Chair of Louisiana House Democrats to step down

BATON ROUGE — Rep. Gene Reynolds of Minden, the chairman of the House Democrats, plans to step down from the post following the legislative session that ends here Thursday.

Reynolds, a retired educator who will remain in the House, cited increasing personal demands for his decision, not a growing partisanship within the House.

"It doesn't have anything to do with what's been happening here," he said. "I simply need more time to handle things back home."

Reynolds has served as chairman since the election of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

He has guided the caucus through six grueling sessions — four special sessions and two regular sessions — in less than two years.

"Gene is our calm in the storm," said Acadiana Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. "I hate to see him leave.

"He has been a good leader and great listener. I wish he was staying."

House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Harris of Alexandria expressed similar praise for his counterpart.

"I'm going to miss him in that role and I'm glad he's remaining in the House," Harris said. "He has been a pleasure to work with and an effective leader for his members."

But Harris' effectiveness has been limited by the numbers.

Democrats are undermanned in the Republican-controlled House with just 41 of 105 members.

Reynolds said he was most pleased with his ability "to pull our members together as one body and one vote. I think we were able to gain respect by sticking together," he said.

He is most disappointed by the Legislature's failure to enact comprehensive tax reform.

"I just don't feel like we're structured for success as a state," he said.

Reynolds is serving his second term in the House. Reynolds said he hasn't decided whether or not he will seek a third and final term.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1 

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