Content tagged “Politics”

Future of solar power in La. may hinge on November election

The future of rooftop solar—and of renewable energy in Louisiana in general—could hang in the balance as polar-opposites battle Nov. 4 for a swing seat on the Public Service Commission, WWL-TV reports.
Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta, a Republican from Metairie, is up for re-election after his first six-year term representing most of suburban New Orleans and the Northshore. He's established himself as the driving conservative force on the commission, a leader in a multistate energy transmission group and a favorite of utility companies, which have showered his campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars, WWL reports.

Despite GOP leanings, oil and gas industry donating more to Landrieu than Cassidy

As Sen. Mary Landrieu fights for her political life in an ever-tightening race against Republicans Rep. Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness, Reuters reports oil and gas interests are pouring money into the race—and giving twice as much to Landrieu as to her leading challenger, Cassidy. As much as the industry wants to see Republicans wrest control of the Senate, it has a bigger fish to fry in the Louisiana race.
Oil and gas interests want Landrieu to retain leadership of the energy panel and prevent another Democrat, Maria Cantwell, who backs an environmentalist agenda, from taking over the committee. Landrieu is a key ally the industry will support even if it costs Republicans the Senate, industry leaders tells Reuters. And they're putting their money where their mouths are.

Inside David Vitter's playbook

Anyone who has served as governor will tell you it's not enough to simply be elected. To truly run a state like Louisiana, a governor needs a strong political infrastructure and a party that's willing to die on the sword. Some governors lay their foundation as their campaign heats up, or even after voters give them the keys to the mansion in Baton Rouge. Others start much earlier.

Alford: Inside David Vitter's playbook

"Anyone who has served as governor will tell you it's not enough to simply be elected," writes columnist Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "To truly run a state like Louisiana, a governor needs a strong political infrastructure and a party that's willing to die on the sword." Alford says some governors lay their foundation as their campaign heats up, or even after voters give them the keys to the mansion in Baton Rouge, but others—like U.S. Sen. David Vitter—start much earlier.
"He's a man on a mission, and has been for a few years now," Alford writes. "While much has been made of the money underwriting Vitter's quest to become governor next year, his political machinations along the same path have gone largely unseen and underreported. But make no mistake: His moves are just as important as his money."

Five hopefuls in 6th District make their case at Baton Rouge forum

At a forum hosted by the Press Club of Baton Rouge today, four Republican candidates for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District seat stressed their opposition to President Barack Obama, while boasting of their conservative philosophies; one Democrat—former Gov. Edwin Edwards—emphasized what he called a moderate philosophy.
As The Associated Press reports, Edwards, businessman Paul Dietzel, state Sen. Dan Claitor, former coastal chief Garret Graves and state Rep. Lenar Whitney attended today's forum. Issues separating Edwards from the GOP crowd included a federal minimum wage.
Edwards endorsed it as necessary for low-income workers and a boost to the economy; the others, opposed it, saying it would drive up costs of goods and services. Edwards also broke from the others on same-sex marriage. He stopped short of backing marriage equality but endorsed the idea of same-sex civil unions.

City-parish vows to file suit challenging St. George petition

Mary Olive Pierson, who has represented the city-parish in its legal battle with Louis "Woody" Jenkins over the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana, says a suit will be filed soon to challenge the petition that organizers of the St. George incorporation effort submitted to the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters office earlier today.
"We will file suit shortly," Pierson tells Daily Report. "The petition is legally insufficient." While organizers championed the petition submission today, Pierson says they fell short of their goal. "They did not get the signatures they wanted and their margin is small," she says.
The St. George organizers submitted more than 18,000 petition signatures, potentially clearing the way for voters in unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish to weigh in on the issue in the Dec. 6 election.

News alert: St. George supporters submitting petition today

Organizers of the city of St. George incorporation effort are submitting more than 18,000 petition signatures to the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters office today, potentially clearing the way for voters in unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish to weigh in on the issue in the Dec. 6 election. Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb says Tuesday is the deadline for submissions to be placed on the December ballot, though her office must still verify the petition signatures and determine roughly 17,750 are valid in order for a vote on the issue to go forward. "It's going to take several weeks to verify them because early voting starts tomorrow and all four of my offices will be bombarded," Lamb says. In a prepared statement, St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey says the group chose to turn in the petition today—even though it does not yet have the 20,000 signatures that would ensure enough of those on the petition are valid—due to "the constant efforts by the City of Baton Rouge...

Dems hoping Clinton can boost black vote in La., other key Senate states

Former President Bill Clinton's visit to Baton Rouge today to stump for Sen. Mary Landrieu is, in large part, about turning out the black vote on Nov. 4. As The New York Times reports, Democrats know black voters are key to their hopes of holding onto a Senate majority. That reality was highlighted in a confidential memo written earlier this month by a former pollster for President Barack Obama, which contained a blunt warning for Democrats as Election Day draws near: It predicted "crushing Democratic losses across the country" if the party does not do more to get black voters to the polls. "African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014," wrote pollster Cornell Belcher. "In fact, over half aren't even sure when the midterm elections are taking place." Black voters could help swing elections in Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, an analysis of voter data by The New York...

Lawmakers wait to hear from auditors on surplus

Louisiana lawmakers sidestepped a decision today on whether to accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus, a figure viewed with skepticism. The Associated Press reports the Legislature's joint budget committee instead decided to wait until their auditors comb through the numbers. The Legislative Auditor's Office doesn't expect to have its review completed until the end of December. "At this point, I'm going to say that we take no action today on this item. There's no rush to take action on it," said Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, chairman of the budget committee. Barry Dusse, director of the governor's Office of Planning and Budget, presented the surplus figure to the committee. Though Jindal's chief budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, attended the meeting and offered a full presentation, lawmakers didn't want it and spent fewer than five minutes on the entire discussion.

LaPolitics: NOLA is once again the center of Landrieu universe

Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger last week on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders. It sets the stage for what will be a memorable, if not downright nasty, ground game in New Orleans, home to a Democratic voting bloc that has helped Landrieu overcome the odds in the past. Her campaign sees two avenues in stopping Congressman Bill Cassidy's Republican momentum: new registration figures and voter turnout. It would be an election miracle to avoid a runoff, most consultants and pundits agree, but the strategy is moving forward in the hopes of striking gold. While overall Democratic registration, by nearly 16,000 voters, and Republican registration, by about 1,100 voters, has gone down from January to October, the racial registration numbers show something different. It may favor Landrieu, at least on paper. White registration is down by 7,700 voters over the same time frame, while black...

La. budget surplus dispute likely to linger for months

It doesn't look like the legislative auditor's office will weigh in anytime soon on the battle between Kristy Nichols, Gov. Bobby Jindal's commissioner of administration, and Treasurer John Kennedy over the final budget figures for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Nichols and Kennedy ratcheted up the rhetoric on Wednesday regarding the final budget figures. Nichols contends the state closed out the 2014 fiscal year with a $178.5 million surplus. Kennedy says the Jindal administration is using a new accounting method to come up with that figure, and that the state would show a $141 million deficit if it used the method it's been using for years. Nichols denies a new method is being used. As The Associated Press reports, the difference of $319 million between Nichols' and Kennedy's estimates could decide if the state has a budget gap to close from last year or money to help address...

Publisher: How I'll vote on 14 constitutional amendments

When Louisiana voters go to the polls in a few weeks, they'll find 14 constitutional amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot in addition to the political races. In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. lays out how he's planning to vote on the amendments and why. "Many of these could be handled by statute, but often the Legislature wants to avoid a governor's veto or wants to get a measure put into the constitution so it is very hard to overturn later," McCollister writes of the list of amendments. "That is an abuse of the constitution, and voters should not allow it." McCollister says he's voting yes on just four of the 14 amendments: No. 3, which deals with the sale of property with delinquent taxes; No. 6, which provides a higher millage cap for police and fire protection in Orleans Parish; No. 10, which involves the tax sale of vacant, blighted or abandoned property; and No. 14, which deals with tax rebates, incentives and abatements. McCollister says...

