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
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.