Content tagged “Politics”

The numbers game

Since 2008, Baton Rouge Area Foundation has been surveying residents about quality of life in the city, using the findings to put together an annual CityStats report.

Ballot referendum to ban discrimination would only apply to city-parish employees

A referendum to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity that Metro Councilman John Delgado says he's aiming to get on the December ballot—if, as expected, the Metro Council votes down a so-called fairness ordinance next month—would apply only to city-parish employees and companies that do business with the city-parish. Daily Report previously reported that the referendum would mirror the controversial fairness ordinance, which would cover everyone in the city-parish and was deferred until Aug. 13 after four hours of heated debate at last week's Metro Council meeting. But Delgado says the referendum would be limited to the 5,000 or so city-parish employees and businesses that have city-parish contracts. According to the parish attorney's office, the city charter does not contain a provision for the calling of an election for the...

Delgado hopeful 'fairness ordinance' could be put on December ballot

Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish could decide for themselves before the end of the year whether they want to pass the so-called fairness ordinance, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Metro Councilman John Delgado says if the council fails to pass the ordinance at its next regular meeting on Aug. 13 as expected, he will launch a petition drive to bring the measure to a vote of the people. Given that only 8,569 signatures are needed, he believes he could gather enough signatures in time for the December runoff election. "I think I could get that many signatures in a single weekend," he says. "There is such overwhelming support for this, and it's parishwide so anyone who lives in East Baton Rouge could sign." Delgado has already spoken with the registrar of voters, who told him it would take about one month to review and verify the signatures. The deadline to submit the signatures in time for the December runoff is mid-October, so Delgado...

Early Fox News poll shows 4% of voters want Jindal to get GOP nomination

Fox News prefaces its latest poll results on the 2016 presidential race by noting that it includes hypothetical matchups between prospective candidates that have not yet formally announced a run for office. "Some politicos sneer that it's a waste of time to ask these questions this early and the results are completely worthless," Fox News acknowledges, adding: "If you're still reading, you're an insatiable junkie who doesn't care what others think. Enjoy your fix." The poll was conducted July 20-22 under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Company Research, and it included a random national sample of 1,057 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who in recent months has used guest editorials in national publications and speeches in key campaign states to raise his national profile, is included in the poll. When asked which of the prospective Republican candidates they'd like to see take the...

Lawmakers should kick open closed committee doors

The Louisiana Legislature has made great strides in terms of access and the legislative process. Yet the Legislature has failed us when it comes to the transparency of conference committees.

Alford: Lawmakers should kick open closed committee doors

The Louisiana Legislature has made great strides in terms of access and the legislative process, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Reporters get front-row seats during hearings before standing committees and on the House and Senate floors. For the public, testimony and debate are streamed live and archived on the Web," he writes. "Yet the Legislature has failed us when it comes to the transparency of conference committees." Conference committees are required when the House and Senate are unable to agree on changes made to each other's bills, Alford explains. "So the speaker and president assign representatives from both chambers to hammer out the differences and to present a compromise for subsequent floor votes," he writes. "Thing is, conference committee meetings are not public. Sometimes they're not even meetings in the traditional sense, nor do they always involve a closed door." And when the Legislature is in the final hours of a session and there's not always enough...

Editor: Executive overreach issue tongue-ties all but one 6th Congressional District candidate

One of the hot-button issues at a recent forum of the eight Republican candidates running for the 6th Congressional District seat was the perceived executive overreach of President Barack Obama. "It's a familiar lament," writes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "Democrats said it of George W. Bush. And now, critics of President Obama feel so strongly that he abuses his constitutional powers when he can't get his way legislatively that they want to take him to court." Riegel says nearly all the 6th District candidates weighed in on the subject and said, if elected, among their top priorities would be reining in the president and restoring Congress to its rightful place in the system of checks and balances. "Given these shared views, how, I asked the candidates, could they square that with the lack of criticism of Gov. Bobby Jindal's many attempts to kill Common Core even when it is clearly the will of the legislative branch and the preference of the...

Paul Ryan's new report recommends dismantling La.'s florist occupational license requirement, among others

A "discussion draft" from the U.S House Budget Committee calls unnecessary state and local occupational licensing regimes like Louisiana's law requiring licenses for florists—a requirement no other state imposes—"rules and regulations that can hurt low-income families," New York Times blog The Upshot reports. The 73-page draft—written by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the committee—was released Thursday and includes recommendations to reduce poverty and improve social mobility by making changes in state and local policy in education, sentencing, parole and occupational licensing. The draft says unnecessary occupational licensing requirements—like Louisiana laws that forbid monks to sell coffins because they're not licensed funeral directors—can drive up consumer prices and make it more difficult for low- and middle-skill workers to find jobs. The report urges a reduction in the number of jobs that require a license, but...

CABL says Common Core saga represents "disturbing" use of gubernatorial power

In commentary released today by Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, residents of Louisiana are urged to understand that the Common Core debate has gone far beyond a difference of opinion on how Louisiana's children should be educated and has "morphed into a new debate that should prompt everyone who believes in some semblance of the democratic process to raise serious questions about how state government is supposed to work." The real question, CABL says, is "do we want a governor—any governor—to wield authority in such a way that it usurps the processes on which most people believe our country was founded." CABL acknowledges that Gov. Bobby Jindal is well within his rights to change his mind on the subject of academic standards, "but it is not right to then seek to impose that will on the entire state, despite the overwhelming votes of the constitutionally created Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Legislature to the contrary."

LaPolitics: District judges faced with age limit question

Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year. Many of the seats, which carry with them six-year terms, are opening up because judges either want to retire for the obvious reasons—to practice law, be with their families, play golf or fish—or because they have reached the required retirement age of 70. "We're seeing more open seats than we're used to, but it's due mainly to retirement. But what we're all waiting to see is how many judges that are age-limited qualify to run anyway," said a source tracking the races. "A few of them have been talking about it." If a judge turns 70 while in office, he or she is allowed to continue serving but not seek re-election. Also, anyone 70 or older cannot run for judge. Lawmakers, however, passed HB 96 by Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, during this year's session to let voters decide whether the ban should be overturned. With expectations high that the constitutional amendment will...

BR business executives come out on both sides of anti-discrimination ordinance

Among the dozens of proponents and opponents of the proposed ordinance amendment to prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing on the basis of veteran status, gender identity and sexual orientation at the Metro Council meeting Wednesday evening—which ended before the council could vote on the proposal—were business executives who weighed in on each side of the issue. Luke Kissam, president and CEO of Albemarle, asked the council to pass the ordinance in order to help businesses recruit employees from around the nation and globe to come to Baton Rouge. "We compete with cities that have already adopted an ordinance to show that they believe in basic fairness and equality," Kissam said. "This is an opportunity to send the message that we are a community that embraces and values diversity and judges people only on their merits." Executives from Lamar Advertising, Chase Bank and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber echoed Kissam's sentiments. "Over 90% of...

Delgado says he expects Roper to take new attorney position OK'd by council

While all the attention at Wednesday night's Metro Council meeting was focused on the heated debate over the so-called fairness ordinance, the council did tend to a handful of other noteworthy items. Among them: It voted 9-2 to create a new attorney position for the City-Parish Employees' Retirement System that will serve as in-house special legal counsel to the system's board. Though council members say they created the position at the request of the retirement system—adding that the move has been in the works for several months—the position has reportedly been created for embattled Parish Attorney Mary Roper as part of a deal by which she would resign from her current post. Roper declined to comment after Wednesday's meeting. But Councilman John Delgado says, "The retirement board had been asking for this for a while, and the fact it is created does allow Mary to take the position now should she choose to do so … It is my understanding she will take that...

