Content tagged “Politics”

Holcomb interested in becoming planning director

Interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb says he would "definitely" be interested in taking over the position on a full-time basis, as Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe is calling for, but adds he hasn't discussed the possibility with anyone yet. Loupe sent an email to his fellow council members on Wednesday recommending that the national search for the city-parish's next planning director—which has been ongoing since November—be ended and Holcomb be given the job. The ongoing search, which has lasted nearly five months, has seen its first choice for the position turn down the offer and one of its other top finalists withdraw her name, leaving only three finalists for consideration. Although Loupe is hoping to end the complicated search, Metro Councilwoman and Planning...

Metro Council to consider annexation of Celtic, Costco and SAIF next week

After months of dealing with paperwork and red tape, Celtic Studios will appear before the Metro Council next week to formally request to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge. The studio, which sits partially in the city and partially in an unincorporated portion of East Baton Rouge Parish, submitted its request this week to the council to be legally annexed into the city. The item has been placed on the agenda for Wednesday's Metro Council meeting. Also requesting annexation within the same petition are two businesses adjacent to Celtic—Costco, which is scheduled to open its new $12 million, 148,000-square-foot superstore on Friday next week—and SAIF Credit Union. City law requires that properties adjacent to a property petitioning for annexation be on board with the request. Law also requires that properties requesting annexation be located adjacent to the city limits. Annexation has become a hot-button issue since efforts began last year to incorporate parts of...

Capitol Views: Union busting bill targets picketing

Following the lead of lawmakers in Michigan, Mississippi and elsewhere, state Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, is pushing legislation that would establish new rules and penalties for "mass picketing." In other states, unions are arguing that it's a clear attack on their rights to strike and protest. "I got the idea from the U.S. Chamber," Peacock tells LaPolitics. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with local chambers in other states to push the concept, suggesting picketing can hurt companies if not controlled properly. Peacock's SB 551 would prohibit picketing if it prevents a person from pursuing employment opportunities; interferes with business entrances or roadways; or takes place on private property without permission. LaPolitics has more on the proposed penalties and the bill's committee assignment.

Jindal to deliver commencement address at Liberty University next month

Gov. Bobby Jindal will be in Lynchburg, Va., on May 10 to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University, which was founded by Jerry Falwell and is the nation's largest private, nonprofit university—as well as the largest Christian university in the world. "Many believe he could hold the highest office in the land someday," says Jerry Falwell Jr., the university's president, in a prepared release. "I believe he will be an inspiration to our graduates, not only because of his life's story, but because he shares many of the conservative and Christian values that Liberty University graduates hold dear." The Washington Examiner reports that another possible Republican presidential hopeful and tea party favorite, Ted Cruz of Texas, spoke at Liberty earlier this year. "An appearance at Liberty University has become a familiar stop along the early presidential campaign trail, similar to states like Iowa and New Hampshire where voters and party activists get the first...

Panamanian ambassador visits LSU, seeks stronger ties with business, agriculture

Mario Jaramillo, Panamanian ambassador to the United States, says his country's relationship with Louisiana could be key to economic and educational development in the Central American country. The LSU AgCenter says Jaramillo visited LSU on Tuesday to discuss higher education with administrators and Panamanian students. A 1969 graduate of LSU in business management, Jaramillo says increased cooperation with universities like LSU would help equip more Panamanians with internationally competitive skill sets as well as an understanding of how other countries do business. Panama has undergone many changes in recent decades, Jaramillo says, which has placed new demands on the workforce. "We are not only a country that has economic growth—we're also the highest in middle-class growth," he says. Still, he says, Panama needs to improve in two areas: business ethics and education, particularly in the English language. With more international companies moving into the area, Panama must...

Publisher: McAllister making La. a national punchline

In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister notes that the political class in Washington, D.C., had scarcely finished having a good laugh about Louisiana's ex-con, ex-governor running for Congress at 86—with a 36-year-old wife and newborn baby in tow—when out pops another knee-slapper: Vance McAllister, the "kissing Congressman." "Just what we need," McCollister writes. "While we all pray for the day when Louisiana can stop making negative headlines, politicians like Congressman Bill Jefferson, Mayor Ray Nagin, Gov. Edwin Edwards, Sen. David Vitter and now McAllister make for pretty embarrassing reading, and the nation eats it up. Don't you hate being the butt of national jokes?" McCollister predicts the scandal will spell the end of McAllister's already-short political career, if not by his own resignation—which he has thus far resisted, despite the state Republican Party and Gov. Bobby Jindal calling for him to step down—then by...

Capitol Views: Panel supports bill to shrink EBR school board

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board would go from 11 members to seven under a bill approved by a legislative committee today, despite strong objections from two Baton Rouge lawmakers. HB 1178 by Rep. Dalton Honoré, D-Baton Rouge, would direct the school board to reapportion itself in time for the fall elections, creating six single-member districts and one at-large representative. "A smaller school board would be more efficient for East Baton Rouge," Honoré said, noting that the board had 12 members before Zachary, Baker and Central formed their own boards. He estimated cost savings of $100,000 per year. He was supported by Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC, who cited national studies that put the ideal school board size at between five and nine members. "A good size is seven," he said. "It is best practices … it leads to better decisions." The House & Governmental Affairs Committee—which has no members from Baton Rouge—voted 6-2 for the bill, with all yea...

Jindal weighs in on New Hampshire Supreme Court case

"Is government the servant of the people, or the master of them?" That's the question Gov. Bobby Jindal asks in a new guest column penned for the New Hampshire Union Leader, a daily newspaper in Manchester. "That's at the heart of the case the New Hampshire Supreme Court will be considering today, regarding the Granite State's school tax credit program," Jindal writes. "For as important as the court's ultimate verdict will be in deciding the fate of school choice in New Hampshire, it might say even more about the relationship between citizens and their government." Jindal says in the column that the case involves a program of tax credits for businesses that provide scholarships—similar to programs enacted in Louisiana. Read the full column.

'Business Report': Heated Senate race illustrates divides in Louisiana Republican Party

Louisiana was among the last of the Deep South states to turn deep red, "but when it happened, it happened quickly," writes David Jacobs in the new Business Report cover story. David Vitter, then a congressman from Metairie, became Louisiana's first Republican U.S. senator since Reconstruction in 2004. With help from Democratic defections, his party took over the state House of Representatives in 2010 and the state Senate in 2011, both for the first time since (you guessed it) Reconstruction. Today, the party holds every statewide elected office but one. "Back when the Republican caucus could meet in a phone booth, sticking together was pretty much mandatory. But when any party gets bigger, factions develop, and the Louisiana GOP is no exception," Jacobs writes. "This year, a Republican Baton Rouge doctor takes on a Democratic political legacy in a U.S. Senate campaign that could end up being the No. 1 national political news story for weeks." The Democrats are unified behind...

Capitol Views: Bill to reduce government contracts by 10% lives to die another day

In what could be a modern-day record in legislative futility, a contract reduction bill championed by Treasurer John Kennedy was approved by the House Appropriations Committee today for the fifth year in a row. If history repeats itself, HB 142 by Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux, will pass the House but die in the Senate Finance Committee. But today was Richard's and Kennedy's opportunity to explain their plan to require all departments and agencies to reduce their contracts by 10%, with the savings—estimated at from $300 million to $500 million annually—to be dedicated to higher education. Opposing the bill, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols explained that the administration had gone from 6,300 contracts in fiscal year 2008 to 2,400 as of March 25, at a savings of $1 billion. "We're already doing the work the treasurer said we ought to be doing," she told the committee. "The administration saved $1 billion?" asked an incredulous Richard. "Where did that...

La. Senate backs ban on drones in certain locations

Louisiana Senators have agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in the state. The Associated Press reports the 35-1 vote on Monday by the Senate now sends the proposal by Republican Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, of Baton Rouge, to the House for consideration. White's bill includes exemptions for government officials and property owners. Violating the ban would carry a prison sentence of up to six months on a first offense and of up to one year on subsequent offenses, along with hefty fines. Meanwhile, a proposal by Republican Sen. Dan Claitor, also of Baton Rouge, scheduled for a Senate committee hearing, would criminalize the use of drones to photograph people on private property without their permission, with exceptions.

Don't quit, Vance McAllister

Disgraced Congressman Vance McAllister is learning painfully that being an outsider can work well in politics, but that being a pariah does not so much. The political establishment is coming down hard on him after the video of his long embrace with a female staffer was leaked to the world last week.