Walter Lee pays restitution to BESE

State education board member Walter Lee has reimbursed the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education an amount state auditors say he owed for improper payments received for travel and lodging over a three-year period. Lee, 80, of Shreveport, paid $13,073 on Sept. 15, BESE communications manager Kevin Calbert has confirmed to The Shreveport Times. But Lee wasn't out the full amount for long. On the same date, BESE paid Lee for travel and per diem expenses that have been held since December. Calbert did not have the exact amount immediately available to provide to The Shreveport Times, but said he would research it at the newspaper’s request. Lee did not want the payment to indicate that either the state or auditors were "correct," BESE Chairman Chas Roemer says. "But he didn't want it to be in question." Roemer suspended Lee's travel reimbursements while the restitution issue was disputed. But the recent payment cleared Lee to receive what had been held...

BESE split of trust fund revenue upsets some members

Led by Superintendent of Education John White, the state's top school board has ignored its advisory council's advice about how to divide revenues generated by a trust fund created from an offshore oil settlement. As The Advertiser reports, White says he didn't like the 8(g) Advisory Council's proposal that he claims reduces the amount of funds flowing to his office. "I don't understand the rationale of cutting the department," says White. Marian Fertitta, who chairs the 8(g) council, proposed that school systems split $10.5 million and the department get an equal amount. Another $1.7 million would go into competitive grants, and $1 million would go to special projects. Under the plan suggested by White, offered by BESE member Holly Boffy and adopted 6-4 by the board, more money goes to competitive grants and less to block grants for school systems. BESE member Lottie Beebe, superintendent of schools in St. Martin Parish, objected because she believes the competitive grant...

Political rock stars of the 6th District

Every election cycle has its rock stars, those politicians who affect fawning followers like a modern-day Elvis or jump off drum sets to loud and blinding pyrotechnics.

Alford: Political rock stars of the 6th District

This November's 6th Congressional District race is likely to yield a runoff, columnist Jeremy Alford writes, between its two most flamboyant candidates—Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal's former frontman on coastal policy, and former Gov. Edwin Edwards. "Edwards already has the backing of the Louisiana Democratic Party, and few would bet against him making the runoff," Alford reasons. "The top-tier officials of the Louisiana Republican Party, elected and otherwise, are quietly placing their markers on Graves." Graves not only has the biggest personality, Alford writes, but the biggest bankroll as well. A campaign finance report that will be filed this week will show that Graves has raised $1 million from 1,100 donors. "It's an earth-shattering showing for a first-time candidate, with financial support from the billionaire Koch brothers and shipyard magnate Boysie Bollinger. Consultant Mary Matalin is also helping him raise money," Alford writes. Graves is expected to spend...

Voting on 14 constitutional amendments

In just a few weeks we will be going to the polls to vote on a number of races and 14 constitutional amendments.

Landrieu supporters from oil and gas industry face 'tough call'

Sen. Mary Landrieu has long carried the support of the oil and gas industry, but if industry Republicans face the choice of keeping Landrieu as chair of the Senate Energy Committee or gaining a Republican-controlled Senate, support may favor her likely opponent in a runoff, Congressman Bill Cassidy. According to a report from Politico, even if Landrieu champions bills that the industry wants from her position as chair of the Energy Committee, partisan gridlock in the Senate prevents floor votes on those issues. "Any Republican as chair of the energy committee is better than Harry Reid and Mary Landrieu," Cassidy says. "Because whatever Sen. Landrieu would like to do, Harry Reid will not allow it." Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association President Chris John tells Politico that most of LMOGA's members are backing Landrieu in the general election, but notes a shift in Senate control would resonate through issues other than oil and gas. "If [a runoff] is the case, it becomes...

LaPolitics: Down the bayou in the 6th

While the public focus on the race in the 6th Congressional District has been on the northern part, around Baton Rouge, and in the swing parishes of Ascension and Livingston, the battle is alive and kicking in the southern end as well. The district picks up the top halves of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, where 11.5% of the electorate lives. Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal's former coastal adviser, has taken the fight to state Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, there, picking up key endorsements in her backyard. "I'm supporting Garret over Lenar because I think we need someone who can be ready to pick up on our levee and hurricane protection projects, like Morganza, on day one," says House Natural Resources Chairman Gordon Dove, R-Houma. "I just think Lenar needs a few more years in Baton Rouge. She's a great lady and I wish her luck. But I was committed to Garret long before she got in the race. He is the most qualified in this race." Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet adds,...

Felder withdrawing from 6th District race

Local attorney Cassie Felder is dropping out of the race for Louisiana's 6th District Congressional seat, according to her campaign manager Matt Beeson. Felder will instead endorse state Sen. Dan Claitor, another Baton Rouge Republican, Beeson says. Beeson cited concerns with campaign finances and a desire not to split the Baton Rouge vote as reasons for leaving the campaign trail. The 6th District includes portions of the River Parishes and parts of Livingston and Ascension, juts into Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and the Felicianas, and dips into Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Beeson says Felder thinks it's important to have a candidate from "the core" of the district—East Baton Rouge Parish—win the seat. Twelve candidates are still in the race, according to the Secretary of State's website. Other high-profile Baton Rouge area candidates include Paul Dietzel II, a businessman, and Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal's former frontman on coastal policy. Felder's...

Jindal issues order to protect teachers who speak out against Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order today saying teachers may openly complain about Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards. The Republican governor, a one-time supporter of the national education standards who has since turned into a fierce opponent of Common Core, says he issued the order after teachers said their criticisms of the standards on social media and in public were stifled by school administrators, as recently reported by The Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria. Jindal's order says school administrators aren't allowed under state law "to deny a teacher's constitutional freedom of speech." The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks adopted by more than 40 states. Jindal has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the standards, accusing the administration of using Common Core to try to...

Aid program for La. small businesses threatened with closure

Lawmakers and business leaders are pressing Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to pledge the financing needed to keep open a 25-year-old program that helps small businesses apply for government contracts. The Associated Press reports the state investment needed to save the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, known as PTAC, is small—about $185,000 in a $25 billion state budget. But supporters of the center say they have been unable to get commitments from the Jindal administration, with time running out before the program will have to shutter its doors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and its four counseling centers. Financing for the program is split with the federal Department of Defense, which requires a 50% match from the state. An application to keep the program going is due to federal officials by the end of October, but the program must be able to show it has the needed financing. In past years, the state has helped pay for the local match...

Jindal's call for increased military spending well received at Citadel

Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered a roughly one-hour address to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, on Tuesday evening, and took questions from those in the audience. Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier reports some of the cadets liked what they heard, and some even acknowledged that Jindal sounded presidential in his delivery. "I think 90 percent of the country would agree with what he said," Citadel junior James McManus told the newspaper. Likewise, Citadel political scientist DuBose Kapeluck says Jindal's message of expanding the military and increasing military spending probably resonated strongly with the cadets, especially those heading toward a future in the armed forces. He adds that it also appeared Jindal was looking to make a splash at The Citadel ahead of any White House plans. In South Carolina, presidential hopefuls get "their national defense bona fides by talking at The Citadel," Kapeluck says. Jindal was in South Carolina a day after

Council to take up fire station transfer to Mid City Redevelopment Alliance

The Metro Council is set to vote at its meeting Wednesday on whether to transfer ownership of a defunct fire station at 1801 North Laurel St. to the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. MCRA Executive Director Samuel Sanders says he expects the council to approve the transfer, adding that he expects the alliance to spend at least $300,000 to renovate—and possibly upwards of $1.2 million to fully restore—the two-story, 4,000-square-foot building. Sanders says the alliance plans to house its Home Ownership Center on the first floor of the fire station, and a classroom, boardroom and offices for other programs on the second. "The timeline [to move in] depends on funds. We don't have any funds set aside right now," he says, adding MCRA is looking into a fundraising campaign. The Metro Council recently approved the transfer of two other out-of-use fire stations to community improvement organizations, though all three were initially proposed at the same meeting in late July. The...