Publisher: La.'s strong credit, bond ratings tell 'the rest of the story'

In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. says there are a lot of critics, pundits and politicians who "constantly go on about the state budget every year and about how our use of funds is risky for Louisiana." Some even insist we need more taxes to survive, McCollister says. "But instead of listening to those statewide officials, legislators or left-leaning organizations (most of them run by former liberal journalists)—all with their own agenda—why not turn to the experts who make their living determining the state of government finances?" McCollister writes. "National credit firms live or die on the quality of their financial assessments, not on their politics." Since Gov. Bobby Jindal took office in 2008, McCollister notes, Louisiana has received eight credit rating upgrades from the three major credit-rating agencies. "Louisiana's credit ratings are currently the strongest they have been in two decades," he says, citing several...

Jindal outlines his reasons for fighting Common Core

In his latest guest column, Gov. Bobby Jindal outlines why he's fighting against Common Core in a battle that has frayed the governor's relationship with Superintendent of Education John White, as well as the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—and resulted this week in the filing of two lawsuits in as many days regarding the national education standards. "We believe parents and teachers are our best educators, not government bureaucrats," Jindal says in the column. "To use a football analogy, we think the best strategy on education reform is to hand the ball off to parents and teachers and empower them to improve education quality for our children." The governor cites rising graduation rates in the state, a reduction in the number of failing schools and

Why I fight for local control of education

People often ask, what do I think is the most important issue facing Louisiana? Or, if I could accomplish just one thing as Governor what would it be?

Lawsuit filed to stop Common Core use in La.

Seventeen state lawmakers are heading to court to try to stop Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican who opposes the standards, tells The Associated Press the lawsuit was filed today. He says the state education board didn't follow Louisiana's administrative procedures law for rolling out new standards in classrooms. The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education. But he and other Common Core critics have been unable to persuade BESE to change course. Lawmakers also upheld use of the standards.

Edwards outlines ways he'd strengthen state budget as governor

Louisiana State Representative John Bel Edwards, D-Amite—the only announced Democratic gubernatorial candidate thus far—says that, if elected governor, he will focus on configuring a prudent state budget that doesn't require mid-year budget cuts. "As governor, I will focus on the budget in a way that quite frankly we have not been doing," says Edwards, who was guest speaker today at the Baton Rouge Press Club. "If we don't have a surge of revenue coming into the state coffers between now and December, we're going to be cutting higher education, and that's an awful way to try to move this state forward." Edwards says he will focus on improving the budget in three main ways: by growing the economy in a way that allows for net new revenue for the state; by examining all of the tax exemptions on the book and eliminating those "that aren't producing the results that were promised"; and by accepting federal funds "when it makes sense," whether it's expanding broadband Internet...

Talking Points: David LaCerte

Gov. Bobby Jindal in June elevated David LaCerte from deputy secretary to secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. LaCerte replaces former Congressman Rodney Alexander, who stepped down after less than a year. While LaCerte, a former Marine Corps infantryman, does not supervise the federal Veterans Affairs system, he does hold strong opinions about what the scandal-plagued VA must do to establish trust with veterans and the rest of the American people.

The rest of the story

There are a lot of critics, pundits and politicians who constantly go on about the state budget every year and about how our use of funds is risky for Louisiana. Some even insist we need more taxes to survive.

Executive overreach

One of the hot-button issues at a recent forum of the eight Republican candidates running for the Sixth Congressional District seat was the perceived executive overreach of President Barack Obama.

Sex and this city

Let's talk sex. While we're at it, let's talk politics. What the heck. Let's go all the way. I want to talk sex, politics and religion. Wish me luck.

New Common Core procurement process not an attempt to reopen broader policy debate, Jindal aide says

Gov. Bobby Jindal still wants Louisiana out of Common Core, says Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin. But beginning a new procurement process for student tests is not an opportunity for Jindal to make that policy argument once again, Plotkin says. "All [an RFP] does is ensure that the Department of Education is taking part in a competitive bid process that's in accordance with the law," he says. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters that the Procurement Support Team, an advisory group including representatives of the Attorney General's Office, the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Division of Administration and the House and Senate, must be brought in to help the Department of Education ensure that any new RFP complies with the law. When asked if the team would engage in a policy debate about the content of the tests, she answered, "Yes, that's the statutory framework for PST." The RFP sets out contractual terms and the state's rights,...

'Business Report': Law firms adding data security to list of specialties

Though data security breaches have been the stuff of news headlines for years, the dangers may not have hit home for many people until a major U.S. retailer fell victim to electronic hackers. As Business Report notes in a feature from the current issue, last year's security breach at Target Corp.—the third-largest retailer in America—compromised the credit card accounts of as many as 40 million people who had shopped at Target stores, forcing many to cope with credit disruptions. Investigators concluded the criminals captured data that was stored on the magnetic stripes of cards that customers had swiped at cash registers. The breach put into the hands of the attackers everything they would need to create counterfeit cards. The rising incidence of companies failing to protect data they collect from customers and vendors sends concerns rippling through businesses of all kinds. Many whose data worries previously centered on storing information in ways that ensure...

LaPolitics: Senate race officially most expensive waged in La.

If you're already growing weary of seeing all those television ads about Louisiana's hotly contested U.S. Senate race, then you'll take little comfort in learning that there's now more money flowing into the candidates' campaign accounts than in any other comparable statewide election in recent history. So far the two lead contenders have deposited more than $21.5 million into their accounts, with more certainly to come. Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has raised $13.5 million this cycle. That's nearly $2 million more than she collected during her entire 2008 re-election campaign—and there's still three and a half months to go until the November primary. Her lead challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has raised $8 million thus far. That well exceeds the $2.8 million that was raised by Landrieu's last major challenger, Treasurer John Kennedy, six years ago. When coupled with all of the outsider spending by third-party groups, John Couvillon,...

Looking back, looking forward

As Baton Rouge continues to look at ways to reshape its infrastructure to fit a complete streets model, it might be helpful to look back at how the city grew to where it is today. The US Geological Survey has historical maps of the city dating back to 1908, when areas like Southdowns and along Highland and Perkins roads were little more than swamplands and fields.

Jindal slams Obamacare in Fox News column

In a guest column for Fox News, Gov. Bobby Jindal says that when it comes to Obamacare, the American public should feel as if "someone promised to give you a car, and then reneged on that pledge." That's because "Obama's failed and discredited campaign promise to lower health insurance premiums has cost the average American family an amount equal to the price of many new cars," Jindal writes. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Jindal says, one of then-Senator Obama's "most audacious promises" was that his health plan would reduce premiums by $2,500 for the average family. "His repeatedly made his pledge on videotape," writes Jindal, who includes links to the pledge. "But health insurance premiums have continued to rise—not just despite ObamaCare, but in many cases because of the law's new regulations and mandates." Citing a recent analysis by think tank America Next—for which Jindal is honorary chairman—the governor says that since 2008 Americans have seen their...

Cassidy edges closer to Landrieu in campaign cash

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu continues to pull in more campaign money than her chief Republican competitor, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, but she's spending more as well, sending her into the most heated portion of the Senate race with a narrowing advantage of cash on hand. Landrieu's campaign announced today that the Democratic senator, seeking her fourth term, raised $2.1 million in the most recent fundraising quarter, from April 1 through June 30. Cassidy's campaign said it raised $1.6 million for the same period. The contenders for the Nov. 4 election have similar amounts of cash in the bank: Landrieu reports $6.2 million, while Cassidy reports $5.8 million. The long-shot candidate for the Senate seat, Republican and tea party favorite Rob Maness, hasn't announced his latest fundraising figures. But he's lagged far behind both Landrieu and Cassidy, who is running with the support of the GOP establishment. Full reports listing expenses and collections from all U.S. Senate and congressional...

