ACADIANA LEGISLATORS’ SLUSH FUNDS Same old song, different dance. Former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco supposedly did away with slush fund projects, and current Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal decried the pet projects last year during his campaign. The criticism is a bipartisan issue on the executive level, but the projects are still making their way into the state budget — to the tune of more than $100 million as of this week.
These days, they’re called NGOs, or nongovernmental organizations. Lawmakers insert the earmarks into the state’s operating budget, found in House Bill 1, which is supported largely by taxpayer dollars. There’s money proposed for economic development groups, drug treatment facilities, religious organizations and social services. But there’s also a few NGOs the average taxpayer might not expect to find in the state’s spending plan.
For instance, Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, a Baton Rouge Democrat, is requesting $65,000 for the Louisiana Ballooning Foundation. Rep. Noble Ellington, a fellow Democrat from Winnsboro, meanwhile, wants $25,000 for his local gun club. While many legislators use their NGO’s as a way to channel pork back to their districts, which they can then take credit for if managed properly, Rep. Elbert Guillory, an Opelousas Democrat, has eliminated any concerns over the who-gets-credit game. He has $450,000 scheduled to go to a group called “Serving People District 40.” It should come as no surprise that House District 40 is represented by Guillory — who oversees the group that reportedly teaches young people homemaking and workforce skills.
Guillory also has earmarks of $10,000 for Abundant Life Baptist Church and a whopping $1.5 million for the Louisiana Equine Council, a horse advocacy group with members like the Evangeline Downs Racetrack.
Other NGOs from Acadiana include:
Acadiana Outreach Center, $350,000 — Rep. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette
ALS Association Louisiana CIO, $350,000 — Cortez
Breaux Bridge Historical Society, $25,000 — Rep. Fred Mills, D-Parks
The Gloria Kern Center, Inc, $45,000 — Mills
The Grand Opera House of the South, Inc., $1.1 million — Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley
International Rice Festival Association, $152,344 — Montoucet
Israelite Community Development Corporation, $100,000 — Montoucet
Seventh District Pavilion, Inc., $100,000 — Montoucet
All of the aforementioned line items are merely proposals at this point. Jindal has published a new set of strict guidelines for funding NGOs, so there’s a chance that many requests this year could be swiftly rejected. According to Jindal’s new rules, each project:
• Must have statewide or substantial regional impact.
• Must have been presented or openly discussed during the ongoing legislative session.
• Must be a priority to a state agency.
• Must have a proper disclosure form published online.
FARM BILL VETOED An omnibus $307 billion Farm Bill — with significant subsidies for Louisiana’s sugar, rice and sweet potato farmers, among others — sailed through Congress and was promptly vetoed by President Bush. The president has complained that the bill costs too much and does not go far enough in curbing subsidies for wealthy farmers, lending assistance to married farmers who bring in as much as $1.5 million a year. Critics also contend the bill does little to address rising food prices and hinders small farm development. At press time, Congress was vowing to override Bush’s veto, which would require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate.
Two-thirds of spending in the farm bill goes toward nutrition-related programs such as food stamps and food banks. Important measures for Louisiana farmers include a mandate that 85 percent of the nation’s sugar market come from domestic production, with excess foreign supply to be dedicated toward ethanol. The Farm Bill also provides direct and indirect subsidies for growers. In addition, it creates a new $3.8 billion trust fund for farmers who lose crops to flood, fire or drought.
Among Louisiana’s legislators, only Republicans Steve Scalise and Jim McCrery voted against the bill. Louisiana’s Democratic legislators, Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter are part of the contingent working to override Bush’s veto.
DAVID VITTER IRONY ALERT With losses to Democrats in three recent special elections in solid Republican territory — including Louisiana’s 6th District — the national Republican Party continues to fret about its fall prospects. Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis didn’t mince words last week, saying that Republicans could lose 20 to 25 seats in the November elections. A Times-Picayune story asking Louisiana Republicans’ take on the situation offered this nugget:
“Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he doesn’t agree with Davis’ pessimistic assessment, but he does say ‘it’s certainly true that national Republicans need to improve their brand.’
“‘Perhaps folks should actually take some cues from Republicans in Louisiana,’ Vitter said. ‘At home, we’re the party of reform and positive changes versus failed past and the good ol’ boys.’”
If the national Republican Party wants to “improve their brand,” they probably don’t want David “Serious Sin” Vitter as an adviser or spokesman.
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Nathan Stubbs and Scott Jordan
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.