La. Senate race said to be among nastiest of all in US

If you happened to see a TV ad by or on behalf of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu or her top Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, in late September, you heard a negative message. As The Wall Street Journal reports, an analysis of Senate campaign ads aired across the country in late September shows exactly 0% of ads by Landrieu and Cassidy were positive over a two-week stretch. That made it the most negative campaign in the country, according to the analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project. With control of the Senate at stake, elections across the country this year are tilting more negative than they did in 2010 or 2012. Analyses of Senate ads over most of September show that negative ads were far outweighing positive ads and airing at a higher rate than in recent elections. And Democratic groups, fighting to defend more Senate seats and keep control of the chamber, have been more negative than their Republican counterparts, the independent analysis shows. In the two weeks...

Left letting the right prosecute Caldwell

Although it's barely penetrating the nonstop political coverage of this fall's elections, the 2015 contest for Louisiana's top lawyer is developing into a barnburner. National interests, statewide business groups, trial attorneys and Tea Party diehards are all heading toward a big bang.

Alford: Overlooked AG race in La. looks to be a barnburner

Although it's barely penetrating the nonstop political coverage of this fall's elections, columnist Jeremy Alford says the 2015 contest for Louisiana's top lawyer is developing into a barnburner. "National interests, statewide business groups, trial attorneys and Tea Party diehards are all heading toward a big bang," writes Alford. "With the power of incumbency on his side, and some major wins against pharmaceutical companies, GOP Attorney General Buddy Caldwell will make a strong pitch for re-election. But business and industry may not listen." Alford notes they've been browbeating Caldwell over the past year for approving resolutions for contingency fee contracts, most notably those allowing public bodies to hire firms to sue oil and gas companies for coastal damages. "The approvals also put Caldwell in the crosshairs of Gov. Bobby Jindal and Republican lawmakers," Alford adds. "Now some of those critics are coalescing behind a challenge from former Congressman Jeff Landry of New...

Jindal to lay out America Next foreign policy plan next week

Gov. Bobby Jindal will unveil a foreign policy vision by America Next, a tax-exempt nonprofit group for which Jindal is honorary chairman, during stops in the nation's capital and South Carolina early next week. "Governor Jindal will present a plan co-authored by former U.S. Senator Jim Talent to rebuild America's military strength and reaffirm the United States as a force for freedom and stability around the world," says America Next in an announcement about Jindal's plans. Jindal is scheduled to lay out the policy during an 11 a.m. address Monday to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He'll travel to Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday to address The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, at 7 p.m. America Next says Jindal is "unveiling this defense policy proposal as the next step in a series of policy prescriptions to win the war of ideas." Last month,

LaPolitics: Vitter hasn't forgotten about Senate

While he may be focused on running for governor in 2015, U.S. Sen. David Vitter hasn't lost sight of his gig in D.C., which includes a possible chairmanship in the near future and raising money for his federal accounts. As the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sources close to Vitter say, he could potentially be in line for its chairmanship should Republicans take control of the upper chamber following the current election cycle. "But depending on how things shake out, like how people get moved around and seniority, he could end up as chair of another committee," says the Washington source. That could create an interesting argument against Vitter as he runs for governor, one that would work in reverse to the claims that senior Sen. Mary Landrieu should remain in the Senate due to her chairmanship of the Energy Committee. While his naysayers could argue that Vitter should stay in D.C., either to complement Landrieu's gavel or to make up for her loss,...

Angelle announces 2015 gubernatorial run

The field of candidates in the Louisiana 2015 governor's race grew to four today with the addition of Republican Scott Angelle, a member of Louisiana's utility regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission. Angelle, a longtime government official from Breaux Bridge, announced he would be a candidate on the October 2015 ballot, when Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited and can't run for re-election. Angelle tells Daily Report that while being a public service commissioner has helped hone his skill set, what qualifies him most to be governor "are the last 25 years of being a father and a husband and a Louisianan." Promising to "put families first … so they last," Angelle says he will focus on Louisiana's "vital statistics" in the areas of "education, medication, incarceration, transportation. ... Those things matter, and I think I can lead the conversation and be real about the discussion." The other announced gubernatorial candidates thus far are Republican Sen. David...

News alert: Angelle running for governor

Public Service Commission member Scott Angelle announced today he is running for governor in 2015. Angelle tells Daily Report that while being a public service commissioner has helped hone his skill set, what qualifies him most to be governor “are the last 25 years of being a father and a husband and a Louisianan.” Promising to “put families first … so they last,” Angelle says he will focus on Louisiana's “vital statistics” in the areas of “education, medication, incarceration, transportation. ... Those things matter, and I think I can lead the conversation and be real about the discussion.” Angelle, a one time Democrat who has since turned Republican, was appointed secretary of the Department of Natural Resources by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2004, a position he held until August 2012 when he resigned to run for his current spot on the Public Service Commission. Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed him to serve as interim...

Battle brewing within GOP over whether to pursue tax reform

Facing the prospect of a fully Republican Congress for the first time in eight years, GOP strategists are divided over how to advance a central tenet of their political agenda: a simpler U.S. tax code with sharply lower rates. The Washington Post reports that in the House, Republicans weary of jousting with President Barack Obama over sweeping tax and budget issues say they have little hope of suddenly finding consensus in the waning days of his administration. Better, they argue, to focus on smaller targets, such as approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and rolling back broadly unpopular pieces of the Affordable Care Act, such as a tax on medical devices and cuts to Medicare Advantage. In the Senate, however, aides and advisers say a newly elected Republican majority may be more inclined to aim for much bigger prizes. Among the prime options: a far-reaching tax code rewrite—if not for individuals, then at least for U.S. businesses, which currently labor under the highest...

Pro-charter group ranks La. charter movement second best in US

The growth, quality and innovation of Louisiana's public charter school movement is second best in the nation and trails only Washington, D.C., according to a new ranking of charter movements in 25 states and the nation's capital by a pro-charter group. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which is based in Washington, D.C., says Louisiana got the No. 2 ranking in its first ever state-by-state analysis for a variety of reasons. "Louisiana's public charter schools served a higher percentage of free and reduced-price lunch students when compared with traditional public schools in 2010-11 (16 percentage points more)," the alliance notes. Additionally, it points out that 97% of the state's charters were located in non-suburban areas, as compared to 81% of traditional public schools during the 2010-11 school year. Also, an average of 27% of the state's charters reported using one of six innovative practices—which include extended day, extended year, year-round calendar,...

Publisher: Constitutional amendment No. 2 a step in wrong direction

The Louisiana Hospital Association released a report last week touting the $30 billion impact hospitals have on our state's economy. In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister says he doesn't know that anyone would argue with the important role hospitals play in our state. "But this report and the TV commercials to follow are intended to help pass a constitutional amendment to dedicate and protect funding in the budget for hospitals from any cuts once the budget is passed," McCollister writes. "On the surface that sounds reasonable—protect health care. But the fact is, Louisiana has dedicated most of its budget, and only health care and higher education were open to cuts." This has long been an issue, McCollister notes, saying that hospitals and universities were in the same boat asking in unison that the dedications be reduced to provide more flexibility and options for shared cuts in times of lower revenues. "That should have happened, but...

LSU board approves rewritten hospital contracts

LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services. The Associated Press reports the LSU Board of Supervisors approved the rewritten contracts without objection today. The reworked deals are part of an effort by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to win federal approval to keep Medicaid dollars paying for the privatization arrangements. The contracts govern the management transfer of hospitals in New Orleans, Lafayette, Bogalusa, Shreveport and Monroe and a deal that closed LSU's Lake Charles hospital, moving its inpatient services to a private hospital. Federal health officials rejected prior financing plans. Several LSU board members raised concerns about the ease with which hospital managers can now exit the deals, saying they want the university system to devise backup plans.