McAllister should drop GOP, run as independent

Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, is motoring into the fall elections carrying more baggage than Delta. His campaign finances are shaky, a few dynamics that favored his candidacy just a month ago are turning sideways and he has lost key supporters. Then there's his self-made political scandal that gave new meaning to the old phrase regarding loose lips sinking ships.

Alford: McAllister should drop GOP, run as independent

Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, "is motoring into the fall elections carrying more baggage than Delta," says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "His campaign finances are shaky, a few dynamics that favored his candidacy just a month ago are turning sideways and he has lost key supporters," Alford writes. "Then there's his self-made political scandal that gave new meaning to the old phrase regarding loose lips sinking ships." Alford notes it wasn't long after The Ouachita Citizen posted the infamous kissing video on its website that McAllister subsequently announced he wouldn't stand for re-election. Then rumors started circulating that he would indeed run, possibly as a Democrat. "Part of the scuttlebutt sprouted roots in reality when the congressman announced his re-election campaign last month, but the tidbit about the party switch hasn't come true. Not yet at least," Alford writes. "McAllister did tell me he was approached by representatives from the Democratic...

Maness: Congress shouldn't rule out impeachment of Obama

Rob Maness, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, believes the House of Representatives should "do its constitutional duty" and consider drafting articles of impeachment against President Barack Obama on grounds that he has over-reached his Constitutional authority. "There are valid reasons to at least look at it," Maness said during his appearance at the Press Club of Baton Rouge today. "I would not have a problem listening to the trial and basing a decision on the evidence" if he were elected to the Senate and the Senate voted to impeach Obama, he said. Maness, who has tea party backing and the endorsement of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, also said he considers current problems with illegal immigration as an "existential threat" to the United States. Maness said the first step is to secure America's borders "and then see what reforms we might need to make, and each reform should be a separate effort. There should be no comprehensive immigration reform." Asked to...

Lawmakers seek new SIPC directors, help for Stanford victims

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging President Barack Obama to nominate directors to an industry-backed organization who will help the victims in Allen Stanford's $7 billion scheme try to recover some of their losses. In a letter from 10 members in the House of Representatives—including Louisiana Reps. Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany—and a separate letter from Sen. David Vitter, the lawmakers say they believe the Securities Investor Protection Corp. needs a cultural overhaul that will put investors' interests first. "The victims of the Stanford Ponzi scheme cannot afford to continue with the status quo. New perspectives are required in the SIPC to protect the interests of these victims moving forward," reads the letter from the 10 House lawmakers. "Victims of the Stanford scheme have been paid a meager $30 million to cover their...

BESE offers up compromise on Common Core controversy

Leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have proposed a compromise that could help bridge the growing divide between BESE and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core educational standards and associated tests. BESE President Chas Roemer, Vice President Jim Garvey and Secretary-Treasurer Holly Boffy outlined their proposal in a four-page letter to Jindal earlier today. It calls for using a hybrid test during the upcoming school year that combines science and social studies questions from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP test, as well as English and math questions from the tests used in the Common Core program. While the proposal may not satisfy the governor's stated goal of getting Louisiana out of the Common Core program, Roemer says his plan would allow educators to begin preparing for the upcoming school year, which starts in less than four weeks. He believes it will also satisfy the technical arguments the Jindal administration has tried to use...

New congressional caucus aims to boost refiners

Refiners fighting against biofuel mandates, environmental regulations and changes in U.S. export policy have new allies on Capitol Hill, with the launch Wednesday of a formal congressional caucus dedicated to the industry. FuelFix.com reports 25 lawmakers have thus far joined the Congressional Refinery Caucus, formed to highlight the critical role of the facilities that transform crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products. In an opinion piece describing the new group, co-founders Rep. Pete Olson, a Texas Republican, and Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who represents parts of Baton Rouge, say the oil and gas space "has been painted with a broad brush." The group is needed to shine a light on a part of the oil industry that is mysterious to many policymakers, they say. "As crucial as upstream operations and midstream pipeline assets are to our districts, refineries remain an integral part of the equation," the pair writes. "Refineries are critically important to...

Publisher: La. voters shouldn't let McAllister, Edwards make La. a national punchline

"Like it or not," says Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. in his latest column, "Louisiana voters are going to have to endure the jokes and humiliation that come with having a cast of characters running for Congress." Of course, McCollister is referring to "the kissing congressman" Vance McAllister of the 5th District, and former governor and ex-con Edwin Edwards of the 6th. While many are still puzzled as to how an 86-year-old ex-con with a 1-year-old child or a married congressman recently caught kissing a married staffer—after he ran on a "family values" platform—would have the audacity to offer themselves for public service, McCollister says there is a larger question for the voters of these districts. "If Edwards and McAllister think so little of their families, what respect or concern could they possibly have for you, the constituents they represent?" he wonders. Everyone is deserving of forgiveness, McCollister says, and McAllister and Edwards...

Carville: Control of US Senate could be decided in La.

In a new guest column feature on The Hill website, "The Ragin' Cajun," James Carville, says there's plenty of good reasons for people across the country to keep an eye on the ever-tightening Senate race in Louisiana. "The control of the United States Senate could be determined in Louisiana. It is entirely plausible that the runoff on Dec. 6 will decide which party will have the majority in the Senate—that is, six weeks after Election Day in November," Carville says. And though "the news has yet to penetrate the Beltway, where it is believed that United States Congressman Bill Cassidy (R) will surely face [Democratic incumbent Mary] Landrieu in the Louisiana runoff," Carville says the race is getting more interesting because former Air Force colonel and Republican Rob Maness "has started to stir the pot." Plus, Carville says, "the ramifications of the Senate election on the 2015 governor's race are utterly breathtaking." Carville says "the political brains" in Louisiana...

Former NOLA mayor Nagin sentenced to 10 years in prison

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption that spanned his two terms as mayor—including the chaotic years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan handed down the sentence. Nagin was convicted Feb. 12 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects. The bribes came in the form of money, free vacations and truckloads of free granite for his family business. The 58-year-old Democrat had defiantly denied any wrongdoing after his 2013 indictment and during his February trial. Moments before sentencing, a subdued Nagin made a brief statement, thanking the judge for her professionalism. He made no apologies. "I trust that God's going to work all this out," he said. After the sentencing Nagin smiled and hugged supporters as he walked out of the courtroom with his wife, Seletha, and...

Jindal, Wisconsin governor team up for 'Politico' column on school choice

In a new guest column featured on the Politico website, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ask: "What's Obama's problem with school choice?" In the column, the governors accuse the Obama administration of "taking actions designed to stifle, and even block outright, programs that give children and parents more educational choices." The governors say the administration has taken such steps in both Louisiana and Wisconsin. "In Louisiana, we will offer spots to nearly 9,000 students in private school choice programs this coming academic year, roughly 7,000 more students than in 2011-12," reads the column. "Thirteen thousand applied this year, which shows how many parents in failing schools want an opportunity to explore other options for their children." The column concludes with the governors saying they hope the president and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder "will work with us to expand educational opportunities to students—particularly students in failing...

