Content tagged “Politics”

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 Doré 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...

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 Doré 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.

Q&A: Frank Duke

Frank Duke took over the helm of the East Baton Parish Planning Department nearly three months ago, just as the city-parish was beginning the process of implementing its new master plan, FuturEBR, and rewriting its zoning code. The new director has wasted no time rolling up his sleeves and getting down to business since coming to Baton Rouge from Norfolk, Virginia, where he headed that city's planning department. Duke sat down recently with Business Report to discuss his initial impressions of the Capital Region, his priorities and his hopes for the long term.

LaPolitics: November turnout forecast at 45% to 50%

Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who was swamped last week with qualifying, didn't lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December. He tells LaPolitics that the general election and runoff will be where the real pressure is applied. He also recalls a "common joke" that's passed down from one secretary to another in his office. "The last thing you want to be is interviewed on the last day of an election cycle," Schedler says laughing. "They're not going to congratulate you. They're talking to you because something went wrong." From a unique jungle primary system to a race that may decide the balance of the U.S. Senate to one congressional race hosting an ex-con governor and another featuring a kissing incumbent, there is a great deal of interest nationally in Louisiana's 2014 elections. "This particular cycle is going to be bigger than a presidential election," Schedler says. "Maybe not in participation, but definitely in the amount of money from outside of the...

Jindal, Cruz to headline September GOP event in Iowa

Republican presidential prospects Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September. Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition announced today that Cruz, a Texas senator, and Jindal are scheduled to speak at the Sept. 27 event planned at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. It's billed as a "family banquet" and is intended to charge up conservatives ahead of the Nov. 4 election. It's also expected to feature Iowa candidates, including Gov. Terry Branstad, who is seeking a sixth term. Cruz and Jindal are among Republicans weighing 2016 presidential candidacies. Both have made repeated visits to Iowa, which will begin the presidential nominating process with its caucuses. Social conservatives comprise a loyal core of the GOP caucuses' base. Meanwhile, MSNBC is reporting that Jindal—who on Wednesday garnered a lot of national headlines by filing suit against the Obama administration over the Common Core education...

Decisions deferred at Metro Council, new fire station approved

The Metro Council at its meeting Wednesday evening deferred decisions to change the building permit process and to expropriate land for a north Baton Rouge wastewater plant, but did allocate funds for a new fire station. For months, contractors and developers have been pushing measures to speed up the Department of Public Works permitting process for new construction projects. Councilman Ryan Heck offered an ordinance to allow contractors to go to certified third parties who would be able to review everything but the plan's compliance with zoning, plot plans and flood zones. Heck said there's already a provision in state law to allow such a process, and that other parishes already make use of it. But the steps in the process that third parties would handle only take two hours to complete, so the proposal wouldn't save as much time as contractors think, according to DPW officials.

Pro-voucher group seeks to undo order in La. case

A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program. The Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ordered the reports in April. He ruled that they are needed to make sure Louisiana complies with a 1975 desegregation order about state money going to private schools. The order requires that the state provide federal officials with lists of voucher applicants, information on schools in the voucher program, and enrollment and racial breakdowns on public schools and private schools in the voucher program. A group of voucher families, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute, say the ruling resulted from a Justice Department effort to "stifle" the voucher program. Also involved in the appeal is the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, a pro-voucher group. State officials have said the ruling won't impede...

Jindal suing feds over Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit this morning against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. Jindal says that "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide. "The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal says in a statement. More than 40 states,...

La. borrows to balance budget

The books on Louisiana's previous budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work. The Associated Press reports that to fill gaps in the budget that ended June 30, the treasury had to dip into dollars slated to pay for state agency operations this year. Treasurer John Kennedy says the state used $24 million from this year's budget to plug last year's holes. That's part of a continuing balancing act used by Gov. Bobby Jindal and state lawmakers, which relies on patchwork funding from items like property sales, legal settlements and hurricane recovery spending reimbursements to keep state programs and services operating. Jindal's top budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, says the budget was balanced and the borrowing was only temporary. "We always knew that fiscal year 2014 was fully funded," she says in a statement to AP. But Kennedy says there's a "structural deficit" in the state's annual spending plans,...