Gallup: More Louisianans identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans

A new poll released this morning by Gallup says more Louisianans now identify themselves as or lean Democratic than they do Republican, marking a shift from the past three years during which Republicans have held a slight edge. The poll, which is based on a survey of 1,396 Louisiana residents and has a margin of error of plus/minus three percentage points, says 45% of residents are Democrats, while 41% are Republicans. Although Democrats are said to outnumber Republicans in the state, Gallup notes Louisianans are still most likely to describe their political views as conservative (45%), rather than moderate (34%) or liberal (17%). Gallup says Louisiana is "among the six most conservative states in the country and has the distinction of being one of four states whose residents are more likely to identify as conservatives than they are as Republicans." Gallup says the declining number of self-identified Republicans but high number of self-identified conservatives suggests...

Louisiana may need more politicians

In a state where politics is theater, we may be running short on thespians.

Alford: Louisiana may need more politicians

In a state where politics is theater, columnist Jeremy Alford says we may be running short on thespians. "Candidates failed to sign up for 24 different races during qualifying in August, creating empty elections across the state," Alford notes in his latest column. "More than 100 candidates also withdrew or were disqualified from other contests this cycle, which is an unprecedented and troubling figure. Plus, a majority of the judgeships on the November ballot were won outright without an election due to a lack of challengers." The two dozen races that remain blank may be the most surprising part of this trend, Alford says. "While it might sound like a dream come true to those who want less government and fewer professional public servants, it puts several local communities in a pinch," he writes. "No one wanted to be accountable for tax dollars or oversee important functions of government in these election districts. That's regrettable." What's more, Alford says, is it runs counter...

Jindal takes fifth in straw poll, has big weekend out of state

Following a headlining appearance at the Family Research Council Action's 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal has finished fifth in the event's straw poll. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also had a headlining address at the event, finished first in the straw poll for the second straight year, with 25% of the votes. Jindal tied with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for fifth in the poll, with 7% of the vote. Jindal also finished third in the straw poll of vice president candidates, at 11%. Following the Values Voter Summit, Jindal traveled to Iowa Saturday, where The Des Moines Register reports he spent the day reaching out to GOP volunteers and potential voters on...

Hospital amendment is wrong direction

The Louisiana Hospital Association released a report last week that touted the $30 billion impact by hospitals on our state's economy.

Striking a balance

Fitness, fun and fiscal responsibility: These are the goals outlined in BREC's newly unveiled 10-year plan, "Imagine Your Parks 2: Better Parks—Better Living."

Jindal, other potential GOP presidential candidates rallying behind religious liberty

Fighting to improve their brand, leading Republicans rallied behind religious liberty at a gathering today of evangelical conservatives, rebuking an unpopular President Barack Obama while skirting divisive social issues. Speakers did not ignore abortion and gay marriage altogether on the opening day of the annual Values Voter Summit, but a slate of prospective presidential candidates focused on the persecution of Christians and their values at home and abroad—a message GOP officials hope will help unify a divided party and appeal to new voters ahead of November's midterm elections and the 2016 presidential contest. In advance of his address to the summit later this evening, Gov. Bobby Jindal released a portion of his prepared remarks to the media this afternoon. In them, he says "the Obama Administration is waging a silent war on our religious liberty. The Obama Administration...

LaPolitics: Graves cracks open piggy bank

With a massive fundraising lead that his opponents admit they'll never catch up to, Garret Graves is finally spending some of it in a concentrated 45-day money dump leading up to the November primary in the 6th Congressional District. His first commercial went on the air last week touting his conservative beliefs and budget savvy as Gov. Bobby Jindal's former coastal czar. Campaign manager Kevin Roig says: "We're spending $60,000 to start with and will be going up in increments and should reach as high as half a million by November. We're not going down." As of his Aug. 2 report with the Federal Election Commission, Graves had $636,000 in the bank, but his kitty has likely grown since then. The introductory spot began running on cable in Baton Rouge and the areas surrounding New Orleans on FOX, ESPN, History and the Weather Channel. Now the buy is being expanded to broadcast television with a new version, with other commercials to follow, and the media outreach will eventually move...

GOP error reveals top donors, price of access

A simple coding error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. The New York Times reports that has set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open. The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America's most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate "members" of the governors association's secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public. "This is a classic example of how corporations are trying...

State workers' health insurance dispute takes center stage at Capitol today

Controversy over health insurance changes planned for state workers, teachers and retirees is the focal point of a hearing expected to draw a crowd to the Louisiana Capitol today. The House Appropriations Committee is holding a briefing beginning at 10 a.m. on the rewrite of insurance plans offered by the Office of Group Benefits, which covers 230,000 state workers, public school employees, retirees and their dependents. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says changes are needed to address the rising costs of health care caused by medical inflation and federal law changes. But many workers and retirees are accusing the administration of mismanagement, improperly dropping premiums in past years to help balance the state budget. The insurance program is spending more money than it receives each month and is draining a reserve fund to cover costs. On Tuesday, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office released an opinion saying the changes to the health insurance plans did not follow the...

Jindal returning to New Hampshire, Iowa this weekend

Gov. Bobby Jindal will be spending his next few days in the key presidential campaign states of New Hampshire and Iowa. As The Associated Press reports, the Republican governor—who is considering a 2016 White House bid and has said he'll announce his decision following the November elections—heads to New Hampshire later today for a speech to pastors. He was scheduled to join New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein for education-related events Friday. He'll make a short trip to Washington to speak Friday night at the annual gathering of faith leaders and conservative activists known as the Values Voter Summit. Then, he's in Iowa for several stops Saturday, including a visit to the Iowa State University tailgate for Republican Sen. Bill Dix and a speech to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. The schedule of events was released by Jindal's political action committee, Stand Up to Washington. Before leaving for New Hampshire, Jindal is scheduled to be in Bossier...

Jindal's ex-health secretary indicted for perjury

Gov. Bobby Jindal's former health secretary was charged today by a state grand jury with lying about his involvement in the award of a now-canceled $200 million Medicaid contract. The Associated Press reports Bruce Greenstein was indicted on nine counts of perjury, tied to his sworn testimony during a confirmation hearing before a state Senate committee and to the grand jury reviewing the contract and the decision-making behind it. The indictment comes more than a year and a half after the Jindal administration scrapped the 10-year Medicaid claims processing contract with Maryland-based Client Network Services Inc., or CNSI. Since the contract cancellation, the administration has accused Greenstein, a former CNSI vice president, of inappropriate contact with the company throughout the bid process. Greenstein resigned a week after the contract was terminated but has denied any effort to steer the contract to his former employer. His lawyer John McLindon says Greenstein didn't lie in...

Some council members ready to OK deal with BRAF on downtown parking garage

Going into Wednesday's Metro Council meeting, some council members still have questions about a deal the council has been asked to approve between the city-parish and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation over the downtown parking garage on Convention and Third streets. But other council members, who initially had concerns over the issue, say that after meeting with BRAF leaders recently they're satisfied the new agreement over the parking facility is in the city's best interest. "I'm going to vote for it,'' says Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who earlier this month raised concerns about the new cooperative endeavor agreement for the facility. "I think it's a good deal for the city. I'm not so sure it's a good deal for the state, but that's not what we're being asked to vote on." In July, BRAF signed a $2 million, 91-year lease with the state for the 466-space garage. But the city-parish is...

Council to consider changes to bus bench contracts

The Metro Council is scheduled to take up a measure Wednesday that could relieve the long-unresolved headaches of the three advertising companies that are unhappy with limits on their contracts to provide benches at bus stops around the city. The city-parish doesn't have to spend money on benches because companies don't charge anything for them. The companies even give the city-parish a cut of the money they make from ads placed on bench backrests. But the advertising companies can no longer put up benches on state roads, sites that would draw more revenue. The state Department of Transportation and Development took down some of the benches on state roads because they weren't properly credentialed with the city-parish, which had no codified way to approve them. Councilman Joel Bo is sponsoring the item to direct the city-parish to approve the state road benches. Bo says the council needs to "get back to the original mission as to why these agreements were approved," which was to...