St. George proponents say annexation of L'Auberge wouldn't derail petition, budget

Although L'Auberge Casino & Hotel officials haven't requested the River Road site be annexed into the City of Baton Rouge, proponents of the city of St. George incorporation effort say they're prepared for such a request eventually now that a company with 630 acres near the casino has filed a petition for annexation. "As long as the law is followed, we will not protest if the L'Auberge Casino would like to be included inside the city limits of Baton Rouge," says Lionel Rainey III in a prepared statement. For any parcel of land in the unincorporated portions of East Baton Rouge Parish to be annexed into Baton Rouge, it must border land that is already within the city limits. While the 630 acres up for annexation consideration at the Metro Council's July 23 meeting is not directly connected to the L'Auberge property (

6th District GOP candidates tout conservative credentials at BR forum

The eight Republican candidates running for the 6th Congressional District seat tried to prove their conservative credentials to a receptive audience today at a forum sponsored by the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish. "I am a Christian, I'm pro-life, pro-family, I love this state and I love south Louisiana," said Garret Graves, who most recently headed the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Said 28-year-old businessman Paul Dietzel II a short time later, "I'm pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun and pro-6th district." The crowd of 100 or so found much to applaud in the candidates' answers, which differed in style but not much in substance. All advocate repealing some or all of the Affordable Care Act, which retired Navy Captain and tea party activist Bob Bell called an "idiotic law." All favor holding tough on immigration laws, building a bigger wall along the Texas border, and "putting every illegal immigrant who comes to Louisiana on a bus, dropping them...

La. lawmakers refuse to hold veto session

Louisiana lawmakers won't try to override Gov. Bobby Jindal's vetoes from the recently ended legislative session. The Associated Press reports both the House and Senate have voted to cancel the veto override session set to start this week. A vote tally released today by the Senate president and House speaker shows that 34 of 39 senators and 64 of 105 representatives voted against returning to Baton Rouge for the override session by Monday's midnight deadline. All that was needed to kill the session was a majority vote of one legislative chamber. The decision wasn't surprising. Lawmakers have never held a veto session since the current state constitution was enacted four decades ago. Jindal vetoed 12 bills from the legislative session, including several that received overwhelming support. But there was little outcry for the override session.

Super PAC offers Vitter more than money

While the Fund for Louisiana's Future was originally introduced as a vehicle to help drive U.S. Sen. David Vitter to the governor's mansion, it now appears the super PAC will not be a one-trick pony. Sure, the junior senator will likely benefit from the bulk of expenditures by the conclusion of the 2015 election cycle, but other issues and politicians are beginning to fall under its umbrella as well. Additionally, the end game of this broadening scope will help Vitter's politics just as much as the direct spending.

Alford: Super PAC offers Vitter more than money

While the Fund for Louisiana's Future was originally introduced as a vehicle to help drive U.S. Sen. David Vitter to the governor's mansion, columnist Jeremy Alford says it now appears the super PAC will not be a one-trick pony. "Sure, the junior senator will likely benefit from the bulk of expenditures by the conclusion of the 2015 election cycle, but other issues and politicians are beginning to fall under its umbrella as well," Alford writes in his latest column. "Additionally, the end game of this broadening scope will help Vitter's politics just as much as the direct spending." Alford notes a new web-only media buy from the Fund for Louisiana's Future, overseen by Charlie Spies of Washington, D.C.-based law firm Clark Hill, turns the spotlight on state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. "The banner ads thank Donelon, who doesn't seem to be facing any real opposition, for 'standing up to the federal government and fighting to protect Louisiana families from skyrocketing flood...

Voters should send clear message

Like it or not, Louisiana voters are going to have to endure the jokes and humiliation that come with having a cast of characters running for Congress. I specifically am referring to "the kissing congressman," Vance McAllister (5th District) and former governor and ex-con Edwin Edwards (6th District).

More than an IT guy

Though data security breaches have been the stuff of news headlines for years, the dangers may not have hit home for many people until a major U.S. retailer fell victim to electronic hackers.

BR business leaders outraged over Jindal's latest Common Core move

Business leaders are outraged by the latest salvo in the escalating battle between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Department of Education over the Common Core education standards. In a letter Wednesday, the Division of Administration restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts. While he previously had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000, the letter says he now must get approval from the Office of Contractual Review for any contract exceeding $2,000. "I cannot be more disappointed in the leadership of the state," says Lane Grigsby, who opposed Jindal's efforts in the recent legislative session to dismantle Common Core. "They scream when Obama uses his executive authority to do what he wants, but no one stands up and tells our local little emperor he's got no clothes." Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says her...

News alert: Jindal restricts White's authority to approve contracts exceeding $2K

The Jindal administration has restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts of more than $2,000. Previously, White had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000. White was notified of the decision by the Division of Administration in a letter dated Wednesday. "Any professional, personal, consulting or social services contracts exceeding $2,000 which your agency enters into from this date forward will require the approval of the Office of Contractual Review," reads the letter. The move comes amidst escalating tensions between White and the governor over the implementation of Common Core education standards in public schools. On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to seek outside lawyers for guidance in the growing dispute over Jindal's efforts to undermine Common Core. Read Daily Report PM for more...

La. state legislature the least gender diverse

For the second year in a row, the Louisiana state legislature has the lowest representation of women in the nation, with just 12.5% women representatives, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics. Of the 144 members of the Louisiana legislature, just 18 are women, up from 17 female representatives in 2013 and 16 in 2012. Along with Louisiana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Wyoming are among the states with the lowest percentage of women state legislators. At 41%, Colorado has the highest percentage of female state legislators, followed by Vermont, Arizona, Minnesota and New Hampshire. The national percentage of state legislators who are women remains unchanged from 2013, at 24.2%. Louisiana's rank in terms of gender diversity in the state legislature peaked in 2005, when the state was ranked 34th. That year, there were 25 women state legislators out of 144, yielding a 17.4% proportion. The...

Lawmakers should avoid hitting cruise control

With a tempestuous debate over Common Core nearing its peak and congressional elections lying in wait behind the curtains of this humid summer, most state lawmakers aren't flipping their calendars ahead some 280 days or so to pencil in priorities for the 2015 regular session. But they should be doing just that.

Alford: Lawmakers should avoid hitting cruise control

With a tempestuous debate over Common Core nearing its peak and congressional elections lying in wait behind the curtains of this humid summer, columnist Jeremy Alford says most state lawmakers aren't flipping their calendars ahead some 280 days or so to pencil in priorities for the 2015 regular session. "But they should be doing just that," Alford writes in his latest column. "Barring a special session, the spring lawmaking assembly will be their last opportunity to woo voters before the lot of them run for re-election on the regular fall ballot." But, if history is any guide, Alford says next year's session will be marked by safe decisions rather than bold decisiveness. "Voters best remember politicians for the last thing they did, and doing nothing is markedly better than inciting the masses (Like a horse using its tail to swat away biting insects, the native species indigenous to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge is genetically engineered to act and react with caution at this...

News alert: Attorney general: Annexations do not invalidate St. George petition signatures

The city's annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and other properties owned by Baton Rouge General Hospital and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center will not affect the validity of the St. George petition drive, according to an an opinion issued today by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. The East Baton Rouge Parish attorney's office requested the opinion last month after the Metro Council voted to annex the properties into the city. At issue was whether the annexation would invalidate the ongoing petition drive because the boundaries of the proposed City of St. George are now different from what was delineated on the petition that voters have signed. In his ruling, Caldwell says, "It is premature to discuss the validity and sufficiency of any petition for incorporation . .

La. 'still moving forward' with Common Core standards, CABL president says

Barry Erwin, president and CEO of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says Gov. Bobby Jindal's executive order to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards ultimately will not keep Common Core standards out of Louisiana schools. Erwin, guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club today, notes that Jindal's request to withdraw Louisiana from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers requires the signatures of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's president and the Superintendent of Education. "The bottom line is … BESE hasn't changed its mind and the superintendent hasn't changed his mind. [So] we're still moving forward," Erwin says, meaning schools will once again be teaching according to Common Core standards for the 2014-2015 school year. BESE meets on Tuesday to consider initiating litigation against...