Public Service Commission finally becomes interesting

If the regulation of utilities and motor carriers is your thing, then you'll feel right at home with the Public Service Commission.

Alford: Public Service Commission finally becomes interesting

If the regulation of utilities and motor carriers is your thing, then you'll feel right at home with the Public Service Commission, Jeremy Alford says. "Otherwise, you've probably only ever heard of the independent agency in passing," writes Alford in his latest column. "Even reporters tethered to its beat have to dig deep for news, save occasional bursts of front-page fodder." Alford notes that, politically, the PSC has a reputation as being a stepping stone to governor, particularly for Kathleen Blanco, Jimmie Davis, Huey Long and John McKeithen. "From energy to trucking, it's a decent position from which to create a fundraising base," he writes. "Plus, if a politician is shrewd and opportunistic, he or she can maintain those relationships while portraying themselves as a public watchdog." Yet for all its intrigue and importance, Alford says a seat on the five-member PSC rarely captures our collective imagination during an election year. "And we rarely have a reason to give its...

Landrieu, Cassidy and Maness to debate on Oct. 14

Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican challengers Rep. Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness will all participate in a debate that is to air live on Louisiana Public Broadcasting on Tuesday, Oct. 14, from 7 to 8 p.m. The debate will take place at Centenary College in Shreveport. “We are very excited that all three of the major candidates have agreed to appear in this forum,” says Barry Erwin, president of the Council for A Better Louisiana, which is partnering with LPB to present the debate. While there are other candidates running for Louisiana's Senate seat, CABL says it invited only those that have polled at least 5% in a recognized, nonpartisan or news media poll, or those who have raised at least $250,000 in campaign contributions, established a campaign committee and have filed campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

LaPolitics: Jindal watched closely as exit approaches

With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition. "Things are in motion. The announcement is coming," says a senior-level source in the cabinet. "It's no secret that he's not around, but some of the people close to him are keeping their plays close to their vest and trying to figure out where they're going to land. But you do have a few people who are willing to die on the sword for him and will ride it out in hopes they can come along." Another source with the state Republican Party says an official announcement is expected after this current election cycle wraps up, and Jindal indicated the same during a recent interview on MSNBC, while qualifying he's still undecided. "You're going to start to see some shuffling around of players sooner than later," the party official says. A longtime lobbyist...

Federal agency has questions about LSU hospital deals

Gov. Bobby Jindal's revised financing plan for six LSU hospital privatization deals is running into questions from federal health officials who rejected a previous version. The Associated Press reports the state health department today released the three-page question letter from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars. In May, CMS rejected the plans for six hospital deals, saying the agreements don't meet federal guidelines. So, the state Department of Health and Hospitals sent a new proposal. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert says the questions are a typical part of the process and "positive sign" the revised financing plan could be approved.

New planning director begins rewriting BR zoning code

The Planning Commission at its meeting Monday night gave Planning Director Frank Duke the green light to begin rewriting several areas of the city-parish zoning code that he believes are problematic—among them, the ordinance that governs the Historic Preservation Commission. Duke, who has been on the job since mid-June, says he's a big supporter of the HPC, which was created to regulate land use in the city's two historic districts and has often found itself in the crosshairs. But he believes the ordinance governing the agency is complicated and convoluted. "This ordinance requires a Certificate of Appropriateness for any change to the exterior of a structure—even if you cannot see what that change is going to do from the street," he says. "If you can't see it, it shouldn't be that big of a deal." Duke says he would like to simplify the HPC ordinance in order to make it easier for neighborhoods to become historic districts. At Monday's meeting, Duke also got approval to...

