Onetime Democratic Speaker to Become GOP Leader in Louisiana

By: - January 9, 2012 12:00 am

State Senator John Alario of Louisiana will make history on two fronts when he is named president of the Louisiana Senate today (January 9) . Not only will the longtime lawmaker become just the fifth state legislator in the nation to have led both chambers of his legislature, he will become the first one ever to do so under different party affiliations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alario, a Republican, twice served as the Democratic speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives under former governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat. He served in that capacity from 1984 to 1988 and again from 1992 to 1996, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reports .

Alario became a Republican in 2010, “conceding that the change could only enhance his chances of becoming the Senate’s presiding officer” under Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, The Times-Picayune notes. In Louisiana, the governor suggests lawmakers to lead each legislative chamber.

Some conservative Republicans and Tea Party members in Louisiana are unhappy about Alario taking control of the state Senate. Jindal, however, is a strong supporter of Alario, who served nine terms in the state House before being elected to the state Senate in 2007. “We think John is the best person for the job,” Jindal tells The Times-Picayune . “John is one of the most well-respected persons in the Legislature.”

The current Louisiana Senate president, Joel Chaisson, is leaving the legislature to become a district attorney . Louisiana’s legislative session will begin in March.

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