Maginnis: Don't quit, Vance McAllister

In a flash, Congressman Vance McAllister has gone from being "the meteoric rising star of state politics" to having the Republican leadership—who never trusted his unorthodoxy—unable to get rid of him fast enough, says John Maginnis in his latest column. But while Gov. Bobby Jindal and Republican Party state chairman Roger Villere have publicly called on McAllister to resign, Maginnis is urging him to stay on the job. "Do your duty, go back to work, cast your votes, serve your people. They do not deserve to have a second representative quit on them in one term," Maginnis writes. "What he did is shameful, but he did not break the law or violate his oath of office. Clearly, he misrepresented to voters his family and religious values, but, in so doing, he is not alone in the House chamber, which could not get a quorum if only the virtuous answered roll." As for Jindal, Villere and others who are calling on McAllister to resign, Maginnis says none of them have "offered a...

Diversifying the party

Jeffery Corey is a black Republican. And no, he doesn't think there's anything weird about that.

Conservative indiscretions

At midmonth, Republican leaders were scrambling to figure out what to do about Vance McAllister, Republican representative from Louisiana's 5th Congressional District. He was caught on his own security cameras in a passionate embrace with an aide who is not his wife, and the video footage went viral. McAllister is married with five children.

Louisiana politics back in headlines

The political class in Washington had scarcely finished having a good laugh about Louisiana's ex-con ex-governor running for Congress at 86 with a 36-year-old wife and newborn baby in tow when out pops another knee-slapper—Vance McAllister, the "kissing Congressman." Just what we need.

A legals war

In a legislative session dominated by debates over the hot-button issue of Common Core, a series of bills that would change state law to allow The New Orleans Advocate to compete for government classified ads in Orleans and Jefferson parishes hasn't made big news. But then, newspapers often shy away from calling attention to themselves.

Poverty Point mired in Middle-East politics

For summer vacation two years ago, Jackie and I determined to travel to somewhere exotic and faraway, where none of our friends had gone before us.

The state of the GOP

Louisiana was among the last Deep South states to turn deep red, but when it happened, it happened quickly.

Public gets its turn to discuss La. budget

The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day today at the Capitol, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1. Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, warned that while the state's financial picture appears to be improving, finding money for programs remains difficult. "We're still struggling. We're not over the hump yet," he told those who packed into the crowded committee room. The Associated Press reports supporters of rural hospitals praised Jindal's budget, while representatives of other community hospitals expressed concerns the governor's spending plans would cut their Medicaid funding. The Jindal administration has described changes in payments to hospitals for emergency room care as efficiencies identified by an outside consultant. But the Louisiana Hospital Association says the rate changes amount to about $6 million in cuts.

Funding unlikely this session for renovation of state building on Capitol Grounds

Plans are moving forward to develop a new state office building on the site of the former Department of Insurance building on the Capitol Grounds. But Senate President John Alario, D-Westwego, says funding for the project will likely not be included in this year's construction budget, which is a part of House Bill 2. "We don't think there will be anything this year," he says. "If there is, it will be in priority 5, which means it will be so far down the list it won't get anything." Baton Rouge-based Coleman and Partners Architects is designing the new building, which will be used to house the Legislative Auditor's offices and could cost more than $50 million, according to sources familiar with the project. Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera met last month with architects to discuss his agency's needs and possible design elements for the building. More than 220 of the auditor's 300 employees currently work in three different offices throughout Baton Rouge. "It's not a good situation,"...

Capitol Views: Debate begins on controversial bills

At the start of the sixth week of the legislative session, lawmakers today began wading into more controversial bills on the House and Senate calendars. The Jindal administration's assault on the massive coastal damages lawsuit filed by the Orleans area flood protection authority takes a new tack in SB 553 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton. To be applied retroactively, the bill would allow anyone to challenge the legality of a suit by a governmental body if the contract with its attorneys fails to disclose certain information. Adley contends that the authority's contingency-fee contract with its law firm was discussed in executive session and the board did not disclose a "poison pill" provision when it sought approval from the attorney general for the agreement. The provision would require the board to pay the firm's legal expenses if the suit was terminated by the board or the Legislature. In committee, lawyers for the board argued that the retroactivity clause would make the bill...

Recent history suggests odds are against McAllister surviving scandal

Despite calls from the Louisiana Republican Party and Gov. Bobby Jindal for him to resign his seat, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister has thus far pledged to remain in office following the release this week of a video showing him kissing a female staffer who is not his wife. But as The Washington Post reports, McAllister's odds of holding onto the seat that he won less than six months ago are "not great," according to its analysis of 38 similar scandals since 1974. "Just 39% of officeholders won reelection after coming under scrutiny for sexual harassment, affairs or prostitution, while the rest chose not to run, resigned or lost," the newspaper reports. "With 2012 reelection rates at 82% for House members and 81% for senators (with retirements included), suffering a public personal scandal cuts an officeholder's reelection chances in half. In all, politicians hang onto their jobs for a median of two years following significant reports of a personal scandal." Still worse for...

LaPolitics: Freshman lawmaker from BR to run for judge

Add one more legislator to the growing list of those planning to run for another office this fall. Freshman Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, tells LaPolitics he will challenge District Judge Trudy White this November. "She's my friend and a member of my church, but she can't win," says Williams. According to him, the judge already is being challenged by attorney Gideon Carter III. In 2012, Carter, a Democrat, finished ahead of her when they both challenged Court of Appeal Judge Mike McDonald, who ran first in the primary and then beat Carter in the runoff. White switched to Republican to run against McDonald, also a Republican. Then White switched back to Democrat for her re-election race this fall. White, Williams and Carter are all African-American. White serves in a minority subdistrict in East Baton Rouge Parish. "It's less about her and more about her opponent," says Williams. "He's a different kind of guy." Carter did not return a call for comment. As with other...

Capitol Views: 'Advocate,' 'Times-Pic' clash over public notices

In the latest chapter of Louisiana's great newspaper war, lobbyists and representatives for The Times-Picayune and The Advocate squared off at the Capitol this afternoon over the right to bid on public notices in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Up for grabs are six-figure contracts to publish official proceedings, legal notices and public advertisements. When the Picayune decreased its seven-day circulation to three days in 2012, the Legislature passed a law allowing the paper to continue bidding on public notices despite daily circulation requirements. Afterward, The Advocate expanded its operations to include a New Orleans daily edition to fill the void. Now The New Orleans Advocate wants to bid on the same legal advertisements as the Picayune in Orleans and Jefferson, even though it hasn't been in New Orleans for the required five-year waiting period. HB 787 by Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers, would pave the way for The New Orleans...

Louisiana GOP calls on McAllister to resign over scandal

Led by chairman Roger Villere, the Louisiana Republican Party today called on one of its own—Rep. Vance McAllister—to resign his office amid a scandal that emerged Monday surrounding his being caught on video kissing a female aide who is not his wife. So far, however, The Associated Press reports, the 40-year-old freshman congressman is rejecting the calls for him to immediately give up his seat. "Mr. McAllister's extreme hypocrisy is an example of why ordinary people are fed up with politics. A breach of trust of this magnitude can only be rectified by an immediate resignation," Villere says in a press release issued today. "He has embarrassed our party, our state and the institution of Congress." Pressure has mounted on McAllister, a married father of five, since the Monday disclosure of video footage from his district headquarters. The congressman, a conservative who highlights his Christian faith and family devotion, has found few defenders among the Republican...

McAllister aide among few with access to leaked tape at heart of scandal

A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance, The Associated Press reports. Pressure has mounted on Republican Vance McAllister since the Monday disclosure of grainy video footage from his district headquarters. McAllister, a conservative who highlighted his Christian faith and family devotion while running for office, has found few defenders among the Republican establishment he beat to win the job in a surprise special election result last year. A written statement from McAllister's office Wednesday offered no answers to questions about his political future or private life that have arisen since a weekly newspaper, The Ouachita Citizen, released videotape of him kissing a woman identified as Melissa Peacock. Peacock resigned Monday from the congressional payroll. McAllister backers, meanwhile, say they expect the congressman to fight...