Mid City business owners plan area improvements

An outdoor stage, green space and splash pad are in the works for the unused triangular-shaped median on Eugene Street between Boudreaux's Catering and Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The Mid City Merchants are pushing the project. Community Development Committee Chairman Coleman Brown said at a meeting this morning that the project will complement the state's plans to slim Government Street to three lanes. Brown said the area, which may be called Mid City Plaza, is projected to be 14,000 square feet. The group is also pushing several other projects, including returning Main Street and North Street to two-way roads east of Interstate 110; establishing a pedestrian crosswalk, similar to the golf cart crossing at Webb Park, where Capital Heights Avenue crosses North Foster Drive; constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Lobdell Avenue, Independence Boulevard and Government Street; and widening the entirety of Airline Highway from four to six lanes. Most of the Airline project...

Metro Council to take up Time Out Lounge rezoning request Wednesday

Despite a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission on Monday evening to reject a rezoning request from owners of the Time Out Lounge to allow for the opening of a bar at 3180 Valley St., the Metro Council on Wednesday will take up the issue at its regular zoning meeting. Normally, a request that is unanimously rejected by the Planning Commission would not appear before the Metro Council, says Council Administrator Casey Cashio. However, a technicality has given the prospective bar owners another shot at having the rezoning request granted. Cashio confirms that since the issue was introduced, advertised and placed on the Metro Council zoning agenda prior to Monday evening's vote by the Planning Commission, which initially deferred the issue in late July, it will be heard Wednesday. However, because of the Planning Commission's unanimous vote against the measure, it will need to be...

Landrieu faces more travel questions

Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is under renewed scrutiny for potentially violating campaign finance laws by tapping official Senate funds to cover the cost of fundraising trips. As Politico reports, a review of Landrieu's office expenditures and campaign records reveals two trips from 2012 that may have been improperly billed to her Senate office rather than her reelection campaign. On Aug. 23, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $6,787 for an in-state flight for Landrieu that included multiple stops. The flight was from New Orleans to Vidalia to Shreveport to Alexandria and back to New Orleans, according to official disbursement records Landrieu filed with the secretary of the Senate. On Oct. 18, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $3,437 for a Landrieu flight from New Orleans to Opelousas to Patterson and back to New Orleans. Both trips included campaign-related events that raise questions about whether some or all of the costs of the charter flights should have been covered...

Senate race presents risk for Jindal

Even though Gov. Bobby Jindal's name won't appear on the November and December ballots, he may very well be judged anyway come the end of this current election cycle.

Alford: Senate race presents risk for Jindal

Even though Gov. Bobby Jindal's name won't appear on the November and December ballots, columnist Jeremy Alford says he may very well be judged anyway come the end of this current election cycle. "Despite the critics who lash out at him for visiting those all-important early presidential caucus states, without what they describe as much of a chance of winning, the governor is nonetheless becoming a national voice and GOP force," Alford writes in his latest column. "Whether it was Stan Lee, Winston Churchill or Voltaire who turned the phrase, it's indeed true that with great power comes great responsibility. For Jindal, that may mean delivering the top of the ballot in Louisiana for national Republicans." Alford notes that so far the governor has yet to endorse anyone in the increasingly bitter race for the U.S. Senate, which pits incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu against Congressman Bill Cassidy and former Air Force Col. Rob Maness, both Republicans. "What's keeping Jindal from...

Transforming Mid City

On Aug. 18, the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority was scheduled to select one of two firms to do a $190,000 predevelopment plan for 115 blighted acres of inner-city property that sit between downtown, which is being transformed into a model live-work-play district, and Mid City, which is slowly being reborn as a funky, trendy arts district.

Judge hearing arguments in Common Core lawsuit today

A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards. District Judge Todd Hernandez is hearing arguments today in the preliminary injunction request. The hearing is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. in 19th Judicial District Court. The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. Seven parents and two teachers, along with a charter school organization, sued Jindal after he suspended contracts the education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education joined in suing Jindal. They allege that the governor violated constitutional provisions that establish authority over education policy in the state. Jindal's lawyer says the Republican governor exercised his statutory authority over state contracting and did nothing improper. In a...

