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
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.