Metro Council moving fast on Rouzan re-application for TND status

The Metro Council is moving fast to help Rouzan, developer Tommy Spinosa's subdivision located off Perkins Road, have its status as a traditional neighborhood development restored. In late February, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the development's zoning designation as a TND was invalid because Spinosa did not have ownership and control over all of the property within the boundaries of the TND—including a servitude—when it was it was zoned as such in 2008. Last month—at the request of the Metro Council—the city-parish Planning Commission amended the city's zoning code to remove the provision about ownership and control that proved troublesome for Rouzan. The Metro Council Zoning Committee will vote on that measure later this month. In the meantime, at its meeting tonight, the council will introduce a separate but related measure to allow Spinosa to reapply for TND zoning under the amended zoning code—even though the council has yet to...

La. committee supports removing unconstitutional anti-sodomy law

A House committee narrowly agreed today to advance Baton Rouge Rep. Patricia Smith's bill that would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex. The Associated Press reports the criminal justice committee voted 9-6 for the measure over the objections of conservative and religious groups. Smith said the bill was about fairness. It would remove consensual sex between people of the same gender from the definition of crimes against nature. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2003. Opponents argued Smith's bill would harm public safety, lead to more sexual assault and increase sexually transmitted diseases. The next stop for Smith's proposal is the House floor. In February, the Baton Rouge Metro Council stepped into the controversy surrounding the bill, when it voted 7-3 to reject a non-binding resolution in...

Capitol Views: Education panel backs bill to make superintendent an elected office

In what was widely viewed as a slap at Superintendent John White, the House Education Committee today approved a proposed constitutional amendment to make the top education official's job an elected office. With most Democrats voting yea and Republicans voting nay, the 9-7 vote sends HB 125 to the House floor, where it will need a two-thirds majority. The author, Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, said that the current superintendent was officially hired by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education but was effectively chosen by Gov. Bobby Jindal. "They didn't even take applications," he said. "They [voters] need to have a voice." The bill was opposed by the Jindal administration, BESE Chairman Chas Roemer and Council for a Better Louisiana Vice President for Public Policy Stephanie Desselle. She warned that having an elected superintendent and an elected board could be unworkable. "Who would answer to whom?" she asked. The same proposed constitutional amendment was offered...

Court rules La. must report school voucher data

The Department of Justice has prevailed—at least in part—in a long-running and politically charged battle with Louisiana over the state's private school voucher program, Politico reports. Starting this fall, Louisiana must provide the agency with timely information about the racial background of participating students each year so the Justice Department can monitor the program's effect on school segregation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday night. The department could use that information to try to challenge some voucher awards. "We welcome the court's order, as it rejects the state's bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana's voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts," was Attorney General Eric Holder's response to the ruling. "This ruling ought to resolve, once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state's refusal to provide data." Gov. Bobby Jindal—who has been strenuously resisting the Obama...

Capitol Views: $55 million hole in current education budget

The K-12 budget for the current year is $55 million short, according to what Education Superintendent John White today told an impatient House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro. The gap comes from a $35 million increase in enrollment growth and a $20 million "cash flow issue," which White did not further explain. The Legislature will have to fill the hole in the spending plan that runs through June 30. Pressed by the chairman, White estimated that the department will need $50 million more for the coming fiscal year than what the governor has requested in the budget under consideration. White also told the committee that in the coming year, the Recovery School District, created in 2004-2005 to administer underperforming schools, will get out of the business of directly running schools when it turns the last of them over to nonprofit charter school boards.

Poverty Point mired in Mideast politics

For summer vacation two years ago, Jackie and I determined to travel to somewhere exotic and faraway, where none of our friends had gone before us. So we struck out for northeast Louisiana, deep into the wilds of West Carroll Parish, and arrived at Poverty Point. At the interpretive center, we got the lay of the land of the vast network of earthen mounds and ridges built by inhabitants 3,500 years ago. It is considered the most complex if not oldest remains of a settlement of native peoples in this country.

Maginnis: Poverty Point mired in Mideast politics

Located in northeastern Louisiana's West Carroll Parish, Poverty Point—the vast network of earthen mounds and ridges built by inhabitants 3,500 years ago—is considered the most complex, if not oldest, remains of a settlement of native peoples in this country. And as John Maginnis notes in his latest column, the historical site has been nominated to be included on the list of World Heritage Sites, alongside the likes of more famous sites such as the Acropolis and the Great Wall of China. "There are only 21 recognized sites in the United States, ranging from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty. The nomination will be voted on in June at a committee meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Convention in Doha, Qatar. Recognition would attract hordes of tourists, who would have one more stop added to their bucket lists," Maginnis writes. "There's just one little problem. The United States has not paid its UNESCO dues...

Capitol Views: Spared more cuts, colleges seek stability

Different from past visits to the House Appropriations Committee, public university leaders did not plead for more funding today but, rather, asked for stability in future budgets. This year's executive budget, for the first time in years, allows schools to keep the $87 million in tuition increases instead of deducting that amount in state support. It also sets up a $40 million Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy fund, or the WISE plan, to incentivize colleges to ramp up engineering and science graduates. Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, asked about the effect on the WISE plan if overall college funding is reduced next year. University of Louisiana president Sandra Woodley said the schools look to maintain their $40 million base for the program, but would have to make other adjustments, including less aggressive recruiting efforts. "We would not be able to make progress," she said.

Survey: Majority of Louisianans' health coverage unchanged by ACA

The results of a new survey conducted with 600 Louisianans on behalf of local businessman Lane Grigsby show that the majority of residents have not seen their health insurance changed by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. On Obamacare, 72.5% of respondents said they "have the same health insurance I had before the law and nothing has changed with my health insurance coverage." Just shy of 26% of respondents say that statement does not apply to them, indicating their coverage has changed since the law was passed; 1.7% were undecided. Meanwhile, 43.3% of respondents say their health insurance deductibles and out of pocket medical expenses have increased since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, 9.3% of respondents say they had health insurance before the law, but that now their health insurance is more affordable. And 5.2% of respondents say that Obamacare allowed them to get health insurance, whereas they were unable to attain coverage before the...

Jindal, Jeb Bush join forces in new ad

Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appear in a commercial that will air Sunday to promote NewRepublican.org, a project focused on outlining a positive GOP agenda for the future, Politico reports. The ad, from two potential 2016 presidential candidates, is in support of a super PAC that is the brainchild of Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. "If you believe that every parent ought to be able to choose their child's school, and that the economy should be driven from the bottom up, not the top down from Washington, then you're thinking like a New Republican," Bush says to the camera at the start of the 30-second spot, shared first with Politico. "If you don't think the Republican Party should be the party of big government, big business or big anything, you're thinking like a New Republican," adds Jindal. Castellanos created the group last year after the party's losses in 2012, when he felt there was too much focus on attacking Barack Obama without a...

'225': Meet the strong personalities driving the St. George debate

​For some, the effort to incorporate the city of St. George offers a glimmer of hope for a brighter educational future for their children. For others, the concept of a separate city with its own governing bodies and school system feels like a threat. Lost in the confusion of statistics and angry quotes is the average resident's ability to understand how and why these factions arrived at this point, and on such hostile terms. "The flame of conviction that drives these civic leaders to keep pushing toward their goals can get lost in the smoke," 225 contributing writer Christie Matherne Hall writes in a story from the April issue. In her article, Matherne Hall looks at the personalities and purposes of six locals in various stages of being for or against the city of St. George. One who is in favor of St. George is Joshua Hoffpauir, who works for the committee behind the cause and is an an architect by trade. The 37-year-old Crowley native would love to send his kids to the...

LaPolitics: Push underway to give Cassidy GOP endorsement

With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy. The war is currently being fought on the page, with the first missive coming from Dr. Tommy French of Baton Rouge, who's asking his colleagues on the Republican State Central Committee to sign a petition. Sources tell LaPolitics he has captains in each region of the state collecting signatures in an effort to get the executive committee to vote on the matter. In response, state Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington penned his own letter recently to RSCC members and Republican elected officials. "There are those who are trying to 'clear the field' for their preferred candidate by putting pressure on elected officials and party activists," he writes. "I sincerely believe this is a serious mistake." Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, also jockeying for...

