No one had ever talked to her that way during her 18 years in the Legislature, state Sen. Regina Barrow said with a pained smile Monday.
“My husband is not even allowed to speak to me like that,” Barrow, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, said as she sat on the side of the Senate chamber, recalling the words directed at her several hours earlier by Sen. Stewart Cathey.
“They told you a f-ing lie!” Cathey shouted at Barrow, putting his finger inches from her face, as he brushed by her in a Senate hallway just after she opposed his bill in a Senate committee.
“You better not put your f-ing hand in my face again!” Barrow replied.
Cathey stepped toward her, and the two exchanged expletives.
At that moment, Barrow, 56, said she had a flashback to when she was young and fought with others to protect her three younger siblings. Now, she was so angry at Cathey’s disrespect that she was about to charge him, fists swinging.
“What’s going on?” interjected Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Can we have some decorum, please?”
Broome’s words calmed Barrow. Cathey walked away unscathed.
The dispute began in a Senate committee when Cathey, a Republican from Monroe, presented Senate Bill 193, which would take $7.5 million in property tax revenue from schools and the sheriff in East Baton Rouge Parish and redistribute it among other parishes. Baton Rouge collects the revenue from a tax on railroad cars throughout the state that are leased from companies outside the state. Cathey believes the money should be shared depending on the rail cars’ locations.
An unusual triumvirate opposed Cathey: Barrow, Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, and Broome. They said taking away the money would force cuts in needed programs in East Baton Rouge Parish and complained that Cathey hadn’t followed normal courtesy by giving them a heads up to discuss the bill first.