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POLITICAL NOTES: Louisiana Odds & Ends

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Last August Louisiana’s Huey Long called his State Legislature into special session, had it pass 27 dictatorial bills. These gave him such control over the State’s election machinery that he could conceivably perpetuate himself and his henchmen in power indefinitely (TIME, Aug. 27). Uneasy on his throne, the Kingfish last month summoned his Legislators again, put through 44 more bills in the constitutional minimum of five days. After that he could hire & fire local police and firemen throughout the State, fix utility rates, impose property taxes, run the State Bar Association, let any of his hillbilly supporters off from paying their debts for two years. Last week Senator Long piped his Legislators back to Baton Rouge for their third special session, had them rubberstamp this month’s batch of 33 more bills cleaning up odds & ends of patronage, power and revenge which he had previously overlooked.

Act III of the Long Legislature was distinguished chiefly by listlessness. When Boss Long slapped down his bills on the House Speaker’s stand, few Representatives knew or cared what was in them. Only solemn little Floor Leader Isom Guillory pretended to take much interest as the House passed one bill per minute on to its Ways & Means Committee. Next morning Senator Long had to send one of his plug-uglies out to round up the Committee. They came helter skelter, sat surrounded by Long bodyguards and State police while the Kingfish “explained” his bills. Next day the House sluggishly spent a full three minutes per bill in giving its final approval.

One bill Senator Long had explained to the Committee as involving financial arrangements for youngsters who crossed parish lines to attend school. Next day someone troubled to read the bill, discovered that it gave Long power to hire & fire all the State’s 15,000 schoolteachers. Said the unabashed Kingfish: “Aw, that ain’t nothing. That ain’t no new power. But the bill provoked a New England-born, hitherto mouse-quiet Representative named Lester to supply the only fireworks of the session. While Huey Long, wearing a pink shirt and a broad grin, lolled on the Speaker’s dais, Representative Lester shouted: “I feel outraged and dishonored as a citizen and an official of Louisiana. . . . We, as Legislators, are called upon to take from the people the last vestige of their local political rights . . . and in all of this the House is forced to accept the inevitable with stoical disregard of all of the proprieties and the letter and spirit of the law, thus placing us in the unenviable position of putty-faced stooges. . . .”

When the time came to put the Senate through its paces. Boss Long was once more vexed by empty seats. Missing, among others, was President Albert Asa Fredericks of Louisiana State Normal

College, who resigned his Senate seat last August. “A man who has a contract with the people can’t resign,” bellowed the Kingfish. President Fredericks wired a hasty acceptance of the invitation to retake his seat when Long’s bodyguard, Joe Messina, threatened to put him under arrest if he refused. The Senate showed a spark of spirit by voting down one bill when Boss Long was away. But when he swaggered back to the chamber the Chair hastily reversed its ruling, declared the bill passed.

Huey Long has always blamed Standard Oil Co. of Louisiana for the abortive movement to impeach him as Governor in 1929 (TIME, April 8, 1929, et seq.). He has hated the old city of Alexandria since some of its citizens rotten-egged him during a political speech last year. Last week the vindictive Kingfish caught up with one old enemy by laying a tax of 5¢ per barrel on oil refining within the State and disposed of another with a bill ousting all Alexandria’s elected officials, giving him power to replace them.

But no grudge did the Kingfish bear against “my university” because some of the journalism students at Louisiana State had dared to criticize him (TIME, Dec. 10) or because its football coach refused to take his orders. Last week he upped the State’s corporation franchise tax from $1.50 to $2.00 per $1,000 of capital, to provide $500,000 for schools of dentistry and pharmacy at Louisiana State. With other bills Boss Long grabbed power to: 1) appoint sheriffs’ deputies; 2) cripple New Orleans finances by banning municipal liquor taxes; 3) lay a sweeping tax on manufacturers; 4) take over the government of East Baton Rouge Parish, anti-Long stronghold containing the State capital, as a first step in making it his own “little District of Columbia.”

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