Delgado issues apology over 'Taliban' remarks, but only to military veterans

Metro Councilman John Delgado issued a formal apology this afternoon to any military veterans who were offended by his likening of those who support the city of St. George incorporation effort to terrorists—but he says organizers of the St. George effort shouldn't hold their breath for the same. "Not a chance," Delgado tells Daily Report. "They owe the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish an apology." Organizers of the St. George effort demanded an apology from Delgado on Wednesday after he posted a Facebook message that likened their efforts to terrorism. He was later quoted by local media as calling the organizers the "Baton Rouge Taliban." "I regret that my choice of words has become an issue and distracted us from the real debate. It was not my intention to offend anyone. I believe that the creation of the City of St. George would be catastrophic to East Baton Rouge Parish, and I'm very passionate about preventing that from happening," says Delgado in a prepared...

Louisiana Survey shows wide racial, political divide on Obamacare

Roughly 3 in 5 Louisiana residents who participated in the LSU Public Policy Research Lab's recent Louisiana Survey say they have an unfavorable view of the controversial Affordable Care Act. The survey results, released today, show 31% of residents have a favorable view of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, while 11% say they are unsure how they feel about it. But when broken down by race, the survey results show black respondents are much more likely to have a favorable view of the ACA, while white respondents are much more likely to dislike it. The research lab says 57% of blacks say they have a favorable view of Obamacare, compared to just 19% of whites. The racial divide in Louisianans' feelings about the ACA is about as wide as the political divide, the results suggest. While 54% of Democrats say they have a favorable view of Obamacare, just 10% of Republicans and 21% of independents feel the same. Overall, only 12% of Louisiana residents feel their family is "better off" under...

Capitol Views: Bill to lessen marijuana penalties pulled back

A bill to lessen the penalties for marijuana possession was pulled back in committee today by the author, after the head of the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association testified against it. HB 14 would decrease the maximum prison sentence for a second offense from five years to two; and for a third offense from 20 years to five. "I wish I could go further," said Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, the bill's sponsor. Opposing the bill was LSA Executive Director Mike Ranatza, who said, "Possession of marijuana leads to other offenses." Badon complained that the sheriffs reneged on their word after telling him they would not oppose his bill. "I think that was totally unprofessional and unethical," he said, before asking to have his bill voluntarily deferred, which means he could still bring it up again.

Two Cents: Councilman Delgado owes St. George backers an apology

Councilman John Delgado has forgotten the first rule of holes: When you find yourself in one, stop digging. The councilman, who represents my district, crossed the line today by slandering St. George organizers and supporters, calling them the "Baton Rouge Taliban." No matter how heartfelt his position on St. George incorporation, irresponsible name-calling is not the way grown-ups handle disputes. He should be embarrassed but has thus far shown zero remorse and only throws more oil on the fire with each Facebook post and each response to reporters. If you are unfamiliar with this latest incident, The Advocate reported today on a Facebook exchange between councilmen Ryan Heck and Delgado. Heck credited the St. George effort as providing impetus to finally address some pressing issues regarding public education in the parish. Then Delgado posted a reference to Al Qaeda and said, "I don't thank people that try to destroy our community. I condemn them for the terrorists that they...

Capitol Views: House panel hears bill to replace Common Core

After long public discussion of the pros and cons of Common Core, the House Education Committee spent today hearing a bill to set up a commission to develop the state's own standards and assessments. HB 381 by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, drew impassioned testimony from backers of the bill and defenders of Common Core. Working with the governor's office, Geymann drew up an amendment that would maintain Common Core standards for the current school year while a new commission considers if alternative standards should be developed and how. The amendment would give final approval of any new standards to BESE, leaving the Legislature with an advisory role. House Education Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, organized the testimony to allot equal time to the authors and school superintendents who support the bill and to members of BESE and representatives of public interest groups and the business community who oppose it. Still to come today are parents and citizens on both sides.

Corporate lobbyists assailing tax overhaul they once cheered

Just two days after he proposed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax code, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., traveled to Park City, Utah, for a glittering fundraiser attended by lobbyists from some of the nation's largest corporations, all with enormous stakes in the tax battle to come. As The New York Times reports, the event was intended to honor Camp—chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—whose 979-page tax plan would cut the overall corporate tax rate by creating a new bank tax and a surtax on the very wealthy, among many other changes. "But this gathering ended up serving a decidedly different purpose: the unofficial kickoff of a push to make sure that Mr. Camp's tax plan dies, a campaign that is highly likely to succeed, particularly now that Mr. Camp himself essentially conceded defeat, announcing this week he will not seek re-election this year," reads The Times' story. "The twist reflects how lobbying in Washington—and the millions of...

Jindal releases alternative plan for Affordable Care Act

The morning after President Obama declared that the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay," Gov. Bobby Jindal is calling for its repeal and has released a formal alternative plan for the Republican party. The release of the plan by Jindal came just hours after Obama announced that, as of midnight Tuesday, 7.1 million Americans had enrolled in private health insurance plans under the act, slightly exceeding the administration's original goal despite initial, disastrous problems with the Healthcare.gov website. But Jindal calls the law "unpopular, unworkable, and misguided" in a report released this morning by America Next, a conservative nonprofit policy group he founded last year. Jindal was to further discuss his proposal this morning at a breakfast with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that the law cannot be fully repealed," Jindal says in the report. "I couldn't disagree more. A country that won two world wars and...

Budget chairman: Jindal health care budget shaky

Lawmakers on the House budget committee today criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2014-15 health care spending plan, saying it uses $680 million in piecemeal financing that could jeopardize services in later years. As The Associated Press reports, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin pointed to the Jindal administration's draining of an elderly trust fund to plug budget holes and using money from a tax amnesty program to fill gaps in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Similar amounts won't be available a year later from those sources, which the Republican governor used in his spending plans for the Department of Health and Hospitals. Fannin, R-Jonesboro, questioned how that money would be replaced and if services would be kept intact. "We're digging the hole deeper and deeper," said Fannin, R-Jonesboro. "My calculator's adding up a lot of challenges for you." "I agree," said Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert. Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said the hole looks...

Capitol Views: Business wins first round on jury threshold bill

A divided legislative committee today gave the business community an initial victory in its drive to lower the threshold for demanding a jury trial. By one vote, the House Civil Law Committee advanced HB 917 by Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, to lower the state's threshold from $50,000 to zero. Currently, Louisiana has the highest threshold in the nation, while 36 states don't have one. The bill is supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal and is a key measure in LABI's renewed push for tort reform. The author stated that removing the threshold would improve Louisiana's legal climate. But, based on other states' experiences, it would not significantly increase the number of jury trials. Democrats on the committee challenged that assertion by citing the state's improved ranking as a place to do business. LABI President Stephen Waguespack said an improved legal climate would help to change Louisiana's boom-and-bust economic cycles to one of sustained growth. On a motion to defer the bill, six...

Fast times in Washington, La.

Louisiana legislators are railing against Washington, but it's neither Congress nor the president that's drawing their ire. Rather, it is the town in St. Landry Parish by that name that is fast becoming known as the speed trap capital of Louisiana. Legislation has been filed to recognize it and about a dozen other municipalities whose governments are largely supported by traffic fines. HB 961 would mandate the placement of large signs, with blinking lights preferably, warning motorists of the fate that awaits them just up the road.

Maginnis: Fast times in Washington, La.

Louisiana legislators are railing against Washington, but as John Maginnis notes in his latest column, it's neither Congress nor the president that's drawing their ire. "Rather, it is the town in St. Landry Parish by that name that is fast becoming known as the speed trap capital of Louisiana," Maginnis writes, referring to legislation that has been filed to recognize it and about a dozen other municipalities whose governments are largely supported by traffic fines. HB 961 would mandate the placement of large signs, with blinking lights preferably, warning motorists of the fate that awaits them just up the road. Maginnis says members of the House Transportation Committee enthusiastically greeted legislation by Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, to require a municipality that derives more than half of its revenue from traffic tickets to label themselves speed traps with signage at the town limits. The panel approved the bill and sent it to the House floor, where it was scheduled for...

Truth is stranger than fiction

It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. Lately I have seen some examples that defy explanation. I wish they were April Fool's pranks, but the news notes below are true—though they make no sense to me. What do you think?

Who's afraid of Common Core?

Short of a federal subpoena, nothing gets politicians in a tizzy quicker than seeing the whites of eyes of angry parents, like those descending upon the State Capitol to demand that legislators scrap Common Core, a set of more rigorous education standards being adopted in Louisiana schools and in 44 other states.

