Student discusses policies with John Bel Edwards

Sarah Procopio, Opinion Editor

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I sat on a blue couch outside the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the state capitol and waited for John Bel Edwards to arrive. I was there representing the YMCA’s Youth and Government program as the 55th Governor of the Youth Legislature conference and was accompanied by a couple officials from the YMCA.

We had gotten to the capitol early, and now we waited with hushed voices for a sign of the governor’s appearance. I held a binder with the bills that I signed into law at the conference, and a few weeks before I had selected a few of my favorites to talk over with Governor Edwards at the meeting.

A binging noise came from an elevator with a sign above it reading “For Governor Only.” Sure enough there he was.

We followed Edwards into his office. The walls, his desk, and the conference table were all polished wood. One of his speechwriters told us to have a seat at the conference table. Edwards sat at the head of the table and I took the seat next to him.

After getting over my initial nervousness I took my first good look at him. He was wearing a dress shirt with no jacket and a deep purple tie with flying pelicans. He looked overworked in the way that only a man facing a legislative session in a few weeks could.

When I opened the binder of bills I brought with me he pulled out his copies of the same bills we had sent to his office ahead of time. The marks on his copies indicated that he had read them prior to our meeting.

We exchanged no pleasantries but got straight down to business. He asked us how many people attended Youth Legislature and how long the program had been around. After each response, he made a note of it on his paper.

We moved on to discussing the bills. The topics I had picked out ranged from adding sanitary products to SNAP to ending LGBT discrimination in the workplace.

He put on a pair of reading glasses and asked me questions about different aspects of the legislation. I answered them, trying to sound as professional as possible.

When we had settled into a rhythm I really started to enjoy myself. One of the bills I presented to him was very similar to an executive order he had issued, but was contested by the Attorney General Jeff Landry and is currently being hashed out in the courts. So jokingly, I told Edwards that we were able to implement our version of it because luckily Youth Legislature didn’t have an attorney general. The whole table laughed so I was feeling pretty good.

We also joked about the overabundance of tax credits in the state and empathized over the dreaded existence of veto override sessions.

At the end of the meeting, I thanked him for his time. We took some pictures and I snatched a gubernatorial selfie before he departed. In total, he had spent almost a half hour with us.

The whole experience was surreal. He didn’t just ask me how school was or tell me to keep up the good work. Edwards sat down with me at a conference table and talked policy. He listened, made note of what I had to say, and offered his perspective on the issues facing Louisiana.

It became very clear to me over the course of our meeting that Governor Edwards, whether you agree with his politics or not, is a straight shooter, a sharp thinker, and a good man who cares deeply about our state.

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