LaPolitics: LABI targeting courts again with new focus on transparency

One of the biggest losses for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry during this year's legislative session was the defeat of a bill that would have lowered the state's threshold for a jury trial from $50,000 in claims to zero. Now the group is out with a new report on the issue and strong words about what's to come. LABI President Stephen Waguespack says the bill will be re-introduced in 2015, although it's too early to tell what, if any, changes will be made. "We've got to get this done at some point. We're going to keep pushing," he says. "We realize it may be a multiyear effort." Another push by the business group next year may involve judicial transparency, particularly in the area of finances. Camille Conaway, vice president of policy and research, says the Legislature approves an annual budget for the judiciary, but the document only offers broad strokes. "There's no visibility on revenues from the state and what's local or self-generated," she says. "How much in...

St. George proponents making final push to get incorporation issue on December ballot

Organizers of the city of St. George incorporation effort have scheduled what they say will be their final fundraiser to "help finish up getting the last signatures we need and then helping us transition from a signature drive to a campaign," says St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey III. The group has 17,700 signatures on its petition for a ballot referendum on the incorporation effort, Rainey says, adding he believes that will be enough to get the measure on a December ballot. Previously, the group estimated it needed to collect roughly 18,000 signatures, but that figure was based on the number of residents who live within the boundaries of the St. George Fire Protection District. Rainey says the group has since learned that the St. George fire department serves several areas that are actually outside the boundaries of what would be included in the proposed city of St. George. "The upshot is, there are more registered voters in their fire district than there are in what would be the...

Council rejects 'fairness ordinance,' OK's hiring Pierson to represent city-parish in annexation suit

After about 45 minutes of discussion, the Metro Council voted 8-4 Wednesday evening to reject the so-called fairness ordinance, as expected. Although the fairness ordinance was the focus for the bulk of the meeting's attendants, the council used the remainder of the meeting to consider several other noteworthy items. With little discussion, it approved a $50,000 contract with attorney Mary Olive Pierson to represent the city-parish in a lawsuit Woody Jenkins filed against it over the annexations of the Mall of Louisiana and two hospitals. Other contracts the council approved include two for the Downtown Development District—a $49,500 contract with professional engineering corporation AECOM to update the 2005 Downtown Baton Rouge Parking Feasibility Study and a $25,000 contract...

Jindal says decision on 2016 presidential run coming after midterm elections

Gov. Bobby Jindal says he believes the country is ready for a big change in 2016, adding he hasn't decided yet if he'll try to be the person to do it. "If I were to decide to run, I certainly think our country is hungry for a big change," Jindal said this morning during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I think there's a lot of frustration with both Democrat and Republicans in both parties. Everyone just wants to make incremental changes." Jindal says he will make a decision on a presidential run after the midterm elections in November. Jindal this morning also addressed his opposition to the Common Core education standards. "I'm for tests, I'm for standards, I just don't want the federal government driving those standards," he says. "I'm very worried about my kids doing these things. I think it'd be better if they slowed down, let the parents, teachers have more transparency." The Washington Times has

Hearing on Roper's job postponed yet again

The Metro Council voted this afternoon to further postpone a hearing on the fate of Parish Attorney Mary Roper's job. The council convened at 2 p.m. but adjourned shortly after when it voted to postpone the hearing until Sept. 10. Attorney Murphy Foster—who represents the council in a suit Roper filed against the council late Tuesday afternoon—today advised the council to defer the meeting after Judge Caldwell signed an injunction earlier today. Wade Shows, whom Roper has hired to represent her, requested the injunction this morning. It will prevent a vote on Roper's job until a judge hears arguments about whether her due process rights have been violated. Roper's suit charges the council with trying to terminate her from her job without cause. A hearing for the suit has been set for Aug. 26. Meanwhile, Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe today added to this afternoon's...

