BATON ROUGE, La. - Republican Senator Stewart Cathey Jr. apologized on the Senate floor after a heated exchange with Democrat Regina Barrow, a fellow lawmaker, at the State Capitol on Monday. The confrontation occurred after a contentious legislative hearing over Senate Bill 193, which would redistribute about $7.5 million in tax money currently going solely to East Baton Rouge. Cathey argued that the tax is collected on the value of railcars throughout Louisiana, but EBR receives all the revenue. Barrow agreed that the tax deserved a closer look but said Cathey should have approached capital area lawmakers before submitting his bill.
After the hearing, Barrow claimed that Cathey put his finger in her face in the hall outside the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee and cursed at her. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome also got involved, saying, "Stewart Cathey came within two seconds of getting his butt whipped." The situation triggered an apology from Cathey on the Senate floor later that same day.
Barrow said she accepted his apology but was upset that Cathey downplayed what happened. Cathey postponed a committee vote on the legislation until the following week. The exchange quickly made headlines, and Barrow received outpouring of support from her community and district.
The incident highlights the deep political and regional divide that exists in Louisiana, with tensions often boiling over in the state legislature. Cathey, from West Monroe in northern Louisiana, said he introduced the bill because North Louisiana is almost always treated unfairly, and that revenue from the tax should be shared across the state. However, Barrow said the bill caught her and other capital area lawmakers off guard and that Cathey should have approached them before submitting the legislation.
Both Cathey and Barrow agree that the origin of the collections is a mystery, but they disagree on the approach to solving the issue. Cathey said that "North Louisiana is almost always treated unfairly. This revenue should be shared across the state." The incident has reignited calls for civility and respect in Louisiana politics. State Senator Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, said the exchange between Cathey and Barrow was unacceptable.
Following an incident where Senator Barrow was disrespected by a colleague while performing his job, the community rallied around him, with almost 40 members from his district appearing at the State Capitol to offer their support. Senator Barrow expressed his gratitude towards the community and his colleagues, stating that the outpouring of support was a reminder that he is not alone in his efforts to protect citizens. Meanwhile, the colleague in question, Senator Cathey, expressed regret over his behavior.