MELANCON VAULTS IN POWER RANKINGS ... The Independent Weekly noted last month in our story “Charlie at the Plate” that Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon is positioned to gain politically from the recent upheaval in Louisiana’s congressional delegation — meaning the retirements, prostitution scandal and federal corruption investigation involving various members. In the midst of the turmoil, two-term congressman Melancon has become a superstar in the state Democratic Party practically overnight. He’s led the House leadership on tours of his district, has a spot on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired Louisiana’s fabled D.C. Mardi Gras this year and is a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. Now others are noticing Melancon’s surge as well. Congress.org, a nonpartisan system, placed Melancon in the No. 144 position among the House’s 439 members in its annual power rankings. More impressive is the fact that Melancon was at No. 418 just two years ago. The big question is whether all the attention on Melancon will convince the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that he’s the man to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2010.
The list is based on 2007 performance, so Republican Gov. Jindal’s still included, as is now-retired Republican Richard Baker. Clocking in dead last — No. 439 out of 439 — is none other than Louisiana Democrat and albatross Bill “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, the only Congressman to earn a negative rating for power and effectiveness.
WISELY, JINDAL DROPS PLAN TO STERILIZE ETHICS INFO ... What has so far been among the most questionable proposals of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ethics reform — a plan to allow closed-door settlements of ethics violations and advisory opinions to be sterilized of information that identifies the person requesting the opinion and other aspects of the case — now appears dead, at least for this special session. Opposed by state media and Louisiana Board of Ethics members who claimed the measure would fly in the face of Jindal’s supposed transparency push by making more of the board’s operations secretive and out of public view, the legislation was dropped by the Jindal administration last week.
In other business, however, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved another controversial part of Jindal’s plan to improve the public’s perception of state government. House Bill 41, which has been strongly criticized by Louisiana Ethics Board Chairman Hank Perret of Lafayette, shifts decision-making power away from the board to an administrative law judge. That one person (the chief of the state’s Division of Administrative Law is appointed by the governor) would decide the guilt or innocence of someone accused of an ethics or other violation under the board’s jurisdiction. In the existing system, 11 board members make that decision.
According to The Advocate, moving such decision-making power to the Division of Administrative Law would cost about $270,000 annually.
HUCKABEE: LA. PRIMARY IS “GOOFY” ... Mike Huckabee grabbed headlines for winning Louisiana’s Republican presidential primary on Feb. 9, but that’s all he won. Since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote in the contest, the 20 delegates that were up for grabs initially remained uncommitted, but now the bulk of them are going to frontrunner John McCain. Forty-three of Louisiana’s 47 delegates told The Associated Press they intend to vote for McCain. “It’s goofy,” Huckabee told The Times-Picayune. “Well, it’s Louisiana.” Huckabee also said that he didn’t campaign in the state because Louisiana state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere “sent out a letter saying don’t bother.” Villere has endorsed the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, McCain.
Last month, the Louisiana Republican party held a caucus to elect delegates to its state convention. McCain declared victory in that caucus, though the top vote getter was actually an uncommitted slate of delegates who ran on an uncommitted “pro-life, pro-family” ticket.
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Nathan Stubbs, Leslie Turk and Scott Jordan
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.