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
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, December 10, 2013:
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.
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.