State Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, summoned a trio of high-profile witnesses for what promised to be an old-fashioned barnburner of a legislative hearing this morning. It was an early-bird hearing, convening at 8:30 a.m., with only one item on the agenda: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to privatize the Office of Group Benefits. Gautreaux, who chairs the Senate Retirement Committee, says the plan has been crafted behind “closed doors” and that the office’s more than $500 million in reserves may be Jindal’s real target. The state, of course, is facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1, and Jindal’s executive budget must take that into account. During his speech to open the regular session Monday, though, Jindal omitted mention of the OGB deal, leaving many to wonder when and if the exact details would surface. Gautreaux, for his part, describes Jindal’s plan as a “raid,” and he intends to get answers this morning. Those summoned for the meeting—and expected to show—include a representative for Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, the only company to bid on becoming the deal’s adviser; Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater; and Scott Kipper, the latest CEO of the Office of Group Benefits. The office, which collects $1 billion in premiums annually from more than 250,000 state employees, retirees and dependents, recently underwent a leadership change. Former CEO Tommy Teague was fired with just six month to go until his retirement. Neither Teague nor the administration has provided a reason for the termination, although scuttlebutt has it interconnected with Jindal’s OGB deal. —Jeremy Alford
Today’s poll question: Should the state privatize the Office of Group Benefits?