La. teachers get more support to teach Common Core standards

While legal battles continue in court over whether Common Core will remain the state's standards for reading, writing and math, the Department of Education is moving forward with a package to help teachers use it in their classrooms. As The Shreveport Times reports, Superintendent of Education John White and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer maintain that until they are forced to change, Common Core will remain in public schools. "As we enter the fifth year of our state's transition to higher expectations, it is essential that we continue to provide teachers with every resource we can, so that they can help their students reach new heights," says White, who announced today new training opportunities and new sample test questions to assist teachers. A Baton Rouge judge is considering whether Gov. Bobby Jindal abused his constitutional authority when he blocked the education department's effort to purchase test questions aligned with Common Core.

New age limit to affect about 160 La. court officials

A new law preventing anyone 70 or older from running for constable or justice of the peace in Louisiana is facing stiff opposition—especially among the officials who are about to be banned from re-election because of their age. As The Associated Press reports, the mandatory retirement provision was signed into law in June with little fanfare. Now, however, the law is drawing fire as the deadline for filing to run in the November election approaches next week. Some of the court officials affected by the new law say they intend to run anyway, even though it says they are too old. A law that sets a mandatory retirement age of 70 for constables and justices of the peace has been on the books since 2006. The law excluded anyone elected before then. Republican state Sen. Elbert Guillory's bill removed that exemption, a change that will affect about 160 officials. Guillory says he sponsored the law on behalf of a constituent who said he represented the Louisiana Justice of the Peace...

Mastering the master plans

Several firms are in the midst of redesigning areas of the city in ways that are a long time coming.

Council must convene for today's hearing on Roper's job, but action remains uncertain

While an attorney for embattled Parish Attorney Mary Roper is attempting this morning to halt a planned 2 p.m. hearing and vote on the fate of Roper's job, Assistant Council Administrator Casey Cashio says state law requires the council to convene for the meeting. However, whether or not any action is taken at the hearing—which was previously convened and deferred in June—remains unclear. Wade Shows, Roper's attorney, told Daily Report this morning that he was on his way to a judge's office to request an injunction to postpone the hearing. "They can say that it's been postponed once it's started," Cashio says, "but because it's a public meeting, it has to be held." Shows filed suit on behalf of Roper in district court Tuesday against the council over its attempts to remove Roper from her office. The suit accuses the council of conspiring to fire Roper without cause. Last month, the council

Heck proposes third party plan reviewers as solution to DPW backlog

Although Metro Councilman Ryan Heck's proposal to impose a 10-day deadline for the city-parish Department of Public Works to approve or reject a building permit remains on the council agenda for today's meeting, Heck says he plans to delete the item—which he has repeatedly deferred since its introduction in May—and introduce a new one in its place. The new proposal would allow for third-party review of permit applications to take some of the pressure off of the DPW staff, which has been criticized in recent months for the delay in its plan review process. "Time is money, and trying to get your project started and having it reviewed by DPW has become problematic," says Baton Rouge Growth Coalition Director Larry Bankston. The growth coalition and the Baton Rouge Home Builders Association were among the organizations that have been meeting with Heck and DPW to come up with...

Judge to rule on Common Core suit involving Jindal

Attorneys for Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration claim that the parents, teachers and charter school operator who filed suit against the governor for blocking state testing of Common Core standards have no authority to do so, Gannett Louisiana reports. But just in case 19th Judicial District Judge Todd Hernandez rules against the governor's position, his attorneys argued in court today that Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and two of her employees cannot be forced to testify in court or give depositions prior to a court hearing. "They cannot take testimony from a sitting governor," argued Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal's attorney hired to defend him in the case. He says state law makes clear that, "You can't depose a governor … Gov. Jindal is not personally a defendant. He is a defendant in his official capacity." Stephen Kupperman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in court today that Jindal "does raise the specter of privilege," arguing that his...