McAllister changes course, will seek re-election

Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister announced today that he has changed his mind and intends to run for re-election despite the scandal caused by a video showing him kissing a married female aide. In April, the freshman congressman said he wouldn't seek another term. But two months later, McAllister has reversed course and says he will be on the Nov. 4 ballot as a candidate for Louisiana's 5th District. McAllister made the announcement on The Moon Griffon Show, a conservative talk radio show based in north Louisiana. He says he and his wife Kelly "spent the weekend trying to make sure this is what we thought was right for me and the family" before deciding he would try to hold onto the seat he's held for less than a year. The married congressman, who ran on a platform of faith and family, apologized for a "personal failure" after the security tape showed him kissing an aide in his congressional office. She later resigned. GOP leaders, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, pushed for...

GOP bucking business priorities on Capitol Hill

Traditional ties between the business community and the Republican Party are fraying on Capitol Hill, where the House GOP has bucked corporate interests on a series of priorities this year, from immigration to highway funding to trade. Rebuffed in Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have found more success backing pro-business candidates for election, but even they don't always deliver. The Associated Press reports that it adds up to a significant shift in how the GOP operates, ushered in by the rise of the tea party movement and its distrust of the federal government and of big corporate America. But whether the business community's success this year in electing its favored candidates in primaries can swing the pendulum back its way remains to be seen. And this is amid plentiful evidence that the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are struggling to get a hearing from congressional conservatives who outright reject their goals and are having...

LaPolitics: Local consultant may run in 5th District

With state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, officially out of the congressional race in northeast Louisiana, the void is attracting likely candidates from across the 5th District, beginning with one who made a name for himself in Baton Rouge's political waters. Mike Smith, a Republican from St. Francisville, tells LaPolitics he's eyeing the race. Smith is president of MDSA Strategic Communications, which deals mostly with corporate public affairs but has also handled political races in the Baton Rouge region in the past. "My mother's family put the Calhoun in Calhoun, Louisiana, and I have roots all along I-20," says Smith. "I'm kicking around the idea. I want to run a non-traditional campaign. I think people are ready to be spoken to differently." Smith says he'd likely rely on a mix of personal funds and campaign donations. After previously committing to run for lieutenant governor in 2015, state Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, says his own candidacy is a "definite...

Feud between White, Jindal over Common Core heats up

The simmering feud between Superintendent of Education John White and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core appears to be nearing a boiling point. In an interview with Politico published Wednesday evening, White—who was hand-picked by Jindal to lead the department in January 2012 and has been a long-time ally—accuses the governor of violating the civil rights of poor children with his decision last week to renounce the Common Core academic standards. Jindal "breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state's citizens," White says. He goes on to tell Politico that "it is high irony that people who support the civil right to choose a school don't support the civil right to have all students take the same test," adding: "Lowering expectations comes in many forms." Jindal spokesman Mike Reed dismisses White's allegations and says it's the education department that's violating...

Ruling to come on whether La. must recognize same-sex marriages

A federal judge in New Orleans heard arguments today on whether Louisiana must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. The Associated Press reports attorneys on both sides of the issue pointed to last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal prohibition against recognizing legal gay marriages. Dalton Courson, an attorney for gay couples, said the ruling in U.S. v. Windsor supports the contention that Louisiana's failure to recognize legal same-sex marriages violates constitutional due process and equal protection rights. Attorney Kyle Duncan, arguing for the state, said the Windsor opinion clearly upholds the rights of state voters and legislatures to define marriage and that the federal government must recognize the states' rights to do so. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman acknowledged a growing number of cases striking down gay marriage bans in various states. On the same day that Feldman heard arguments, a federal judge

Peddlers in BR may be required to get background checks, pay higher fees

Along with a number of noteworthy items up for consideration at today's Metro Council meeting—including Mayor Kip Holden's request to add up to $3.3 million to the budget for public improvement projects, an ordinance amendment to create a friendlier legal environment for ride-sharing companies in Baton Rouge, and the Mosquito Abatement & Rodent Control director's request to build a $6.5 million new headquarters—a smaller, safety-related item will be introduced. Councilman Ryan Heck is proposing that background checks be completed for those applying for peddler permits. Heck says he receives frequent complaints from residents reticent to open their doors to peddlers—who walk house to house selling merchandise they carry with them. Some residents even call the police...

Councilmen seek changes to Taxicab Control Board, formal invite to rideshare companies

In addition to considering a proposal by councilmen John Delgado and Ryan Heck to amend the city-parish code of ordinances to allow for new transportation and rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and Carma to operate in Baton Rouge without having to abide by rules of the Taxicab Control Board, the Metro Council on Wednesday will consider two other items concerning such companies. Delgado and Heck are also proposing to create two additional positions on the Taxicab Control Board, one of which will be appointed by the mayor and one of which will be for the president of Visit Baton Rouge or his designee. They're also asking the council to approve a resolution to express its invitation to new companies to begin providing rideshare and transportation services in the city-parish. Delgado has said that the purpose of the proposed ordinance amendments is to "establish a friendly...

Jindal making risky gamble over Common Core

It wasn't long ago that Common Core was considered the most debated policy issue in Louisiana that lawmakers and parents knew the least about. Now it's the hottest political issue with the highest volume of unintended consequences.

Alford: Jindal making risky gamble over Common Core

It wasn't long ago that Common Core was considered the most debated policy issue in Louisiana that lawmakers and parents knew the least about, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Now it's the hottest political issue with the highest volume of unintended consequences," Alford writes. "Who could have predicted that Gov. Bobby Jindal would be sideways with business and industry after carrying its litigation agenda during the spring legislative session? But he is, thanks to his executive blitz to pull the state out of Common Core just four years after he signed us up." "The business community has denounced Bobby Jindal," says Lane Grigsby, founder and board chairman of Cajun Contractors. "We're not turning our backs on him. That would suggest that we'll forget about him. Business will not forget. I will not forget. I don't intend to give up on it because young Jindal wanted to have national ambitions and screw over our children." The question now, Alford says, is how hard the...

In Conversation: William Daniel

William Daniel is Mayor Kip Holden's top administrator. He also has directed the Department of Public Works, which recently lost Director David Guillory to the private sector. Guillory could end up being the last DPW director in city-parish history if the long-discussed department reorganization is approved.

Flip-flop fallout

Gov. Bobby Jindal finally has completed his slow-motion flip-flop on Common Core, from supporter to skeptic to outright opponent.

LaPolitics: Edwards uses levee lawsuit as opportunity to set himself apart

With all of the major Republicans in the 6th Congressional District race backing Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to sign the anti-flood-authority-lawsuit bill, former Gov. Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, is taking the opportunity to carve out an opposing stance. "The bill should not have been passed and should have been vetoed," Edwards tells LaPolitics. "It was an effort by the administration to insulate oil and gas. It also possibly jeopardizes the claims against BP by parishes and citizens. Everywhere I go people are concerned about it." With Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who requested a veto, joining the chorus of legal experts warning the new law endangers oil spill claims against BP and possibly federal appropriations for coastal restoration, the issue is being transformed into campaign fodder. The congressional district dips into coastal parishes on the southern end, which means it's also home to many jobs in the energy sector. "Through all of the discussions and all of the...

City-parish: Mall, hospital annexations in effect despite lawsuit

The Metro Council's May 16 annexation of portions of the Mall of Louisiana and other nearby properties owned by Baton Rouge General Hospital and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center is effective as of last Friday, June 13, city-parish department heads have been informed in a memo by chief administrative officer William Daniel.