Carter, Honoré jointly file BRAC education bill

With Tuesday's filing deadline looming in the Legislature, a diverse pair of local lawmakers has introduced legislation for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber that would put into practice BRAC's recently unveiled plan for restructuring the EBR school system. Reps. Steve Carter, a Republican, and Dalton Honoré, a Democrat, are co-sponsoring the bill, which would keep the EBR school district intact as a single financial entity but transfer broad decision-making power and authority to individual school principals. "Our focus has been to develop an education solution that is unifying to the whole community," says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. "Education is a key component of economic competitiveness, and we want an education solution that represents a dramatic change, one that improves school performance and that keeps the district together as a single financial entity." Supporters behind the measure have been meeting in recent weeks with a cross section of community leaders, as well as...

GOP control of gerrymandering gives it advantage in fight for US House

Even if Democrats recruit great candidates, raise gobs of money and run smart campaigns, they face an uphill fight to retake control of the House in this year's congressional elections, regardless of the political climate in November. The reason? The Associated Press reports it's because Republican strategists spent years developing a plan to take advantage of the 2010 Census, first by winning state legislatures and then redrawing House districts to tilt the playing field in their favor. Their success was unprecedented. In states like Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, Republicans were able to shape congressional maps to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into the fewest House districts. The practice is called gerrymandering, and it left fertile ground elsewhere in each state to spread Republican voters among more districts, increasing the GOP's chances of winning more seats. Geography helped in some states. Democratic voters are more likely to live in densely populated urban...

Jindal, other GOP governors trumpet anti-Internet gaming pacts with super donor

Three Republican governors, including Bobby Jindal, who weren't invited to GOP super donor Sheldon Adelson's political gathering in Las Vegas this week are nonetheless trumpeting their agreement with him against Internet gambling, The Associated Press reports. Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Nikki Haley of South Carolina have submitted letters in recent days to congressional leaders stating that gambling in the virtual world compromises the ability of states to control gambling within their borders. Weeks earlier, Jindal wrote that he would do everything he could to stop Internet gambling from spreading in Louisiana in a Business Report guest column. Each of the governors' missives is highlighted on the website for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, an advocacy group that Adelson, an 80-year-old casino magnate, helped bankroll. The trio has something else...

LaPolitics: Jefferson Parish sheriff backing Dardenne

After flirting with running for governor himself, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand tells LaPolitics that he has instead decided to seek re-election. The sheriff says he had a keen interest in trying to fix the state budget, but recently realized that the political will isn't there to make a go of it and the problems are too entrenched. "I'm not interested in a science experiment," he says. Normand is, however, still interested in the race and will be supporting Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge, a fellow Republican. With more than $1.1 million in his war chest, Normand knows a thing or two about fundraising, and he said he plans to focus his energy on building up Dardenne's kitty. "When I decide to get involved, I get involved," he says. By endorsing Dardenne, Normand is snubbing U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who lives in Metairie. "His style has always been way too divisive and I don't see that changing anytime soon," Normand says of the junior senator.

Capitol Views: House backs bill to regulate booting

—A developing minor theme of this legislative session is the protection of motorists from the aggressive enforcement of traffic and parking rules. The House today passed a bill to crack down on businesses and individuals who place boots on cars. HB 929 by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, would require that companies placing booting devices on parked cars be licensed by the local government and have a written contract with the owner of the private property where the parking is restricted. The bill would prohibit companies from placing boots on cars parked on public streets or public parking lots. At least two signs would have to be conspicuously placed on the property warning motorists not to park there, including the amount of the potential fine. Earlier, in the House Transportation Committee, Badon explained that the practice of booting cars on city streets was becoming a greater problem in New Orleans. Also, the Transportation Committee this week approved legislation to...

Louisiana Survey shows residents' top concern shifting from economy to education

For the first time since the LSU Public Policy Research Lab began conducting its Louisiana Survey in 2008, residents statewide have identified education as the biggest problem facing the state. Over the past year, the share of survey participants identifying education as the most important issue rose 9 points, from 20% to 29% in the most recent survey, the results of which were released today. Over that same time frame, the share of Louisianans who said the economy was the most pressing issue fell from 25% to 23%. "This is the first time that education surpassed economy as the state's most pressing concern since 2008," says Amy Reynolds, director of the Reilly Center and associate dean of graduate studies at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. "Together with the rest of our findings, this suggests that residents' views of Louisiana priorities are shifting overall." The survey also finds 36% of residents have confidence that state government will effectively address their...

Jindal weighs in on debate over Internet control

Gov. Bobby Jindal has penned a number of guest columns this month for national publications, ranging from a New York Post piece in which he blasts New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over education policy to a National Review Online piece in which he hammered President Obama over the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. Today, Jindal has a guest column on the website of conservative lobbying and advocacy organization Americans for Limited Government in which he takes aim at Obama again. This time Jindal says the Obama administration is "jeopardizing the freedoms of billions of citizens the world over" with its decision,

Capitol Views: TOPS bills may be dead for session

Attempts to limit TOPS awards, which are heard every year, got nowhere in the House Education Committee today. More than likely, that means the issue could be dead for the session. The panel voted to defer HB 385 by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, which would have raised the eligibility standards from 20 to 22 for ACT scores. It would have also capped awards at $1,600 per semester and required partial repayment for students who lose eligibility. Calling his measure the "Lazarus bill"—since he brings it back from the dead each year—Harrison told the committee: "We talk about rigor. We want rigor in everything else but this." Currently budgeted at $235 million for the coming year and projected to increase to $375 million in five years, the program is unsustainable, he said. Barry Erwin of the Council for a Better Louisiana spoke in support. "While we are raising the standards for K-12, it is not unreasonable to raise standards for a lucrative program as this," he said.

'Politico': Jindal has early lead in GOP 'infrastructure primary'

The fallout from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's so-called Bridgegate scandal has thrown the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination "wide open," according to a Politico analysis published today, which suggests that the new openness of the race has "reform-minded Republican governors" such as Bobby Jindal "eyeing the race more eagerly." Jindal isn't the only potential Republican candidate discussed in the article, which also delves into moves being made by politicos such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But of them all, Politico says Jindal has an early edge—at least as far as preparation goes. "In 2012, Mitt Romney survived a savage primary contest, largely because of his financial and organizational dominance," reads the analysis. "With 2016 looming closer, several presumptive candidates, including Rubio and Jindal, have already moved ahead of the pack...

$6 million increase proposed for La. legislative budget

With Louisiana's economic picture brightening, legislative leaders are proposing to boost their budget next year. The budget to finance the House, Senate and other legislative agencies would grow to more than $98 million next year under recommendations approved without objection this morning by a panel of legislative leaders, The Associated Press reports. That's a $6 million increase for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposal goes next to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration, but with backing of the legislative leadership few changes are expected. Most of the increases across the legislative agencies are for pay raises for the employees that work for lawmakers—if they get good annual performance reviews—and for increased retirement obligations. The legislative budget has had few increases in recent years because of the state's budget difficulties.

Jindal outlines capital outlay funding proposal for Capital Region

Gov. Bobby Jindal's capital outlay funding proposal for construction projects in the Capital Region during fiscal year 2015 includes millions for projects at local universities and colleges, as well as millions more for roadway and infrastructure improvements in the area. The funding proposal, which Jindal annually delivers to the Legislature at the outset of the session, includes $12.5 million for the Patrick F. Taylor Hall renovation and expansion at LSU, $8.4 million for the design and construction of the Water Campus, and $7.5 million for an automotive training facility for Baton Rouge Community College to be located in the Ardendale community that's under development in Mid City. Other LSU-related projects included in the funding proposal are $3.3 million for the French House renovations...

Landrieu poised to lead Energy and Natural Resources Committee in new direction

As Mary Landrieu, the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, holds her first hearing today, The Wall Street Journal's Amy Harder says "it will be clear that the Louisiana Democrat is decidedly more pro-fossil fuel than her predecessor, Sen. Ron Wyden D.-Ore., and that she is planning to shift the committee in that direction." In a new blog post, Harder lists "five ways you know there's a new gavel in town," starting with the title of today's hearing: "Importing Energy, Exporting Jobs: Can it be Reversed?" "Landrieu is a big supporter of energy exports and is going to make that a defining part of her chairmanship," Harder writes. "Contrast that with the title of a similar hearing on natural gas Mr. Wyden, who is much more cautious on energy exports, held in February of last year: 'Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas.'" Harder says you can also expect Landrieu to make a pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline at today's hearing, which she says...