Lt. gov. race continues to heat up with entrance of Jefferson Parish president

One week after Mayor Kip Holden formally announced he'll run to replace Jay Dardenne as Louisiana's next lieutenant governor, Jefferson Parish President John Young this morning announced that he'll also be on the ballot next fall. "I have a proud record of standing up for Louisiana, and I am running for lieutenant governor to be a strong voice on economic development, tourism and to preserve our unique Louisiana way of life," says Young in a prepared statement issued this morning. Young, a Republican who was elected parish president in 2010 after serving on the parish council, also released his first campaign ad this morning. With plenty of time for more candidates to qualify for next fall's election, Holden is currently the lone Democrat to announce a run. State Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, has officially announced he's running. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, also a Republican, is also...

Influx of child immigrants straining La. courts

For the 1,071 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the southwest border this year and ended up in Louisiana, the path to a future in the U.S. runs through a courtroom on the 24th floor of an office tower in the heart of New Orleans. As Time reports, it's in this courtroom that a rotating detail of judges determines the fate of the immigrant children streaming across the border and into the state. As they arrive in record numbers, the New Orleans Immigration Court is buckling under the strain. During the first six months of 2014, the court has taken on 450 juvenile immigration cases, according to government records obtained by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). That number puts the court on pace to shatter last year's total of 540 cases. Three years ago, it had 71. New Orleans' struggle is part of a pattern. Nationwide, immigration courts have become choke points in the border crisis. Overburdened and underfunded, they are sagging under...

First hearing today on Common Core suit against Jindal

The politically-heated dispute over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards is scheduled for its first hearing before a state district judge. Today's hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., involves a lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who support Common Core and accuse the governor of violating the Louisiana Constitution in his actions against the multi-state standards. Jindal, who opposes Common Core, is asking Judge Todd Hernandez to dismiss much of the lawsuit. His lawyer also wants the judge to forbid depositions of the governor, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and other administration officials. Most members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support Common Core, and the board has joined the lawsuit against Jindal. The lawsuit claims the governor overstepped his authority in suspending testing contracts to stop the...

Confusion a major election issue for some officials

This election season is not only hotly contested across the ballot, but it's also growing rather bizarre in the races where few of us barely pay attention.

Alford: Confusion a major election issue for some officials

This election season is not only hotly contested across the ballot, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "It's also growing rather bizarre in the races where few of us barely pay attention," writes Alford. At the heart of one controversy are constables and justices of the peace, who, as of six years ago, were allowed to continue running for re-election past the age of 70 as long as they were elected on or before Aug. 15, 2006. But Alford notes that grandfather clause was removed this session through legislation passed by state Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas. And in what Alford says is "one of the oddest twists to emerge from the session," Guillory told him the Louisiana Justices of the Peace and Constables Association requested the bill. "They said they had a problem with people in wheelchairs and oxygen tanks and people with advanced ages who were going around the countryside, and who were not post-certified, with firearms, and they felt it was a danger," Guillory said,...

Legislators to explore Common Core alternatives on Oklahoma trip

A delegation of six Louisiana state representatives will travel to Oklahoma on Aug. 22 to meet with legislators and explore options for replacing Common Core with educational standards that are state-controlled. In June, Oklahoma became the third state to withdraw from Common Core. The delegation will meet with Oklahoma legislators and grassroots education leaders who authored and passed the legislation to reassert state control over standards and assessments, according to a statement released by the Louisiana legislators involved. The delegation will be meeting with, among others, the authors of HB 3399, which repealed Oklahoma's incorporation of Common Core and directed the state to develop new academic standards. The bill passed both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The Louisiana legislators will integrate their findings from Oklahoma into their ongoing efforts to craft solutions for replacing Common Core in Louisiana,...