Legal showdown looks likely over Common Core tests as Jindal, White dig in heels

It appears a legal battle is brewing in Louisiana over the state's participation in the Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Career tests affiliated with the controversial Common Core education standards. Both Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White today cited several legal reasons why the state must either pull out of the tests and standards—as Jindal contends—or continue implementing them, as White is pledging to do. After weeks of speculation on what he'd do about the PARCC tests and Common Core standards—which Jindal originally supported before reversing his stance in recent months—the governor called a press conference this afternoon to say he has taken steps to remove Louisiana from its participation in Common Core-affiliated tests. Among them, Jindal has sent a letter to the PARCC organization asking it to...

Today's hearing on fate of parish attorney's job headed for another deferral

The 5 p.m. scheduled hearing on the future of Parish Attorney Mary Roper—who took five days of paid administrative leave at the request of Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe and has come under fire in recent months from several council members for a variety of grievances—will not go on as planned. Councilman John Delgado says he will ask for a deferral of the hearing until next month because "we are working towards an amicable resolution." He declines to comment further on the matter. This is the second time the hearing has been pushed back. Delgado, along with councilmen Buddy Amoroso and Trae Welch, sponsored the original motion to remove Roper from her position as parish attorney. At a special hearing on May 28, the council agreed to defer the matter at the request of Roper's attorney, Wade Shows, who said he needed more time to call witnesses and complete due...

News alert: Jindal will try to pull La. out of Common Core test

After weeks of speculation, Gov. Bobby Jindal has officially announced that he will use his executive authority to try to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards. The governor held a news conference just after 1:10 p.m. today to make the announcement, saying Common Core is a "one-size-fits-all program that simply does not make sense for our state." Jindal, who once supported Common Core but has in recent weeks reversed his stance, equated the standards to an attempted federal takeover of education. Jindal said he sent a letter to the Partnership of Assessments for College and Career Readiness, which is an assessment associated with Common Core, asking the organization to immediately withdraw from Louisiana. Jindal also issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education to begin a competitive process to purchase a new assessment and called on the education department and the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education...

Companies cashing in on tax-credit arms race

U.S. states are digging deeper into their pockets, offering businesses lucrative tax credits for everything from brewing beer to renovating buildings, in an effort to spur economic growth and create jobs. As The Wall Street Journal reports, companies are finding the new state tax credits especially alluring because many of their biggest federal tax breaks expired at the end of last year. What's more, an increasing number of the state credits are refundable or transferable, meaning they can guarantee a company cash regardless of the size of its state tax bill. Some 46 states, including Louisiana, now offer such tax credits through more than 200 different programs, compared with only a handful of states a decade ago, and exchanges are popping up to help businesses trade them. States should "start a new reality show and call it 'Tax Credit Wars,' " says Paul Gevertzman, a partner in accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP. Companies in industries targeted by the states can...

Forgiveness emerges as major theme of upcoming elections

During the fall elections this year and next, a handful of candidates will be asking not only for your vote, but also for your forgiveness. While Louisiana has always had its fair share of flawed and ethically challenged politicians, it's a treat for reporters—and heartburn for supporters of good government—to find so many high-profile cases on the campaign trail at the same time.

Alford: Forgiveness emerges as major theme of upcoming elections

During the fall elections this year and next, a handful of candidates will be asking not only for your vote, but also for your forgiveness, says columnist Jeremy Alford. "While Louisiana has always had its fair share of flawed and ethically challenged politicians, it's a treat for reporters—and heartburn for supporters of good government—to find so many high-profile cases on the campaign trail at the same time," Alford writes in his latest column. "In northeast Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, is considering running for re-election after initially stating he would not when a video was leaked in April showing him kissing a married aide. In the 6th Congressional District, anchored by the Baton Rouge region, former Gov. Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, is reintroducing himself to voters after a stint in federal prison. Both are seeking absolution via the November ballot as U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, prepares for the 2015...

Vitter steers clear of controversy during BR address

Republican Sen. David Vitter says education improvement, particularly at the ends of the age and grade spectrum, will be a top priority if he's elected governor in 2015, though his stance on Common Core remains unclear. "I definitely support strong, stringent standards, standards that allow us to compare how our kids are doing relative to kids around the country," Vitter told the Baton Rouge Press Club today. "But I also want to make sure we retain our autonomy" over curriculum decisions, he added. He said he hopes to delve into deeper discussion on education issues at five roundtable leadership forums he's hosting in August, one of which is specifically geared toward improving K-12 education. Vitter also refrained from taking a strong position on another controversial issue today—the potential for an expansion of Louisiana's Medicaid program—saying he'd consider an expansion but that reform of the system must precede expansion. "I think first and foremost we need to...

Jindal says 'very good chance' of lawsuits challenging EPA rules

Litigation is "on the table" in the Republican fight against the Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed rules to dramatically cut states' carbon emissions by 2030, says Gov. Bobby Jindal. "There's a very good chance of litigation not only initiated by the states, but the industry is another," FuelFix.com quotes Jindal as saying at a press briefing at the Petroleum Club in downtown Houston today. "This is such a dangerous overreach in terms of the potential threat to our economy and our ability to restore those manufacturing jobs, I absolutely do think litigation needs to be on the table." Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were flanked by the governors of North Dakota and Wyoming in a brief press conference aimed at blasting the EPA's proposed rule to cut carbon emissions by 30% from 2005 levels over the next 15 years. The rule is expected to gut the coal power industry across the United States. Coal plants have already fallen out of favor with utilities as cheap, low-carbon...

Scalise seen as possible bridge between GOP leadership, tea party rebels

A report by Bloomberg this morning says Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise, who is seeking the No. 3 spot in the U.S. House of Representatives in the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor's recent election loss, "has the potential to be a bridge between the party's leadership and Tea Party rebels." Under a headline that reads "Can a Louisianan unite warring U.S. Republican factions?", Bloomberg reports that Scalise "is a staunch conservative who, in assessing President Obama's first 100 days in office in 2009, gave him a grade he considers far worse than an 'F' for failure—an 'L' for Liberal." He is "well-respected and well-liked by most members of his party, a prerequisite for the job of majority whip, whose job it is to drum up the Republican votes needed to pass bills," Bloomberg reports. "The job is likely to come open this week. The current whip, Kevin McCarthy, is a strong favorite to win the No. 2 House leadership position in June 19 elections to replace Cantor." While...

Jindal in Houston today to talk about new energy policy

Gov. Bobby Jindal and some other Republican governors from oil-and-gas-rich states are gathering in Houston today to discuss energy policy and slam the newest regulations passed by the EPA and backed by President Barack Obama. The Associated Press reports other governors attending the meeting will be Texas Gov. Rick Perry, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. The Republican Governors Association is hosting the energy press briefing. According to a news release, the governors will discuss the Obama administration's "latest job-killing EPA regulations, how this White House has continually failed to lead on energy policy, and how Republican governors are promoting an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy in their states." Jindal was in Iowa over the weekend, where he spent two days giving speeches and raising funds at events including the 2014 Iowa Republican State Convention. While there, he sat down for an interview with The Des Moines Register, which...

