If you’re from Louisiana and you have a federal issue regarding water—the stuff you drink, the stuff that stinks, the stuff that ruined your living room or the stuff that’s eating Louisiana alive—then schedule a visit with third-term Congressman Garret Graves.
He engineered many of Louisiana’s modern coastal restoration and protection laws, and, as a staffer, had a hand in passing federal recovery policy that was geared specifically to Louisiana.
“Stepping in and finding opportunities to use technology and take lessons learned, both good and bad from experiences we have had, are absolutely niche areas where we are spending a lot of time,” Graves told LaPolitics in an interview.
The House passed the CASES Act recently, a bill Graves co-sponsored with Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. The measure allows congressional offices to handle constituent casework with an electronic approval, rather than requiring written authorization. For Graves, the bill was a logical solution to a frustrating problem that came to his attention during the floods.
“We had people who were on the phone calling us in four feet of water and we had to tell them to go to their computers and print out a piece of paper,” Graves told LaPolitics. “You can imagine the candid feedback we were getting.”
Citing experiences with the Shelter-at-Home program, Graves also filed disaster relief legislation last month to make long-term disaster recovery funding “predictable and available within weeks of a disaster,” rather than months or years.
“Bottom line is that we need to get recovery funds into the hands of disaster victims as soon as possible,” says Graves. “Spending hundreds of millions on temporary housing while waiting on long-term funding is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and delays recovery of our communities. The current system is a proven failure.”
Graves’ casework bill, after passing the House, is now pending action before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Committee. His disaster recovery bill is awaiting its first hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which Graves serves as a member.
—Huey P. Long made changes to many of the Bayou State’s cherished traditions during his reign over Louisiana. After all, the Kingfish was the one who tore down the Governor’s Mansion and rewrote the LSU fight song because the previous version did not suit his tastes.
While Long’s fingerprints can be found all over the state even today, the exclusive world of Mardi Gras in New Orleans was one area where his efforts to impose were unsuccessful. For years, the legend was that the Kingfish had even wanted to abolish the Mardi Gras holiday entirely … talk about an abuse of power.
While there is no record of Long ever publicly pushing to eradicate Carnival, there is a story of petty insults and invitations that stuck in the craw of Louisiana’s most infamous politician.
According to historian Richard D. White in his book Kingfish, while there was no set tradition, governors prior to Long had been typically invited to the Crescent City’s Mardi Gras balls as an honored guest. Then-Gov. John Parker had even ruled as King of Comus in 1924.
However, no krewes extended an invitation to Long to attend their festivities when he took office in 1928. Part of the reason was the new governor had angered most of New Orleans’ movers and shakers in the campaign the previous fall, railing against the city to win over rural voters. To add insult to injury, Long’s House Speaker, John Fournet, had only appointed two Crescent City lawmakers to the New Orleans City Affairs Committee and gave the other 13 seats to members from rural districts.
According to James Gill in Lords of Misrule, the Kingfish, taking his lack of invitations as a snub from the city, took to attacking the New Orleans Carnival traditions.
“He responded in public speeches by saying that the city leadership’s obsession with the frivolities of Mardi Gras were responsible for a decline in the fortunes of its maritime trade and had handed a golden opportunity to the go-getters of Houston,” Gill wrote.
While Long was ultimately unable to secure any invitations to balls or parades that year, he did venture down to the Roosevelt Hotel for Fat Tuesday, holding court in the lobby with a Ramos Gin Fizz in hand, still going on and on about how ridiculous the whole holiday was.
They said it: “We’ve wasted a lot of time and a lot of paper over the last six weeks.”—Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, on the budget presentation, in The Associated Press.