LaPolitics: Some union memberships dip in volatile climate

Total membership in the Louisiana Association of Educators, based on state statistics released by the national association, dropped to 12,334 in 2012-13, a 19% decrease since 2008-09, and a drop of 10% since 2011-12. Ashley Davies, LAE's communications specialist, tells LaPolitics the losses are due to the economy, retirements and decreased investments in education by the state. She says the numbers "are not a true representation of the overall LAE membership," adding, "We are pleased to report that we have met and exceeded our membership goals for the 2014 calendar year." Asked by email if the membership figures were inaccurate, Davies did not respond. Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, says his group lost roughly 5,000 members after Hurricane Katrina, but has since bounced back to nearly 21,000 members today, up from around 17,000 in 2008-09. It may be too elementary to assume that LFT has picked off members from LAE in recent years, however. "We're...

Executive Editor: While Metro Council dithers, public opinion marches on

The rancorous debate over adoption of an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation puts a spotlight on Baton Rouge's cultural polarity in a way few issues other than race could, says Business Report Executive Editor David Dodson in his latest column. "We are a city deeply divided on an issue most metropolitan areas in the United States have already put to bed without dire consequences to local cultures, families or economies," Dodson writes. "Irrespective of one's personal values and beliefs, this particular culture war is unlikely to produce any winners as long as we continue to wage it." On the bright side, Dodson notes, while the Metro Council dithers, public opinion marches on. "Baton Rougeans know that you can't legislate morality, and they also understand you can't make discrimination fair by decree," writes Dodson. "More to the point, all the ink in all the law books downtown is not going to impact the changes palpably taking place in society.

CABL president calls governor's opposition to Common Core a setback for good government

After several years of establishing a positive trajectory for good government, Gov. Bobby Jindal is putting a question mark on his legacy with his overreach on the issue of Common Core standards in education, says Barry Erwin, president and CEO of the Council for a Better Louisiana. CABL can hardly be counted as a harping critic of the Jindal administration over the years, says Erwin, guest speaker at today's Rotary Club of Baton Rouge luncheon. "It's not that we are against everything the governor does or that we're just being critical," he said. "If anything, we've been accused of being joined at the hip" with the governor in the past. But this is different, he noted. "We need to step back a little, take a deep breath and think about where we stand right now," Erwin says. "Education is the single most important thing we need to get right." The right thing, he said, is to continue the process Jindal approved in 2010 and to stay the course on Common Core, including the use of new...

Jindal amends Common Core suit, arguing PARCC violates federal law

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an amended petition today asking a judge to prohibit state education leaders from using testing material tied to the Common Core standards in Louisiana's public schools. Jindal's lawsuit, originally filed July 29, is now seeking an injunction that would keep the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education from administering any standardized tests developed through the testing consortium aligned with Common Core known as PARCC. The injunction request was filed in state district court. Jindal's new argument is that the testing consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, “is the implementation platform for a carefully orchestrated federal scheme to supervise, direct and control educational curriculum, programs of instruction and instructional materials in direct violation of federal law. And the scheme is being perpetrated on the pretext of higher standards promised by Common...

Survey says...

Baton Rougeans expressed more moderate views in this year's CityStats survey than they have in years past. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation says roughly 34% in its 2014 survey identify themselves as moderates, up from 31% the prior year. Inversely, those identifying themselves as "very conservative" fell from 15% to 11%. Responses to progressive policy questions followed suit, with a growing number of respondents supporting legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, same-sex marriage, and an ordinance banning discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. Belief in global warming is also up.

The politics of fairness

On Aug. 13, the Metro Council will once again take up the Fairness Ordinance, a controversial piece of legislation that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Jenkins looks to appeal, city looks to more annexations

Now that Woody Jenkins has lost his lawsuit challenging the city's annexations of portions of the Mall of Louisiana, two hospitals and a subdivision, the former state lawmaker says he will appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who represents the city in the annexation suit and argued for more than three hours Monday that Jenkins had no legal standing to file the challenge, says she is not worried about an appeal and is confident the city will be victorious at the appellate level. In the meantime, more annexation petitions are expected. Though the Metro Council Administrator's Office has not received any new annexation requests since July, when several contiguous landowners on River Road petitioned for annexation, Pierson says attorneys for the city are working on getting more properties annexed into the city. Annexation became a flashpoint issue earlier this year amidst efforts to incorporate a city of St. George in unincorporated East Baton Rouge...

