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
Lafayette Parish School Board member Kermit Bouillion says he will defend his District 5 seat in the upcoming election.
The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound former second-round pick has gone to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons.
U.S. District Judge James Brady had ruled that the corrections department must reveal by this week the information about where it obtained its two lethal injection drugs.
The enrollment period ends this month.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
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.
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.