BR business executives bankrolling new media campaign for local school board races

A political action committee with ties to the local business community has launched a media campaign for the upcoming school board elections in East Baton Rouge Parish. Better Schools for Better Futures, a PAC formed in August by Lane Grigsby and three veteran business lobbyists who work with him, has spent about $40,000 on TV and radio ads that began airing last week. A print media campaign is still to come. The commercials do not promote or mention by name the nine individual candidates who were recently endorsed by the organization, but instead focus on the broad goals the PAC has outlined to improve the district. Those include hiring a reform-minded superintendent, giving principals more autonomy in the classroom, giving parents choice and promoting STEM programs. "The business community needs students who have been trained in STEM," says Josh Howard, a spokesman for the...

Women voters move to the front this election cycle

While still underrepresented in every level of government in Louisiana, women—from candidates and wives to voters—are moving to the forefront of federal races this fall as headline-grabbers, possible trailblazers and, of course, talking points.

Alford: Women voters move to the front this election cycle

While still underrepresented in every level of government in Louisiana, women—from candidates and wives to voters—are moving to the forefront of federal races this fall as headline-grabbers, possible trailblazers and, of course, talking points, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. Not only are there more women voters in Louisiana than men—nearly 1.6 million compared to 1.3 million—but Alford notes registered women voters also outnumber men in every single congressional district here. "To tip the scales, both parties are pointing to a 'war on women,'" Alford writes. "The stakes are high and margins thin." In Sen. Mary Landrieu's re-election campaign against leading Republican challenger Bill Cassidy, Alford says, "women voters represent a segment of the electorate that pollsters contend Landrieu must gain traction with to win." And over the past week alone, he notes Landrieu has attacked Cassidy for his stance on the Export-Import Bank, claiming he's...

Barfield: 'We have a lot of unknowns that obviously concern me' about tax amnesty

The Louisiana Department of Revenue is expecting to collect $104 million from delinquent taxpayers through its month-long tax amnesty program that begins Oct. 15, Secretary Tim Barfield told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday afternoon. That's out of an estimated $1.9 billion that the state says is owed from 450,000 taxpayers, but Barfield said he's not guaranteeing that the department will meet its goal. "I'm always paranoid, and I will be until we have the $100 million in hand. We have a lot of unknowns that obviously concern me," Barfield said. Some of the uncertainty arises from the types of taxpayers the department is targeting. Last year's program, the first of three, resolved the bulk of corporate debt. Ten companies paid roughly 60% of the $452 million haul, Barfield said, and, "at this point there's nothing like that out there." Barfield said this year the majority of taxpayers who participate in the program will be individuals and small businesses that the department will...

Auditor releases nonpartisan brief on Common Core

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office this morning released a nonpartisan overview about the English and math standards used in Louisiana's public school classrooms. The 30-page report describes development of the standards, gives a sample of the changed teaching and outlines other states' use of Common Core. The report also provides an overview of the Common Core lawsuits filed in Louisiana. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted Common Core, which describes what students should know after completing each grade. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the standards, saying the Obama administration has manipulated use of Common Core to try to control local education policy and curriculum. Jindal issued a press release following the release of Purpera's report today, saying the report shows that Common Core standards are driving curriculum in the classroom. "We appreciate the Legislative Auditor's report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the governor have...

La. lawmakers say VA's slow payments hurting La. veterans' credit

All eight members of Louisiana's congressional delegation say the Department of Veterans Affairs is hurting the credit of hundreds of Louisiana veterans by failing to pay on time for emergency health care at private facilities. The Associated Press reports a letter sent Thursday to Secretary Robert McDonald asks how the VA plans to correct its mistakes in Louisiana and make sure they never happen again. According to the letter, leaders of the Veterans Integrated Service Network covering Louisiana have said at public meetings that they incorrectly rejected claims from hundreds of veterans. The letter was released by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany. In July, he and Sen. Mary Landrieu introduced a bill that would require the secretary to report on each service network's record in paying emergency medical claims on time.

LaPolitics: Media buy coming for constitutional amendments

The Louisiana Hospital Association, Louisiana Nursing Home Association, Louisiana Pharmacists Association, ambulance providers and intermediate care facilities are pooling their resources and planning for a statewide media buy to promote the passage of the first two constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Sources say the buy will include TV, radio and web, but no specific dollar amount has been set. The hospital association has already launched a website, VoteYes1and2.org. But a major component of the campaign will be on the grassroots level, with face-to-face contacts made in community meetings and other venues. "We're not taking this for granted," says Sean M. Prados, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Louisiana Hospital Association. "We're going to be doing a lot of education." It'll be a tough fight to grab the attention of voters with a major U.S. Senate race being waged, but the recent headlines involving financial turmoil at hospitals in...

Rainwater joining lobbying firm as senior consultant

Gov. Bobby Jindal's former chief of staff Paul Rainwater is joining the Cornerstone Government Affairs lobbying firm as a senior consultant, the Washington, D.C.-based firm announced this morning. Rainwater surprised many local political observers when he announced in February that he was stepping down as Jindal's chief of staff after more than six years in the administration. "We are especially pleased to add someone with the knowledge, relationships and work ethic that Paul has," says Cornerstone Managing Partner of State Government Relations Campbell Kaufman in a prepared statement. "His experience working in both the Jindal administration and Senator Landrieu's office will be invaluable to our existing client base and should be attractive to companies and organizations seeking representation in Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C." Rainwater, who served in senior positions for Sen.

LABI legislative scorecard 'All-Star Team' includes four BR lawmakers

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry this morning released its annual scorecard of lawmakers' votes during the past session based on pro-business legislative issues that LABI lobbied on behalf of. This year's scorecard includes an evaluation of more than 45 votes on LABI priority issues for each member of the Louisiana House and Senate. A total of 31 lawmakers received an A grade from LABI, signifying they scored 90% or better on the scorecard and placing them on the association's "2014 All-Star Team." Those on the team from Baton Rouge are all Republicans: Sen. Dan Claitor and Reps. Stephen Carter, Barry Ivey and Erich Ponti. The Baton Rouge area legislators who scored between 75% and 90% on the scorecard are also all Republicans: Sen. Bodi White and Reps. John Berthelot, Clay Schexnayder, Kenneth Havard, Valarie Hodges and Sherman Mack. The average score for Louisiana representatives is 64.5% on this year's scorecard, while the average score for state senators is...

RNC leader presses for more Landrieu flight details

The chairman of the Republican National Committee called today on U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to release all records of her taxpayer-funded charter flights for an independent review, to determine whether they were campaign-related. The Associated Press reports RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says if the three-term Democratic incumbent is unwilling to yield to such scrutiny, she should reimburse the federal treasury for all private flight spending. "This is not just a forgetful moment. It's a pattern," Priebus says. The push for more information comes after Landrieu acknowledged she improperly billed her Senate office for nearly $34,000 in charter costs that should have been paid from her campaign account. Her campaign has reimbursed the federal treasury. Landrieu ordered a flight review after media reports cited charter flights paid with taxpayer dollars that included campaign fundraising stops. The review left out her first term. Her campaign said the review dated back to February 2002...

La. GOP becomes first state Republican Party to accept bitcoin contributions

The Republican Party of Louisiana announced today it is accepting contributions in bitcoin via its official website, making it the first major state-level executive committee to turn to bitcoin payments for monetary support. CoinDesk.com, which reports on bitcoin and other virtual currencies, reports that only the Libertarian Party has made the same move—in Louisiana and Texas—following guidance from the U.S. Federal Election Commission determining that political campaigns and political action committees can accept bitcoin as a form of in-kind donation under current federal election laws. LAGOP executive director Jason Dor tells the news site that other states may soon follow suit as their party leaders learn more about bitcoin. "I think the rise of bitcoin's popularity and use is forcing many public officials to learn about it. Still, many elected officials are not aware of it," he says. "If the bitcoin community embraces the use of bitcoin to support and oppose...