Who's afraid of Common Core?

Short of a federal subpoena, nothing gets politicians in a tizzy quicker than seeing the whites of eyes of angry parents, like those descending upon the State Capitol to demand that legislators scrap Common Core, a set of more rigorous education standards being adopted in Louisiana schools and in 44 other states.

Maginnis: Who's afraid of Common Core?

In his latest column, John Maginnis says that, short of a federal subpoena, "nothing gets politicians in a tizzy quicker than seeing the whites of eyes of angry parents," such as those descending upon the State Capitol to demand that legislators scrap Common Core. "Listening to parents' pointed, impassioned testimony to the House Education Committee last week," Maginnis writes, "one legislator remarked, 'These folks would scare a momma grizzly bear.'" What flummoxes most lawmakers, says Maginnis, is how little they had to do with approving Common Core four years ago—which was done by Gov. Bobby Jindal and his allies on BESE. "So, understandably, legislators have responded in typical fashion by looking to the governor to tell them what to do, as he did with his school-choice agenda two years ago," Maginnis writes. "Yet Jindal's statements so far get failing marks for clarity, as he says he supports 'rigor and high academic standards' but not 'federal, one-size-fits-all...

Capitol Views: Bill to label speed traps passes through panel

If one day you are driving down a Louisiana highway and come across a large flashing sign with the warning "Speed Trap Ahead," you can thank Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, whose bill to so label certain towns is headed to the House floor. The House Transportation Committee today approved his HB 961, which would require municipalities that earn over half of their revenue from traffic violations to pay for and post signs to tell motorists they are entering a speed trap. According to the bill, towns that refuse to comply would forfeit all of their traffic ticket revenue to the state. Pylant, the former Franklin Parish sheriff, said there are towns and villages that provide few services to residents while using speeding ticket revenues to pay the salaries of the mayor, chief of police and officers. He said they tend to "cherry-pick" out-of-town motorists while letting local "good ol' boys" off with a warning. "Revenue-based law enforcement is the wrong way to go," he said, adding later,...

LABI: 40 La. chambers of commerce, business organizations want tort reform

LABI says at least 40 chambers of commerce and business organizations in Louisiana—including BRAC, the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association—are working together in support of efforts to change Louisiana's tort system this legislative session. LABI, which has made tort reform one of its top priorities of the current legislative session, estimates "the poor legal climate in Louisiana costs as many as 50,000 new jobs every year, and changes to our system could result in $1.1 billion in savings for Louisianans." Specifically, LABI is lobbying for lawmakers to limit the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in the state, increase transparency within the system and curtail contingency-fee contracts by public entities, among other changes. LABI says excessive litigation amounts to a "tort tax" that costs the average...

Jindal has 'stepped up his game' on national stage, columnist says

National Republican activists certainly have noticed that Gov. Bobby Jindal has stepped up his activity on the national stage lately, notes the National Review Online's Quin Hillyer in a new column. He says Jindal showed during a speech last week in Mobile, Ala., that he has stepped up his game as well. "Gone are some of his lamer, more forced jokes and his occasionally poor pacing, both of which marred an otherwise decent speech two years ago in Mobile," writes Hillyer in the column, published today. "Also long distant is the anomalous flop of his official Republican response to the 2009 State of the Union address." Hillyer says that it was the style of Jindal that struck him the most during his address on Thursday. "Jindal now has a much more forceful mien, combined with the well-modulated passion of somebody who means business," he writes. "He's not just putting on a show. He also wove in plenty of wit—not canned jokes, but wry asides conversationally delivered."

Common Core spawning political battles across America

The debate over Common Core is shaping up to be one of the biggest battles of the ongoing legislative session in Baton Rouge, but Louisiana is just one of many states grappling with the political ramifications of the new standards for American schools. As The Associated Press reports in a new feature on the Common Core controversy, it has been more than five years since U.S. governors began a bipartisan effort to set new standards in American schools. Now, the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads establishment voices—such as possible presidential contender Jeb Bush—who hail the standards as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. Many archconservatives—tea party heroes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them—decry the system as a top-down takeover of local schools. The standards were developed and are being...

Changing landscape

By now, many of us have heard that the state is finally handing over the keys to Government Street to the city. The Mayor's Office and many local officials seem to be fully behind the idea of putting the street on a “road diet" by bringing its four lanes down to two travel lanes with a center turning lane and possibly adding some bike paths.

LaPolitics: Plan coming together for upgraded tax appeals board

The remaining vestiges of Gov. Bobby Jindal's failed 2013 tax plan are springing to life as the regular legislative session enters its third week. The endgame is to ensure greater independence for the Board of Tax Appeals while giving it more of a judiciary role over local sales tax disputes. Sources say the governor is very supportive of the concept, but is keeping his distance this session. Currently, the board does have a hand in state sales tax matters, but not the local variety, which are heard by district courts. HB 863 by Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, and HB 798 by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would add the option of sending disputes to the board. They would further take the district courts out of the loop for appealing the board's decisions; the rest of the track would be the same, leading from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. "There was a discussion last year about the process and the locals got together after that and decided that the current arbitration process...

Landrieu calls sanctions by Putin 'badge of honor'

Much like the eight other U.S. politicians who were singled out today by Russian President Vladimir Putin for sanctions to be imposed on them by the Kremlin, Sen. Mary Landrieu responded by saying she's proud to have made the list. "Being sanctioned by President Putin is a badge of honor," Landrieu says in a prepared statement issued this afternoon. "It will not stop me from using my power as chair of the Energy Committee to promote America as an energy superpower and help increase energy exports around the world. We must minimize Russia's influence over Europe, the former Soviet states—especially Ukraine that has fought so long for freedom—and our allies." The eight others on the sanctions list are: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.; and two of President Barack Obama's aides, Dan Pfeiffer and Ben Rhodes. As...

Capitol Views: Political pressure could boost public pensions

House Retirement Chairman Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, says he knew something was up when he started noticing recent correspondence coming from retiree associations with not-so-subtle taglines. "Somewhere on the envelope or letterhead it reads, 'Remember, retirees vote,'" he says, laughing. The second sign came from Louisiana's experience accounts, which hold extra earnings for the four statewide retirement systems—they're flush with cash. Put it all together and you have a political environment ripe for increasing pension checks. Especially since it has been roughly five years since retired state workers and teachers have seen a boost. "How could [lawmakers] vote no?" Pearson recently told LaPolitics. "They'll only tick off people." More than two dozen bills filed for the session address benefit increases, some permanent and others supplemental. The House Retirement Committee began the process of hearing some of the different pieces today and arguments for and against are...

Capitol Views: Panel wrestles with student privacy bills

The privacy concerns of students dominated the first legislative engagement today on the controversial Common Core issue. But, ultimately, the House Education Committee could not agree on how to reconcile parents' demands with what Louisiana Education Superintendent John White insisted was needed to secure federal funding and to distribute it to school districts. After back-room negotiations stalled, the panel agreed to voluntarily defer HB 496 by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, which would prohibit local school districts from collecting or sharing with anyone, including the state Department of Education, any information on students besides what is "required for providing educational services." Schroder said he would bring his bill back next week and continue trying to work out differences with White and parents' representatives in the meantime. The committee spent the entire morning hearing the often-impassioned, sometimes-angry testimony of parents demanding that legislators keep...

Dip in sales tax collections on vehicles during January leaves EBR total tally down 1%

The taxes collected on vehicle sales are traditionally the most volatile of any sales tax sources in any community, and they're not necessarily considered an accurate reflection of how a local economy is faring. For East Baton Rouge Parish, that may be the silver lining in the January sales tax collection report released today by the city-parish Finance Department. Inside the city limits, collections on vehicle sales in January were down 13.2% compared to the same month last year, and outside the city limits, they were down 4.5%. Combined, total vehicle sales tax collections across the city-parish totaled $1.13 million in January, or 8.7% less than the $1.23 million collected last January. While the taxes collected on vehicle sales make up a relatively small share of total collections each month, the decline in January helped push total collections across the city-parish down 1%. A total of $13.17 million was collected inside and outside the city limits in January, including vehicle...

