BARHAM STATE'S TOP SPORTSMAN Term-limited state Sen. Robert Barham will serve as the next secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal announced last week. On paper, Barham's credentials appear to be a good match. Aside from being a Republican like Jindal, he previously chaired the powerful Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee and is currently a member of the Senate panel that oversees practically all wildlife and fisheries issues.
But geography, more than anything else, likely factored into Jindal's decision, especially since a roar of dissatisfaction has erupted in north Louisiana due to the governor-elect's numerous appointments from the southern part of the state. As for Barham, even though he's from the piney woods of Morehouse Parish, he was mentored in part by late Terrebonne Parish Sen. Claude B. Duval, and spent childhood summers at the Duval family home in Houma. "I spent a lot of time over near Last Island growing up, and I still feel like Terrebonne Parish is my second home," Barham says. "Even though I might be a redneck, I've always had a real affection for the coast."
Barham was among the very few north Louisiana lawmakers who took an interest in coastal-related issues in recent years, even personally sponsoring legislation with others from the bayou regions. As the new department secretary, Barham says that passion will continue and he plans to focus on challenges in the coastal zone in his first days. "That's something I really want to sit down and figure out with the governor," he says. "We have a lot of challenges."
Barham believes foreign imports will continue to be a hurdle to commercial fisheries and fresh approaches may be needed in the future. He also notes that recreational interests still need help recovering from the 2005 storms. "I'm hoping that the [recreational versus commercial fishing] debate doesn't become a line in the sand, and it's something I plan on paying attention to," he says. ... FOLLOWING FLORIDA'S LEAD With everything Louisiana and Florida have in common in regards to insurance challenges and hurricanes, it came as little surprise when Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal hosted Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for an in-depth meeting on the issues. Jindal says he was particularly interested in the need for a national catastrophic insurance plan, and the way Florida has addressed similar problems that Louisiana is now facing.
Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, says the odds are probably long against such legislation passing, but it's a reasonable project for the governor and the governor-elect to be pursuing. "Aside from the national catastrophe fund, one would hope that Gov.-elect Jindal doesn't follow Gov. Crist's lead in how to handle a property insurance crisis," he adds, noting the system in Florida that forces insurers to write coverage and creates unfunded liability for the state in the billions.
Lawmakers are also paying close attention to Florida. Earlier this year, a group of legislators from south Louisiana traveled to Florida on a "fact-finding" mission. Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Terrebonne Parish Democrat who attended the taxpayer-funded trip to Tallahassee, says two days were spent meeting with Florida lawmakers and insurance representatives. The key meeting was held with Florida Sen. Bill Posey, a Republican who recently sponsored the state's far-reaching insurance reform program.
Posey guided legislation that lowered rates for homeowners. It came as welcome relief to the hurricane-prone state, but Floridians will only continue to enjoy the decreases if the state doesn't see another devastating storm. At that point, premiums on homes and cars would rise as the state deals with mountains of claims through its insurer of last resort. Many lawmakers correctly predict that insurers in Louisiana might not want to buy into the whole plan, but bits and pieces of it may surface during the upcoming regular session. ... GOP LEGISLATIVE LEADERS, DELEGATES PREPPED With Rep. Jim Tucker of Algiers seemingly headed for the speaker's seat and a new term kicking off next year, the Republican Delegation has selected its next legislative leaders. Rep. Jane Smith of Bossier City and Sen.-elect Danny Martiny of Kenner will serve as co-chairs of the delegation over the next four years. The Republican Delegation has its strongest presence yet in the Louisiana Legislature with 66 total combined members ' 50 members in the House and 16 in the Senate. Both are historical highs since the delegation's inception in 1984.
Louisiana's Republican voters will head to the polls on Jan. 22 at 11 different caucus sites to cast their ballots for delegates and alternate delegates. Louisiana will have a total of 47 delegates and 44 alternates attend the national convention in Minneapolis next year. Local Republicans from Lafayette, Evangeline, St. Landry, Vermilion, Acadia, St. Martin and Iberia parishes can cast votes in Lafayette on Tuesday, Jan. 22 from 5 p.m until 8 p.m. at the Family Church (223 Stone Ave.).
Under RNC Rules, Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr., National Committeeman Ross Little Jr. and National Committeewoman Kay Kellogg Katz serve as automatic national convention delegates. ... MORE ELECTION CHANGES? Although poll workers received a pay increase during the regular session this year, some are still stirring about the long, sometimes unproductive hours they have to work. They're taking their grievances directly to the top, requesting Secretary of State Jay Dardenne make a push for fewer hours in the 2008 regular session.
Mick McIlwain, a poll commissioner in New Orleans, contends that even though the polls are open 14 hours (from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.), commissioners are on duty for at least 15 hours setting up machines and performing other duties. "My experience is that there is very little voter turnout during the first and last hours of voting, and those voting at those times could easily vote during the reduced voting hours," he says. "In my opinion, the long hours required are the main problem in recruiting new commissioners. A change is long overdue."
Earlier this year, commissioners-in-charge saw their pay jump from $150 to $250 per day, while other workers either saw their pay of $50 or $100 double.
Contributor: Jeremy Alford
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, December 09, 2013:
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.
An ordinance to phase out a 2 percent rebate to Lafayette merchants for collecting and remitting on time sales taxes cleared the City-Parish Council by a 6-3 vote.
Louisianans are the fourth most likely to use profanity yet also the fourth most likely to be courteous. So, please, just kiss my a** ... if it’s not too much trouble.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted Tuesday to authorize two lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A long night on the field in Seattle got even worse off of it, and now the Saints are operating on a compressed time-frame as they brace for surging Carolina with first place in the NFC South at stake.
Public school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion won't be affected by Louisiana's shift to more rigorous educational standards for two years, the state's top school board decided Tuesday.
Vitter told The Associated Press that he is sending an email to supporters Wednesday and is in discussions with his family about the possibility.
The Ragin' Cajuns go for New Orleans Bowl three-peat, this time against the Tulane Green Wave, which is making its first postseason appearance since the Hawaii Bowl in 2002.
Louisiana has joined four other states in filing a so-called “friend of the court” brief in support of Mississippi’s lawsuit against the federal government over new flood insurance rates set to go into effect.
Kerry Wayne Bertrand was charged Monday for the alleged killing of his stepdaughter, Skylar Lee Credeur, a UL Lafayette chemistry major found dead in the bathtub of her family home in August.
Louisiana's state school board is considering a two-year delay for some consequences tied to the phase-in of more rigorous educational standards, called Common Core, at public schools.