As new House whip, Scalise at center of congressional debate over Syria

At the center of the swirling congressional debate over funding the government and arming rebels in Syria stands the new House majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, The Washington Post reports. Officially on the job as whip for less than two months, the 48-year-old Scalise is a tea party conservative learning on the fly as he tries to build support for a short-term spending bill that is likely to include authorization of President Obama's plans to train and equip moderate Syrian forces to combat the Islamic State. Scalise's rise to power reflects the challenge facing GOP leaders who are seeking to bring unity to a traditionally rancorous caucus, just weeks before the midterm elections. "The sudden turn by Scalise from outside voice to inside player has created an air of unease in the House about whether he can close the deal," The Post reports. "Leaders of both parties are sounding confident that they can pass both initiatives by the end of this week, but...

Do endorsements really help candidates?

Candidates for public office often seek out endorsements from political or civic groups or even individuals viewed as having influence in a community. But as The Shreveport Times reports, political observers say whether those endorsements affect voter outcome depends on the race, the candidates involved and how voters were leaning in the first place. Endorsements have an impact on elections, most political scientists agree, but not in a way that most people might think. "An endorsement is not going to change someone's mind" if the voter was inclined to vote for one candidate over another, says Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana in Monroe. "They only serve to legitimize how people are already leaning." The best example, he said, is the so-called O Effect, as it is known in political science circles, when Oprah Winfrey endorsed President Barack Obama. "It legitimized how people were already feeling," Stockley says. "It made them feel...

Jindal says Landrieu out of touch with La. voters

Democrat Mary Landrieu's years in the Senate and chairmanship of a key energy committee haven't yielded much in the way of tangible benefits for Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal says. "She hasn't been able to actually produce policy results that are beneficial to our energy economy, our energy industries back home,'' Jindal told reporters this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "I don't think that her time in D.C., her experience, will be an advantage. If anything, it's a disadvantage.'' Jindal, chairman of America NEXT, a conservative policy group he started, was in Washington, D.C., to unveil his national energy plan. As Gannett Louisiana reports, energy is expected to be one of several key issues in Louisiana's competitive Senate race, in which Landrieu is defending her seat against a challenge from Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force...

How to do PARK(ing) Day right

The return of the global event PARK(ing) Day to Baton Rouge this Friday will create temporary mini-parks at 16 sites across the city—and will probably cause countless double takes from confused passersby.

Jindal to release comprehensive energy plan today

Gov. Bobby Jindal will today unveil a comprehensive energy plan during an address in Washington, D.C., to conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reports "the proposal includes familiar measures likely to rally Republicans, such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as a few ideas that haven't been as widely embraced by his party, including a call to lift the ban on American oil exports." By releasing these policy prescriptions before the next White House race officially begins, the newspaper says, Jindal is presenting himself as a candidate well-versed in public policy, noting the governor in April released what many considered to be the first policy paper of the 2016 race

Dr. Smith goes to Washington, via Louisiana

"Per capita, Louisiana has more medical doctors in Congress than any other state," Congressman John Fleming, R-Minden, said during a recent SWLA Economic Development Alliance event in Lake Charles, the smile on his face widening. "And I'm not going to stop until every single member of our delegation is a medical doctor. Can I get an amen here today?"

Alford: Dr. Smith goes to Washington, via Louisiana

Louisiana seems to have an ongoing love affair with physician-politicians, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Half of Louisiana's House delegation have medical degrees," Alford writes, noting Republican Congressmen John Fleming of Minden is a family physician, Congressman Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, is a cardiovascular surgeon, and Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is a gastroenterologist. "Recent polls suggest voters favor and trust health care professionals above most others." And while Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, isn't a doctor, Alford notes he is facing one in challenger Dr. Ralph Abraham. "Aside from public trust, physician-politicians have access to a ready-made fundraising base as well," Alford writes. "Abraham has so far raised nearly $35,000 from physicians and other donors connected to medical fields." Since being elected in 2003, Boustany has raised more than $1.8 million from health care professionals, says Alford. Meanwhile, Fleming has...

Face-off

In 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the acceptable limit for ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion. That standard was weaker than what many of the agency's scientific advisers had recommended. Since then, EPA has been reviewing its ozone rules, but President Barack Obama, reportedly wary of placing new regulatory burdens on industry, has delayed implementation. This year a court ordered the federal government to issue new ozone standards, and the new limit is expected to be between 60 and 70 parts per billion when finalized next year. Business Report asked an industry advocate and environmentalist to spell out their positions on the anticipated standards.

Library director justifies millage, provides project updates

East Baton Rouge Parish Library Director Spencer Watts addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon to provide updates on the system's various construction projects and tackle recent criticism surrounding its seeming surplus of funds. "We're lucky to have a dedicated tax," Watts said. "We appreciate the support from taxpayers." Libraries don't have to rely on donations every time the system wishes to engage in a new project, Watts said. Instead, EBR libraries have a dedicated funding stream that has allowed them to invest in technologies that were once considered experimental, such as e-books, where others have fallen behind. The library system has also been able to undertake several infrastructure projects while improving content and programs, Watts said, noting the first phase of parking lot construction for

GOP says Landrieu charter flight review is incomplete

Republicans say U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu fell short of her pledge to review all her taxpayer-funded private charter flights to make sure they complied with the law. The Democratic senator, who is seeking re-election on the November ballot, released on Thursday a review of her flights dating back to February 2002. But The Associated Press reports that Republicans, including Landrieu opponent U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, say the three-term incumbent cherry-picked what she chose to release. They also question why she didn't comb through flights from her first six years in Congress. Landrieu says her campaign reimbursed the federal treasury for nearly $34,000 in flight costs involving political fundraisers. Her campaign says the review only went back 12 years because that's when federal rules changed to allow flight costs to be split between Senate and campaign accounts if the trip had mixed...

Immigration a hot issue in La. Senate race

With Election Day less than eight weeks away, candidates for Louisiana's Senate seat are working to prove they're tougher than their rivals on illegal immigration, a hot-button issue in the closely watched race, Gannett Louisiana reports. "It seems to resonate with folks I talk to," says retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a tea party favorite. "It comes up at every town hall. And we get standing ovations when I say that I'm opposed to amnesty or a pathway to citizenship—every time." Maness and others in the race, including Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, have ramped up their rhetoric on immigration, outlining their positions at town halls, online and on the air. Landrieu and Cassidy recently launched ads accusing each other of being soft on border security. "It's kind of starting to catch the public's attention here," says Jeffrey Sadow, a political scientist at LSU Shreveport. "Maybe in an election like this where it's looking pretty close, then...

True assessment

Everyone hates paying taxes. But if you're paying your share, don't you at least want to know that everyone else is paying theirs?

Deal raises questions

Perhaps the Metro Council had exhausted its emotions at the Mary Roper hearing that preceded its Sept. 10 meeting and just didn't have any more energy to expend on controversy. Perhaps it just wanted to be brought into the loop.

La. GOP, Landrieu each release audits on senator's campaign flights

The director of the Louisiana Republican Party is accusing U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of charging nine commercial fights to her Senate account to collect campaign contributions at events around the state. As Gannett Louisiana reports, that's in addition to the four flights Landrieu already acknowledged, says Jason Dor of the state GOP office, adding that if Landrieu did what evidence gathered in a Republican National Senatorial Committee audit indicates, she could be guilty of violating federal election law. When a USA Today article first pointed out that Landrieu and several other members of Congress had charged campaign flights to their House and Senate travel accounts, Landrieu repaid the money from her campaign account, claiming it was an accounting error. She pledged an audit of her travel since she was elected to the Senate, and she released her audit this afternoon, a few hours after news of the GOP audit was released. Landrieu says her audit found a total of $33,727.02...

Jindal: More states will move away from Common Core

In an hour-long webinar produced this week by conservative Christian research group the Family Research Council, Gov. Bobby Jindal predicts more states will reverse course on Common Core, as Jindal wants Louisiana to do. "You look at the Carolinas. You see more and more states moving away from Common Core," says Jindal, who participated in the "Common Core: The Government's Classroom" webinar with Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is running for the U.S. Senate. "I think you are going to see this trend only grow. The more that parents and teachers see this, the less they like it." Jindal has sued the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly violating the 10th amendment in the implementation of Common Core. Jindal, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, originally supported Common Core when he thought it would be a "state-lawed, bottom-up" approach to improving education standards. But Jindal has since reversed course and is now a staunch opponent of the...