Vitter going big for big business

U.S. Sen. David Vitter is the premier butcher for mainline Republican voters in Louisiana, serving up the kind of red meat that keeps the base waiting in line for more.

Alford: Vitter going big for big business

Only U.S. Sen. David Vitter could file a single bill that amalgamates the top conservative issues of the day, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Last week he introduced legislation that prohibits illegal immigrants from not only participating in the president's health care program, but also from receiving tuition tax credits," he writes. "As the 2015 race for governor draws closer, he'll only strengthen his blood-red position, running so far to the right that anyone who attempts to outflank him will fall off the track." But Vitter is a Harvard grad who's been in elected office for 22 years, Alford notes. He knows full well that more ground needs to be covered. "That's why, over the past year, Vitter has been increasingly siding with business and industry on issues important to them in Louisiana," he writes. "The latest example arrived last week when Vitter told C-SPAN and The Associated Press that he supported Common Core, thus aligning himself with the Louisiana Association...

Jindal among GOP presidential possibles visiting Iowa in August

Six Republicans mulling a campaign for the presidency—including Gov. Bobby Jindal—will traverse Iowa over the next two weeks, according to U.S. News & World Report, with most of them devoting multiple days to the pilgrimage. These aren't introductory tours. They've all been there before. But as the calendar turns toward the fall midterms, the lot of contenders knows the time to grab the attention of the most engaged activists and eager volunteers is shrinking fast. The two GOPers with the most extensive Iowa itineraries this month are Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a pair of contenders who are among those most likely to run for president in 2016. But Jindal has a full schedule as well. He will meet with conservative preachers, campaign for Iowa candidates running for office this fall, volunteer for the...

Trending moderate

Is Baton Rouge becoming more progressive—or, at least, less conservative?

Debate in the City on a Hill

The rancorous debate over adoption of an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation puts a spotlight on Baton Rouge's cultural polarity in a way few issues other than race could.

Vitter describes his strong support for Common Core

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter offered definitive support today for the Common Core education standards, a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal but that could bolster business community backing as the senator fundraises for the 2015 governor's race. "I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Gov. Jindal's attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive," the senator says in a statement to The Associated Press. Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, adopted by more than 40 states. Vitter's statement follows his description of the standards as "very strong, significant, positive standards" in an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, set to air Sunday. The comments were the first time Vitter has taken a position on the standards. His backing of Common Core also comes as Jindal is taking steps to undermine the standards and remove them...

LaPolitics: Dems, GOP target 2015 session for shared agenda

While the Democratic and Republican parties in Louisiana have decided to team up to pursue unlimited fundraising possibilities on the federal level (for more, read Jeremy Alford's latest column), there may also be a shared legislative agenda in the works on the state level for the 2015 session. The executive directors from both parties say there are at least three issues they already agree on and are willing to sit together at the committee table to discuss. The first involves the state's qualifying period, which is usually held in the early fall, around August, and less than three months before the primary. "Practically everywhere else around the country it's held in the spring," says Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party. "Pushing it up will give us more time to prepare and will settle the fields sooner. I also think it...

Hearing dates set in Common Core lawsuits

Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. The Associated Press reports Judge Tim Kelley will hear arguments Aug. 15 in a lawsuit filed by 17 state lawmakers who are seeking an immediate suspension of the multi-state English and math standards in schools. The lawsuit alleges the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the education department did not follow state law to enact Common Core. On Aug. 18, Judge Todd Hernandez will consider arguments in a separate lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who have sued Gov. Bobby Jindal. Their lawsuit alleges Jindal violated the Louisiana Constitution by issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undermining Common Core. BESE on Tuesday voted to join in the effort against the governor, who in turn filed his own lawsuit in an attempt to...

The numbers game

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

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

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

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

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