La. House health committee to debate new abortion rule today

A proposal to add new restrictions on abortion providers in Louisiana gets its first legislative hearing today before the House health care committee. The Associated Press reports Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, is sponsoring a bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It's similar to a controversial restriction recently passed in Texas. Jackson says the proposal would enact "common-sense safety standards" to protect women's health. Abortion rights supporters say if lawmakers pass the new requirement, it would force the closure of three of Louisiana's five abortion clinics—and leave none open south of Shreveport. Gov. Bobby Jindal backs the bill.

Some La. lawmakers say job growth not reflected in treasury

Lawmakers who keep hearing job creation stories from Gov. Bobby Jindal have asked the governor's economic development chief to explain why state tax revenue remains stagnant. The Associated Press reports the questions were raised today as members of the House Appropriations Committee were reviewing Louisiana Economic Development's budget. Jindal frequently repeats that his administration has announced business projects that are expected to bring 80,000 new jobs and $50 billion in capital investment. But Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin says he's not seeing the job growth reflected in state tax receipts. Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret says Louisiana is outpacing the nation in job growth, but he says the growth is limited by the slow recovery of the national economy. He also says use of state tax breaks has grown significantly, siphoning more money from the state treasury.

Capitol Views: Dardenne worried about state marketing money

So-called passthroughs and vanishing dollars from BP are keeping Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne on edge heading into the new budget year that begins July 1, especially in terms of marketing and advertising. Putting him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal are nearly $4 million worth of passthroughs created by the administration to fund special events using money diverted from the Office of Tourism. The problem is that even though the events are promoted by Dardenne's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the lieutenant governor cannot change the individual amounts. "I felt all along this office ought to have the discretion to decide which events warrant funding and which don't," he told lawmakers at the Capitol today. As a workaround, Dardenne said he is using some of the remaining dollars from the Office of Tourism's self-generated revenues to help underwrite the needs he has identified, such as $552,000 for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Dardenne also told lawmakers that the $25...

Landrieu's enemies may serve her yet

The polls continue their dreary downbeat for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. A survey by Voter/Consumer Research done for the state medical society and the pharmaceutical industry last month shows her popularity falling over the last year, from a 14-point lead over Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in the group's January 2013 poll to a statistical tie in February. What's happened to her in between has been a TV-commercial mugging by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, of Wichita and New York City, who are the billionaire industrialists behind Americans for Prosperity.
The AFP ads, from a war chest that would make a Louisiana politician gag, relentlessly blame her for passage of the Affordable Care Act and everything that has gone wrong with it since.

Maginnis: Landrieu's enemies may serve her yet

The polls continue their dreary downbeat for Sen. Mary Landrieu, but John Maginnis says in his latest column that the enemies behind a slew of recent ads targeting Landrieu—primarily, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who are the billionaire industrialists behind Americans for Prosperity—may ultimately help her win re-election. "The AFP ads, from a war chest that would make a Louisiana politician gag, relentlessly blame her for passage of the Affordable Care Act and everything that has gone wrong with it since," Maginnis writes. "Yet, for as much as Landrieu has been worked over by the outside group, she and her main challenger have remained neck-and-neck in several polls since the end of last year, which suggests that she has bottomed out." The main challenger Maginnis writes about is Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge. "While Cassidy has yet to introduce himself to voters, the super PAC supporting the Democrats, the Senate Majority PAC, has just started defining the...

Jindal: The method to his badness

These days, whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal leaves Louisiana, he turns into one bad trash-talking dude who repeatedly calls out the president of the United States.

10 Questions: Jim Brandt

Few people know more about Louisiana government than Jim Brandt. Though he didn't grow up in the Bayou State—the North Dakota native came to Louisiana in 1969 to attend graduate school at Tulane University—Brandt held numerous positions in New Orleans city government in the administrations of Moon Landrieu and Dutch Morial, before taking over as head of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a watchdog agency in New Orleans. In 1999 he relocated to Baton Rouge, when he became president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, where he served for more than a decade. He retired in 2010, but continued to work part- time as a consultant. Since leaving PAR, Brandt has been able to devote more of his considerable energies to community service, most recently accepting a nomination to serve on the CATS board of directors.

Four EBR planning director finalists to interview again

Four of the five finalists interviewed earlier this month to be the city-parish's next planning director will be invited back for additional interviews, pending the successful outcome of background and reference checks. The Planning Commission made that decision this afternoon, one week after meeting and voting to offer the position to Cincinnati planning director Charles Graves III, who declined two days later. While there was some initial disagreement among commissioners today about how to proceed from here and how many candidates they should re-interview, the commission ultimately agreed on: Don Broussard, a Lake Charles native and urban planner in Atlanta, Ga.; Frank Duke, a former city planner in Norfolk, Va.; Woodrow Muhammad, a Baton Rouge native and planning director in Central; and, Carolyn Rutledge, who previously held planning jobs in Alabama. Monroe's planning...

Former Gov. Edwards makes his candidacy for 6th District official

Saying he'll run on a platform of bipartisanship and compromise, 86-year-old former Gov. Edwin Edwards likened his decision today to enter Louisiana's 6th Congressional District race to Julius Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon River. "I am positive I can run, and I am confident I can win," says Edwards, who announced his decision to run as a Democrat at the Baton Rouge Press Club, dismissing his age as an issue. "Younger candidates should not be penalized for their youth and inexperience," he joked. In announcing his candidacy, Edwards voiced support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline as well as expanded Medicaid coverage, while expressing intentions to get on the federal public works committee and the agricultural committee if elected. Despite his criminal conviction in 2000 and the eight years he spent in federal prison, Edwards assured those who attended the press club meeting today that he can legally run for a congressional office. While Edwards acknowledges that raising...

Capitol Views: Strain complains about responsibility without oversight

"You know what keeps me up at night?" Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain rhetorically asked the House Appropriations Committee today. His answer was that there are major boards and commissions that are housed in his department but whose members he does not appoint and cannot remove. That power belongs to the governor, though the conduct of appointees and their actions, said Strain, reflect on him and his department. "I have no authority, no vote, no oversight, but I have responsibility," explained the commissioner during his budget presentation. Those policy-setting agricultural boards appointed by the governor include the Dairy Stabilization Board, Forestry Commission, Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority, Rice Promotion Board and Structural Pest Control Board. Strain said he has asked the governor's staff that he be able to appoint members or, at least, to remove members for cause. But he said he was told by staff that "the governor doesn't want to yield authority." As a...

La. lawmakers expected to make many changes to Jindal's budget

Members of Louisiana's House Appropriations Committee say they have many concerns about Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, but one thing is certain: It won't look the same when they're finished with it. As Gannett Louisiana reports, the Jindal administration has proposed a nearly $25 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Much of it is federal funding over which legislators have little control, and some of the state funding can't be touched because of constitutional dedications adopted over the years. But some of the money that can be touched is likely to be shifted to different priorities than the governor picked, lawmakers said in interviews. "There's sure to be juggling in priorities," says Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, chairman of the House committee that gets the first crack at altering the governor's spending plans. "I think there's a good bit of room for juggling." The committee is just beginning to delve into the details. "I think...

Jindal kicks off N.H. visit with jokes, jabs

Gov. Bobby Jindal is in New Hampshire today, where he spoke this morning at the the 23rd annual Wild Irish Breakfast, a charity event at which politicians have historically delivered lighthearted addresses full of jokes and jabs. As The Huffington Post reports, Jindal didn't break with tradition this morning. "One of Jindal's biggest targets was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as he made cracks about both the George Washington Bridge scandal and the 2016 presidential election," reads the report. Jindal has reportedly planned eight stops during his swing through the Granite State, including one to deliver the keynote speech this evening at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Earlier this year, Jindal was tapped to deliver keynote addresses at major party events in Minnesota and Illinois.

LaPolitics: New poll split on prospects for Landrieu

Another week, another poll. The latest shows a dead heat in the U.S. Senate race and a big opening for a Democrat to get into the attorney general's race. The Voter Consumer Research poll conducted for the Louisiana State Medical Society and PhRMA, compared to one taken by the same pollster a year ago, shows Sen. Mary Landrieu's 14-point lead over Congressman Bill Cassidy in January 2013 shrinking to a 45% to 44% statistical tie in February 2014. Over that same span, opposition to the Affordable Care Act grew from 54% to 57%. In his re-election bid, the poll has Attorney General Buddy Caldwell leading fellow Republican and former Congressman Jeff Landry, 23% to 15%. But "a Democratic candidate," yet to materialize, would lead them both at 33%. The survey asked a series of health care questions important to the sponsors. Respondents disapproved, 56% to 34%, of a provision in the ACA that allows insurance companies not to pay doctors for treatment to patients who are more than 30 days...