LaPolitics: Tax study could set tone for 2015

When LSU economist and Revenue Estimating Conference member Jim Richardson conducted his first major tax study in 1987, he was pleased to discover it had a great shelf life. All of the gubernatorial candidates that year signed on to support its findings and roughly a decade later some of its key recommendations, like the so-called Stelly Plan and the phasing out of taxes on business equipment, were implemented. Now Richardson is back at it with a study group that was created through a cooperative endeavor agreement that was signed by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles. The state is putting up $150,000 for the comprehensive review, and Tulane University, through the Murphy Institute, has taken care of another $50,000. In addition to poring over the much ballyhooed tax exemptions, Richardson says the study group will undertake a very comprehensive review, from tax rates and property taxes to credits and administration. "We know a...

Cassidy agrees to debate Landrieu, Maness at LSU

The number of debates at which incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and her leading Republican challengers—Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness—will square off is up to two. LSU student newspaper The Daily Reveille reports Cassidy has signed on for a debate with Landrieu and Maness on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Manship School of Mass Communication on the Baton Rouge campus. As reported earlier this week, Cassidy has heretofore committed publicly to just one match-up: an Oct. 14 debate in Shreveport that will be televised statewide by Louisiana Public Broadcasting stations. The debate at LSU will be sponsored by WAFB-TV, Raycom Louisiana stations, WRKF 89.3FM and LSU Student Government. Jerry Ceppos, Manship School dean, says hosting the debate coincides with the school's mission to align public policy and media. "There couldn't be a better place than...

PAR releases voter guide on constitutional amendments on Nov. ballot

Voters trying to sift through the details of 14 constitutional amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot have a guide they can consult. The nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, known as PAR, has released its online informational guide on the proposals to alter the state constitution. As The Associated Press reports, the amendments can be dense, dealing with health care funding changes, property taxes and transportation financing. This year's ballot contains among the heftiest number of amendments voters have ever faced at once. PAR's guide provides background information for each amendment, describes the change and offers arguments both in support and opposition. It also includes a checklist, so voters can decide which amendments they support or oppose and take that list into the voting booth. "Louisiana voters are being hit with a tidal wave of complex constitutional amendments that may drown their patience at the polls," says PAR President Robert Travis Scott in a...

Batson assumes duties of dismissed parish attorney

Now that the Metro Council has dismissed Mary Roper as parish attorney, East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant Attorney Lee Ann Batson will assume the duties of the top position in the office. Batson has filled that role since April, when Roper initially went on leave while the city-parish investigated an alleged theft of an in-house software program. Council Administrator Casey Cashio says that, from here, the council can either appoint an interim parish attorney or move straight to hiring someone to fill the position on a permanent basis. The council is not required to publicly advertise the position, Cashio says. Following a nearly two-hour public hearing Wednesday afternoon, the Metro Council voted 8-3 to dismiss Roper. The hearing on her job, which had been delayed several times previously,

News alert: Council votes to fire Roper

After a nearly two-hour public hearing on whether or not to fire East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper, the Metro Council has voted to dismiss her. The vote was 8-3, with Metro Councilmembers Tara Wicker, Ronnie Edwards and Chauna Banks-Daniel voting against the firing.

Councilwoman to ask for deferral of today's hearing on parish attorney's job

On the evening before today's scheduled hearing on the fate of Parish Attorney Mary Roper's job, Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel sent a lengthy email to her colleagues saying she doesn't feel prepared. "I feel totally un-informed, dis-connected, and ill-prepared to go forth with the hearing to determine Mary Roper's future as Parish Attorney," Banks-Daniel writes in the email, which includes a list of 25 detailed questions she has about the hearing. The councilwoman says she will ask for the hearing to be deferred yet again when the council convenes at 2 p.m. today. Metro Councilman John Delgado says he doesn't share Banks-Daniel's confusion. "You would have to be purposefully and willingly uninformed at this point," Delgado says. "If you haven't had your questions answered, you haven't asked them." Council members have received packets of information throughout the litigation from Murphy Foster III, who represented the city in court, according to legislative aides called this...

Task force meeting to streamline Comite River Diversion Canal project

The Amite River Basin Commission, a state board responsible for a project aimed at relieving flood pressure from eastern portions of East Baton Rouge Parish and other areas in the basin, has spent $3 million on acquiring property over the past year, including a 48-acre tract it bought for $353,000 earlier this week. The long-stalled Comite River Diversion Canal would reroute extra water in the Comite River to the Mississippi River. A legislative task force dedicated to the project is scheduled to convene for the first time Thursday with hopes of bringing governmental entities and interested parties together to streamline the rest of the process. Larry Bankston, the commission's attorney, says the commission still doesn't have the finalized "taking lines" from the Army Corps of...

Only one debate featuring all major La. Senate candidates confirmed so far

With only two months remaining before November's election, the three major candidates in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race have rarely appeared at the same events and never in a head-to-head debate. The Associated Press reports that how many such joint appearances or debates will happen still remains unclear. Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, seeking a fourth term in office, has agreed to participate in five debates throughout the month of October, in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Monroe and Shreveport. Republican and tea party favorite Rob Maness, a political newcomer who is running a distant third, has said he'll participate in many more if the other candidates would only sign up. The holdout for a confirmed debate schedule is Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, whose campaign has committed publicly to one match-up: an Oct. 14 debate in Shreveport to be televised statewide. Cassidy's spokesman would not answer questions today from The AP about whether the congressman will square off with...

McAllister becomes target of duck shoot

Ever since Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, was caught on video kissing a married staffer in April, the reaction from the reality TV family that endorsed him last year has been quieter than the early-morning opening hours of duck season. But after a few carefully called quacks and a bit of patience in the blinds, the inaugural shotgun blows are loud and clear.

Alford: McAllister becomes target of duck shoot

Ever since Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, was caught on video kissing a married staffer in April, columnist Jeremy Alford says, the reaction from the reality TV family that endorsed him last year has been quieter than the early-morning opening hours of duck season. "But after a few carefully called quacks and a bit of patience in the blinds, the inaugural shotgun blows are loud and clear," writes Alford in his latest column. "The last dude last year fed us a lie. I don't even know the dude," is how Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson eased into the topic Friday night at a fundraiser in Lake Charles for Zach Dasher, who is running against McAllister for the 5th District seat. Alford writes that despite not knowing "the dude," Robertson went on to tell donors that he had an opportunity to query McAllister in 2013 prior to the special election in the 5th District, asking him if he was a man of God and family, if he had any objections to killing and skinning game.

Dardenne says budget would be a priority as governor

Gubernatorial candidate and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne told the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon that he would budget more responsibly than the Jindal administration currently does should he be elected as Jindal's successor next year. Dardenne touted his years in the Louisiana Legislature spent as the Senate's frontman on the state budget. He also referenced his department's use of funds that don't recur year after year only to pay for one-time expenses. Budgets assembled by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration have been critiqued for using those so-called one-time funds on expenses the state needs to pay for every year. Looking forward, Dardenne said, the state needs to reconsider and examine its list of tax exemptions, "to make certain that our tax policies in Louisiana are fair and responsive to current demands." But, he said, "We can't tax ourselves to prosperity." Dardenne said current projections,

Councilman questions agenda procedure regarding Third Street parking garage agreement

Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso is raising concerns over an agenda item set to be considered at Wednesday's Metro Council meeting that he says wasn't introduced properly. In an email to his fellow councilmembers sent over the weekend, Amoroso says procedure wasn't followed for an item considering new arrangement between the city-parish and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for the parking garage at Third and Convention streets that could lead to fewer spaces for the general public. "If this item was never introduced and read into the public record how can it be on the current agenda as an 'item' that will be voted on," Amoroso asks in the email. "Shouldn't this item first be introduced then voted on?" Council Administrator Casey Cashio tells Daily Report this morning that everything is being conducted according to the city-parish Plan of Government. Cashio says there are...