Jindal agrees to $1B earmark of oil spill money

Gov. Bobby Jindal has agreed to pour $1 billion in Gulf oil spill recovery money into Louisiana's "rainy day" fund and a trust fund for the elderly that was drained to plug budget gaps. The governor's office announced today that Jindal signed the bill that contains the oil spill money plan, along with other short-term maneuvers to keep next year's budget balanced. The Associated Press reports Louisiana could receive billions of dollars from BP to pay for the state's claims of economic damage caused by the massive 2010 spill. Those dollars are separate from other civil penalties from violations of environmental laws, money that's required to be set aside for coastal restoration and protection projects. The claims are the subject of ongoing federal litigation, and it's unclear when any of the money might be available to the state. Under the terms of the bill, when the economic recovery money is received:

La. among states planning spending increase next fiscal year, survey says

A new survey finds that Louisiana is among 42 states that plan on spending more next fiscal year than they did this fiscal year, but Governing reports most increases will be relatively small. That's because governments are pulling back on spending increases due to modest revenue growth, says the survey from the National Association of State Budget Officers. State general fund expenditures are projected to increase by 2.9%, or a total of $750.5 billion in fiscal 2015. The dollar increase in 2015 is slightly more than the one in the 2014 fiscal year, which ends on June 30 for most states. However, the rate of spending growth is slower than the 5.5% average since 1979, and the fiscal year 2014 growth of 4.3%. Additionally, state spending in fiscal 2014 for the 50 states combined is still below the fiscal 2008 pre-recession peak after accounting for inflation, which...

LaPolitics: Graves lands Koch support, Whitney effect unknown

While a reporter from New York magazine was in Baton Rouge earlier this week keeping former Gov. Edwin Edwards occupied, the other contenders in the 6th Congressional District were free to ponder the angles behind state Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, entering the race. The knee-jerk reaction from operatives and consultants was that she might peel votes off of the Republican candidates who have been working the bayou parishes around Terrebonne-Lafourche the longest. That means entrepreneur Paul Dietzel and Garret Graves, former chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Both men are from Baton Rouge. But unless Whitney, a national committeewoman for the Louisiana Republican Party, can raise an impressive amount of money quickly—sources tell LaPolitics she's close to six figures—it's doubtful she'll get a second look. Graves, in particular, is positioned to aggressively compete for money and votes in her backyard. Terrebonne Parish President...

Limitless fundraising creates a political Wild West

How much money does a Louisiana politician need to win?

Alford: Limitless fundraising creates a political Wild West

How much money does a Louisiana politician need to win an election these days? "More," says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "In the increasingly competitive world of high-stakes elections, the answer is simply more." Alford says that in the not-too-distant past consultants could tell candidates that $7 million was required to become governor, or $2 million for a congressional seat. "But that threshold, especially in recent years, has become a moving target as more third-party groups supplement spending and the courts make way for special political action committees to raise unlimited cash," Alford writes. "The latter are known as super PACs and they're the ultimate status symbol. Created in the wake of 2010's SpeechNow.org case against the Federal Election Commission, super PACs can raise as much money as they wish, all in the name of political speech, from companies, special interests and individuals. They can then spend it demonizing or blessing a candidate." Free of donation...

They said it after the session

"When we began in March, we said our priority this year is building Louisiana's workforce and growing our economy. We accomplished these goals by passing a budget that will increase funding for higher education, legislation that will crack down on frivolous lawsuits, and legislation that will prepare Louisiana students to better compete in the new global economy."
—Gov. Bobby Jindal

The failure of SB 636

SB 636 and the companion HB 1177 had something for everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Change won't come from within

The legislative session ended last week, and so did Senate Bill 636 to reform EBR schools by empowering school principals with broader authority.

Rise of the drones

The drones are coming.

EPA and the cost of carbon

if you read the reports on how the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule limiting carbon emissions by electric utilities will affect the national economy, you may have gotten the impression that it won't amount to much and could even have health benefits. Either that or the rule will usher in the end of life as we know it.

Jindal signs bill to kill levee board oil and gas suit

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a bill aimed at killing a Louisiana levee board's lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies, despite warnings from legal experts that it could also affect state and local government litigation over the 2010 BP oil spill. Jindal announced the signing in a mid-day press release today, saying: "This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law." The levee board suit, now in federal court, says drilling and dredging by oil, gas and pipeline companies are partially to blame for the degradation of coastal wetlands that serve as a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. The bill by Sen. Bret Allain would retroactively scuttle the lawsuit. Opponents say the law will likely be challenged in court. Jindal and his top lawyer say they do not believe the law would affect state and...

Private shelter for homeless vets to add permanent support housing

Raven's Outreach Center for Homeless Veterans—the only private, nonprofit shelter for veterans in the state, according to the developer—has plans to nearly triple in size with the addition of permanent support housing on Scenic Highway, says Brian Cox of Red Door Development. The shelter was started by owners Dorothy and Andrew Whitener about 10 years ago and currently has a 50-unit residential dormitory facility and administrative building at 1913 North St. with kitchen, class and church service space to help homeless veterans get on their feet. However, veterans are only allowed to stay in the dorms—which maintain a 98% occupancy rate—for two years. The permanent support housing addition, which includes three 20-unit apartment buildings totaling roughly 55,000 square feet, will provide veterans with a transitional state from dependency to home ownership, Cox says. "They're going to receive a VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] voucher, which is simply...

LaPolitics: Geography, race could alter lieutenant governor forecast

The inclusion of a strong black Democrat or a commanding candidate from north Louisiana could make the early lead in the lieutenant governor's race posted by Jefferson Parish President John Young old news. That's the takeaway from a poll of 600 likely voters conducted in late April, and released last week, by Southern Media and Opinion Research. With a margin of error of +/-4%, Young takes the top spot in a three-way GOP trial heat with 32%, followed by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, 23%, and state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, 9%. Undecided gobbled up 36% of participants, a substantial figure. Guillory was not identified as an African-American to participants and 43% of black voters polled were undecided. Nungesser pulled the highest black vote with 28% and would be hurt most by Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, a Democrat, jumping in. "The question is whether Kip could do anything in the runoff. He would certainly make the runoff and kill Nungesser's chances in the...

2 million Obamacare enrollees have discrepancies that could jeopardize coverage, report says

More than 2 million people who got health insurance under President Barack Obama's law—or more than 1 in 4 enrollees—have data discrepancies that could jeopardize coverage for some, a government document shows. The Associated Press, which was provided with the document, reports the discrepancies are creating a huge paperwork jam for the feds and exposing some consumers to repayment demands, or possibly even loss of coverage, if they got too generous a subsidy. The seven-page slide presentation from the Health and Human Services department was provided to The AP as several congressional committees are actively investigating the discrepancies, most of which involve important details on income, citizenship and immigration status. Responding to the document, administration officials expressed confidence that most of the discrepancies can be resolved over the summer. Nonetheless, HHS has set up a system to "turn off" benefits for anyone who is found to be ineligible. Julie...

Budget relies on nearly $1B in piecemeal funding

Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration have patched their way through another budget year, assembling a $24.6 billion budget that relies on nearly $1 billion in piecemeal financing. The Associated Press reports that spending increases for health care services, public colleges and other favored programs muffled most criticism for the 2014-15 spending plan, which covers the fiscal year that begins July 1. But with the continued use of money from loan repayments, trust funds and pharmaceutical settlements that are one-time financing sources, the governor and lawmakers gave themselves a headache for next year. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office says $991 million used in next year's budget won't be available the following year. That means when lawmakers return for their 2015 legislative session, they'll start off in a hole, trying to scrape together dollars to fill gaps.

Jindal among six Republican governors asking Obama to improve VA health system

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and five fellow Republican governors ask the president to address problems with the Veterans Health Administration by giving states some control over the review of VA facilities and treatment of veterans if the VA cannot do so in a timely manner. The letter—signed by Jindal, Texas' Rick Perry, Florida's Rick Scott, Kansas' Sam Brownback, Maine's Paul LePage and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett—says: "While we believe that your decision to accept the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki was appropriate, this change is only the beginning of many needed reforms to protect and care for our nation's veterans." The letter goes on to list the number of veterans in each of the governors' states (Louisiana has 315,000, it says), and concludes with a request for three reforms "as a start to addressing the monumental problems at the VA." The governors ask Obama to allow states to partner with his administration and...