U.S. budget deficit hits $193.5 billion in February

The U.S. government is running a deficit that is 23.6% lower than in the same period a year ago through the first five months of this budget year. In its monthly budget report released today, the Treasury Department says that the deficit for February totaled $193.5 billion, the largest monthly imbalance in a year. The government traditionally runs large deficits in February, a month when it is sending out tax refund payments. For the period from October through February, the deficit totals $377.4 billion, down from $493.95 billion a year ago. Last week, President Barack Obama sent Congress a new budget which projects the deficit will fall to $649 billion this year, down from a $680 billion deficit last year. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting an even lower deficit this year of $514 billion. Both the administration and the CBO expect the deficit to improve as an improving economy boosts tax revenues and lowers spending on such government support programs as unemployment...

Jindal forms new PAC, says 'everyone knows we're thinking about' White House run

Gov. Bobby Jindal formally announced the creation of a new PAC called Stand Up to Washington via a brief press release today, saying: "It's not time simply to make a few tweaks in Washington, it's time for Americans to organize a hostile takeover." The PAC "will work to elect candidates committed to bringing conservative solutions to the table in 2014," the press release says. When asked by Politico, with whom Jindal first discussed the PAC on Wednesday, about whether or not he will enter the 2016 presidential race, the 42-year-old said he is considering it. "I haven't decided on that course. I'm looking at it," Jindal tells Politico. "Everyone knows we're thinking about it. In six years [in Louisiana], we've shown that if you apply sound conservative policies and actually put them to work, they work in the real world." On his reasoning for forming the Stand Up to...

Capitol Views: More B.R. neighborhoods seek crime prevention districts

The trend of Baton Rouge neighborhoods forming crime prevention districts continues this legislative session with the Tara and Villa Del Rey communities. A House committee has waved bills for both through and onto the House floor, where they likely will come up for passage next week. Assuming final passage this session, voters in those areas will decide this fall on whether to assess a fee on each property parcel to provide extra security patrols, with any leftover funds to go toward beautification efforts. The Villa Del Rey legislation would allow the neighborhood association to set a fee up to $250 per parcel, pending voter approval. The Tara bill would start at $100 per parcel, with annual 10% increases allowed up to a maximum of $200. Sponsoring legislators cited their personal connections to the areas. Republican Rep. Erich Ponti said his family was the fourth to move into the subdivision developed in the 1970s. Villa Del Rey, said Democratic Rep. Alfred Williams, "is the...

Capitol Views: Common Core debate starts prematurely

Despite the author's assurances that his bill about updating the process for selecting textbooks has nothing to do with Common Core standards, citizens came to the table anyway to argue over what will be the session's hottest issue. Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, carefully explained that his SB 336 modernizes what he called an "antiquated" process of selecting textbooks by enabling parents to comment on educators' evaluations of materials, while leaving the final decisions of what to purchase up to local school districts. Still, four different parents went to the table to praise the bill for setting up "Common Core-aligned standards" and clearing a path for the controversial law. "This is not about standards," a patient chairman repeated. Then came Sandy McDade, political chairwoman of the conservative Eagle Forum, who opposed the bill because, "It truly is about standards." After another round of explanations and assurances from Appel, however, McDade conceded...

Poll: Obama's approval rating hits new low

President Barack Obama is struggling to overcome widespread pessimism about the economy and deep frustration with Washington, notching the lowest job-approval ratings of his presidency in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The results suggest Obama could weigh on fellow Democrats in midterm elections this fall, particularly in the conservative states that will play a large role in deciding whether his party retains its Senate majority. Obama's job approval ticked down to 41% in March from 43% in January, marking a new low. Some 54% disapproved of the job he is doing, matching a previous high from December, when the botched rollout of his signature health law played prominently in the news. The latest survey also showed the lowest-ever approval in Journal/NBC polling for Obama's handling of foreign policy. The findings come amid dissatisfaction with all elected leaders in Washington and low regard for the Republican Party. Roughly a quarter of those polled view the GOP...

Capitol Views: Lawmakers get started on budget hearings

On their second day at the Capitol, lawmakers began kicking the tires on the $25 billion budget proposal offered up by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. Sidelined by the Mardi Gras holiday, it was the first opportunity members of the House Appropriations Committee had to comb through the spending plan as a group. Despite the later than usual start, Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin tells LaPolitics that the session's longer timeframe—adjournment is set for June 2—allows more wiggle room than last year did. "We won't have any problems getting our work done," he said of the next fiscal year budget that goes into effect July 1. In the Senate Finance Committee, which takes ownership of the budget after it's passed by the House, members received a briefing on how the administration plans to reroute $132 million from various state funds, like those supporting the convention center in New Orleans and the Louisiana Housing Corp., so the money can be used in the budget.

La. lawmakers open hearings on $25 billion state budget

A day after opening their annual legislative session, Louisiana lawmakers began their work this morning on the state's operating budget. As The Associated Press reports, the House Appropriations Committee began combing through the recommendations of Gov. Bobby Jindal for how to best spend state dollars in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. The committee convened at 9 a.m. Jindal offered a $25 billion budget proposal that proposes new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers, and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training. Some lawmakers have criticized the piecemeal funding he's using to balance the spending plans. They say it will perpetuate a cycle of budget uncertainty because Jindal included dollars that aren't certain to reappear year after year.

The method to Jindal's badness

These days, whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal leaves Louisiana he turns into one bad trash-talking dude who repeatedly calls out the president of the United States. From standing outside the White House and accusing President Barack Obama of waving the white flag of surrender on the economy to last week's bombast before the Conservative Political Action Committee conference—where he ranked No. 44 as the worst president of his lifetime—Jindal has gone steroid. Before any national microphone he can find, he growls like he's in the middle of a heated election campaign, which, of late, it seems we always are.

Maginnis: The method to Jindal's badness

Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal travels outside Louisiana these days, says columnist John Maginnis, "he turns into one bad trash-talking dude who repeatedly calls out the president of the United States." From standing outside the White House and accusing President Barack Obama of waving the white flag of surrender on the economy to last week's bombast before the Conservative Political Action Committee conference—where he ranked No. 44 as the worst president of his lifetime—"Jindal has gone steroid," Maginnis says in his latest column. "Before any national microphone he can find, he growls like he's in the middle of a heated election campaign, which, of late, it seems we always are," reads the column. "He has been sharply critical of Obama before, but, as before CPAC, he now questions the commander-in-chief's smarts (as others, back home, have his). Yet currently he has been on such a tear that he seems on a mission." An obvious explanation, Maginnis says, is that Jindal wants...

Capitol Views: Jindal presents light package to open session

Presenting the lightest administration agenda of his six years in office, Gov. Bobby Jindal today steered clear of the hot-button issues to be debated and asked lawmakers to improve workforce training, crack down on human trafficking and work toward a "fair and predictable legal environment." With little to stir them either way, senators and representatives applauded his policy package only once during his 18-minute address, on the topic of human trafficking. "This is a crime, unfortunately, that's happening in Louisiana," the governor said to applause. Those bills and much of the rest of his package have yet to be filed for the session that runs through June 2. Taking a leaf from presidential State of the Union addresses of the past, Jindal introduced eight individuals on the side of the House chamber who, he said, had benefited from laws passed during his term that had enabled them to stay in, return to or move to Louisiana for employment and business opportunities. Building off of...

Landrieu, Cassidy jockey to claim victory on flood insurance as Senate race heats up

Early on, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu led the charge to delay dramatic increases in the premiums paid by homeowners covered under the federal flood insurance program. While Landrieu, a lead sponsor of the proposal, held the microphone at one news conference after another on the issue, Rep. Bill Cassidy, the leading Republican running for her seat, stood quietly to the side at one of those conferences and listened. That changed late last week, Gannett Louisiana reports, when Cassidy took the microphone at a news conference to celebrate a vote approving the House version of the flood insurance measure—a version he helped craft. With a bill possibly just days from final enactment—the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the House bill this week—Landrieu and Cassidy are jockeying to claim credit for its success during one of the most competitive Senate races in the country. "It might have a positive effect on both candidates by raising their favorables," says...