Jindal continues to press Obama on Common Core while in New Hampshire

While in New Hampshire over the weekend, Gov. Bobby Jindal rallied Granite State Republicans, touted his recently filed lawsuit against the Obama administration over the national Common Core education standards and continued to attack the president for his handling of international issues. As The New Hampshire Union Leader reports, Jindal said Obama "has to secure the border" in brief remarks Saturday at the Strafford County GOP's annual picnic in Dover. Regarding immigration, Jindal said an influx of undocumented immigrants is fueling a "humanitarian crisis" in Louisiana. Jindal also focused on Republican Party unity in advance of the state's primary election on Tuesday. "No matter who wins, our candidates are better than their candidates," Jindal said, before accusing the Democratic Party of trying to "redefine the American dream" by promoting "bigger government." Jindal's...

Roper wants termination hearing to be held publicly, attorney says

A hearing on the fate of East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper's job will move forward as planned on Wednesday, following a ruling today by Judge Michael Caldwell in the case Roper brought against the Metro Council over the council’s attempts to remove her from her job. And it appears the hearing will be held in public. “Yes, it’s her wish to hold this publicly,” says her attorney, Wade Shows. “She’s weathered all the criticism, she has never had the opportunity to give her side of the story, and this is going to be the first time you hear Ms. Roper give a statement.” Caldwell’s ruling today closes the case Roper brought against the council, Shows says. At question today was whether or not Roper qualifies as an at-will employee. While Shows says he is pleased with today’s outcome, as the judge’s ruling “gave us on an outline to say that she is not at-will,” attorney Murphy Foster III, who is representing...

Cassidy narrowly leads in Senate race, new poll says

The latest poll by Rasmussen Reports on the Louisiana Senate race, released this morning, shows U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy is leading in his challenge to unseat incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the poll shows Cassidy, the leading Republican candidate, with 44%; compared to Landrieu's 41%, with an error of plus or minus four percentage points. Other candidates in the race were grouped together, including tea party favorite and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, and another Republican, Thomas Clements. Together, they drew 9% of those polled. The remaining 6% of those polled said they were undecided. A Cassidy spokesperson tells the newspaper in an email: "Dr. Cassidy's message of common-sense conservative reform is resonating." One of Landrieu's spokespeople says in an email to The Wall Street Journal that the poll is inaccurate because it grouped candidates together. Landrieu's seat is being closely watched, as the outcome could contribute to...

LaPolitics: State legislators reaching for more on fall ballot

So far there's only one open seat in the State Legislature due to the recent round of qualifying for the fall ballot, but another four could potentially require special elections in the near future, including two in Baton Rouge. Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Benton, has won a gavel in the 26th Judicial District in the best way imaginable: without opposition. "I don't take office until Jan. 1," Thompson says, "so between now and then I'll send notice to the House so they can prepare for either a December election or maybe one at the beginning of the year." While a special election in north Louisiana's House District 8 could easily be added to the already-scheduled December runoff ballot, legislative leaders want to wait and see what happens in the other November races featuring lawmakers as candidates. Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, is facing two challengers in the 19th Judicial District. With only one opponent, Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, will have his race decided for the...

Jindal talks about 2016, slams Obama at Michigan GOP event

As a keynote speaker at the Kent County Republican Party's 127th annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Wednesday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press reports, Gov. Bobby Jindal said frequent intra-party squabbling is not the biggest problem in politics. Jindal said he sees an even greater divide between the American people and Washington, D.C. "My sense is people are just frustrated in both parties, not just in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party," Jindal said. "What they hear from [D.C.] is you can't secure the border, we don't know how to do that. … We can't cut government spending, we can just slow its growth. I think they're looking for a big change in November, a big change in D.C." Jindal said it will be conservatives who will bring about that change. As for whether or not Jindal will run for president in 2016, he told the crowd he's "thinking and praying" about it and will come to a final decision with his wife after this year's November...

Publisher: New taxes aren't the answer to La. budgetary concerns

In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. says Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, was "whining again and sharing his doom and gloom" at a recent Rotary Club of Baton Rouge meeting. "We are facing the third year of essentially zero sales tax growth," said Albrecht, as he warned about a predicted $1.2 billion shortfall in the state budget this coming year. Albrecht suggested that Louisiana may not be in the financial position it is in had it not repealed the Stelly Plan. McCollister disagrees. "The Stelly Plan was that bait-and-switch tax increase sold to us as revenue-neutral. Taxpayers revolted, and it was repealed under pressure from middle-class voters who chafed at paying higher income taxes without feeling a corresponding offset in sales tax payments," McCollister writes. "So the result of the repeal was more money in our pockets and less for government. Sounds good to me." Regardless of how Louisiana has found...

La. ruling upholds ban on gay marriage

A federal judge upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages today, a rare loss for gay marriage supporters who had won more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states. The Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman also upheld the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. His ruling was the first to uphold a state ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. In 2004, 78% of Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Feldman said in his ruling that gay marriage supporters failed to prove the ban violates equal protection or due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution. He also rejected an argument that the ban violated the First Amendment by effectively forcing legally married gay couples to state that they are single on Louisiana income tax...

St. George incorporation issue may have to wait for spring ballot

City of St. George petition drive organizer Lionel Rainey suggests it may be spring before voters in unincorporated portions of East Baton Rouge Parish get to vote on the proposed incorporation of the new city. Though Rainey and others announced in July they had obtained enough signatures to get the measure on a ballot this fall, Rainey says the group is continuing to collect 1,500 additional signatures to ensure the petition has enough signatures from legitimate, eligible voters. "We know 3% to 10% of the signatures will be tossed, so we are actively reaching out to get that 10% overage," Rainey explains. "We are hoping it can be done in four weeks, but if it takes six weeks then we will put it on a spring ballot. This is something that is tremendously important. It isn't going to be done overnight." Rainey says St. George organizers raised more than $10,000 at a fundraiser late last month to help with the last-minute push for signatures, and he dismisses the notion that the...

TV spending by outside groups nearly matches candidate, party spending in tight Senate races

Candidates and parties are only slightly outspending outside groups in the 27 Senate races with the highest levels of spending, another sign of the rapid growth of outside cash in recent years, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a new report by the Center for Public Integrity. The report, which is based on estimates from the ad-tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG and only includes spending on TV ads, found that candidates and parties have spent $78.6 million on 223,700 ads this cycle. Outside groups follow closely behind, spending $74.8 million on 204,500 ads. And in certain key 2014 races, outside spending has far outweighed that of candidates and parties. In Louisiana—where incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is in a tight race with leading GOP candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy—spending by candidates and parties is running just slightly ahead of spending by outside groups. Landrieu has spent $4.8 million so far, backed up by another $3 million from Democratic...

For health care woes, Jindal prescribes confusion

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while attempting to understand the health care decisions made in recent years by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.

Alford: For health care woes, Jindal prescribes confusion

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while attempting to understand the health care decisions made in recent years by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Nor should you mix the resulting news coverage with alcohol. (Actually, that might not be a terrible idea.) Side effects may include headaches, feelings of despair, confusion, outrage or dizziness," Alford writes. "If these side effects persist, seek immediate care. Just be careful where you seek it." Last week, Baton Rouge General announced a November closure for its Mid City emergency room. "That was before the state swooped in with an unexpected cash infusion of $7.2 million, which, when coupled with a federal match, means $18 million," Alford writes. "The state saved the day—for now." The emergency room is hemorrhaging $1 million per month, due to an average increase of 400 patients, Alford notes. All of the new patients are uninsured, he says, driven there by the...

The big debate

Louisiana voters, who have been inundated for many, many months with all the smack-talking commercials and glossy postcards a campaign PR machine can churn out, may finally get a chance to hear some real political discourse in the U.S. Senate race.

New taxes are not the answer

Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, was whining again and sharing his doom and gloom at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge last week.