Jindal blasts Obama administration for Bergdahl release deal

In a new guest editorial appearing on the Fox News website today, Gov. Bobby Jindal says the deal the Obama administration recently made to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—by which five high-ranking Taliban prisoners will be released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—could "generate disastrous consequences for our soldiers, our diplomats, and any American who travels abroad." While Jindal says he is "personally gratified" with the release of Bergdahl—who had been held by insurgents in Afghanistan for the past five years—he says the deal made to secure his freedom is "a major departure from American policy" that the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists. "The president may have swapped much more than meets the eye here. To gain the release of one soldier, he may have agreed to the release of five terrorists who will kill again," Jindal writes. "The president has swapped the intimidating certainty of 'we do not negotiate with...

Lawmakers wrapping up work on the regular session

Louisiana lawmakers worked out financial compromises in the final hours of their three-month session today, agreeing on an overstuffed construction budget and filling gaps in this year's spending plan. The Associated Press reports next year's multibillion-dollar construction budget contains $388 million more in projects than the state has dollars to spend, leaving the governor to pick which projects advance. The state's current year budget was also rebalanced to fill $75 million in gaps in the TOPS college tuition program, the public school funding formula and payments to parish sheriffs for housing state prisoners in local jails. In a final compromise, nearly $3 million was added to spend on local councils on aging around the state. The Legislature must finish work by 6 p.m. today. Lawmakers completed a $24.6 billion state operating budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 several days earlier, when the House adopted the Senate's version of the spending plans. Many of the...

Capitol Views: Divisions mark Baton Rouge delegation at session's end

Local issues that bubbled up to the surface to reveal themselves on the statewide level this session left the Baton Rouge area delegation at times disjointed and its members pitted against each other. Battles erupted over the racial makeup of City Court, the petition drive to incorporate a new city of St. George, governance of the local school system and traffic priorities. Rep. Steve Carter, chairman of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation, says many of those very public policy rows could have been avoided. "Our city needs to pull together and plan before we come to the Legislature," says Carter, R-Baton Rouge. "We didn't seem to communicate as well as we should have on these issues." Carter said he's already concerned the delegation is repeating the same mistake with HR 123 By Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge. It asks the House Education Committee to study the school-related bills introduced this year involving large cities like Baton Rouge, with recommendations due before...

House gives final passage to $24.6 billion state budget

The Louisiana House gave final passage today to a $24.6 billion budget to finance state government operations next year, agreeing to the version written by the Senate. The Associated Press reports a 75-22 vote sent the spending plan to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who can strip individual items he doesn't like with his line-item veto. But lawmakers gave the Republican governor most of what he sought in his original budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill includes increases for services to help the disabled, higher education and public schools. Rank-and-file state workers will get a pay raise, though they also face increases in their health care costs. State troopers will get higher salaries. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, says the budget proposal is an improvement over previous years when colleges and health care services faced steep cuts. "It's not perfect. I think it's the best one that I've had in the last three years. I ask your...

La. lawmakers revive equal pay discussion as session nears end

While it was widely thought lawmakers had ended discussion on Louisiana's gender pay gap—according to the U.S. Census Bureau, women in the state make 67 cents for every $1 men make—they passed a measure today that specifies intentional pay discrimination based on sex is illegal under current law. The move came as the session is set to close on Monday and after rejecting more sweeping measures to protect women from being paid less than men for the same work. The Associated Press reports senators voted 28-10 to pass the measure by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, that originally dealt with limiting penalties for failure to pay wages. The measure was amended Thursday by the House to add that intentional pay discrimination is unlawful under state and federal law. Critics say the amendment hurts the fight to end gender pay discrimination by requiring intent to be proven. But...

LaPolitics: Energy execs insist settlements unlikely

With the legacy lawsuit bill having passed, and the bill to kill the Orleans-area flood protection authority's suit against 97 energy companies advanced by the House Thursday evening, the oil and gas industry is close to achieving its goals for this session. The exception is legislation targeting the claims filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes against energy firms, which the industry backed off from after meeting strong resistance from legislators. Yet energy companies dispelled any notion that they are ready to negotiate with the two parishes to settle the 28 suits the parishes have filed against 259 energy firms. "It's wishful thinking and a waste of time," says Mike Moncla of Moncla Marine in Lafayette. Following a recent news conference organized by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and LABI, Moncla told LaPolitics that one of the unique challenges of reaching a settlement involves the mix of independent energy companies with the majors. He says while a large...

Capitol Views: St. George bill overloaded, then yanked

The House had to take a step back today from a bill that would force the organizers of the city of St. George incorporation drive to gain enough signatures by a July 23 deadline in order to get the initiative before voters on the Nov. 4 ballot, or wait until 2016. The intent of SB 674 is to set a moratorium on incorporation elections until January 2016, in order to allow a committee to study possible changes in the current law and come up with recommendations for the 2015 legislative session. But the author, Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, has had to create special exemptions, like the one for the proposed city of St. George, as well as complete opt-outs for several parishes around the state. When the legislation came up in floor debate today, the legislator handling the bill, Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, was bombarded with additional amendments for opt-outs from East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and Iberville...

St. George proponents see failure of EBR schools bill as opportunity to up public support

With the Louisiana House of Representatives dealing a fatal blow Wednesday to a bill that would have overhauled management of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, organizers of the ongoing effort to incorporate a new city of St. George say they now have an opportunity to grow their support among members of the local business community, who, until now, have stayed on the sidelines in the incorporation debate. "We think it gives us leverage," says Lionel Rainey III, a spokesman for the St. George movement. "There are a lot of business leaders who got behind this bill, and now they see the resistance you face when you try to go through the Legislature and make any sort of positive change." The House voted 60-31 against Senate Bill 636 by Sen. Bodi White, R-Central. St. George supporters, whose movement is driven by the need to create a better public education system, say the failed bill would have been a step in the right direction that—while it would not have derailed their...

Council approves pet registration fee increase, despite resistance from veterinarians

Although the Baton Rouge Area Veterinary Medical Association voiced opposition to collecting the approximately 43% increase in city-parish pet registration fees, the Metro Council voted to approve the fee increase for the Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge at its meeting Wednesday. Wendy Day, president of the veterinarians association, requested a deferral on the fee increase, expressing the association's wishes to have a third party or an online service to collect the fee increase so that clients don't assume the veterinarians have increased the fees. But the city-parish Finance Department countered that an alternate method of collecting the fee increase would create budgetary problems. The council ultimately approved the increase, which raises the registration fee for spayed and neutered animals from $7 to $10 and the fee for those not spayed or neutered from $14 to $20. The...

Jindal administration aims to deliver money-saving recommendations to lawmakers Friday

Gov. Bobby Jindal's top budget adviser says she hopes to give lawmakers a copy of the final money-saving recommendations from consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal by Friday. The Associated Press reports Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols provided an update to the House and Governmental Committee today about the work done by the consulting firm, which was hired by the Jindal administration in December. The firm has a $5 million contract. Bill Roberti, with Alvarez & Marsal, says the draft final report has 72 recommendations that exceed the target of $500 million in savings ideas, though many of those are long-term proposals that could take several years to reach the full savings expectation. The 2014-15 budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, which is nearing final passage, assumes more than $70 million in savings will be reached from the consultant's plan. The company was hired to look at ways to make state government programs more efficient without cutting...