
On the other side of the aisle, the Senate has 18 new incoming senators. The difference is that 13 of these new members arrive directly from House service (one of those being Mr. Alario), one served in the House prior to the current term, and only four have no legislative or elective office experience.
Time will tell what the effect of term limits will be on this legislature and the legislatures of the future.