LOCALS MAINTAIN EDGE IN STATE GOP ... Two of Lafayette’s best known Republicans have retained their upper-echelon status with the state GOP. At last Saturday’s GOP State Central Committee meeting in Baton Rouge, Charlie Buckels was elected vice-chairman of the party. Buckels, who was defeated by Democrat Dale Bayard in a 2007 run for District 7 BESE representative, was previously treasurer.
Local banker Ross Little Jr., meanwhile, was re-elected national committeeman. It’s a coveted title that means Little is one of three Louisianians (along with the party’s chairman and national committeewoman) who will represent the state’s interests at the two annual meetings held by the Republican National Committee.
In political terms, Little’s position also brings with it a fund-raising element, so he’s one of the folks to know if you need conservative cash.
Together, Buckels and Little likewise hold seats on the state party’s executive committee, where controversial decisions and endorsements are often made.
Party Chairman Roger Villere also sailed to re-election this weekend, while former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle was selected as the new treasurer.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE, REGENTS WANTS CLAUSEN ... Hell, Gomer Pyle wouldn’t even be been surprised by this one. We called it last May: UL System President Sally Clausen supports Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie for the UL presidency, and then she gets his job. Like clockwork, last week the Board of Regents’ committee charged with finding a new commissioner of higher education voted unanimously to recommend Clausen to the full board. There won’t even be a search. In a press release, this is what the Board of Regents had to say about its potential new boss (who was commissioner of higher education in 1988):
“Last December, the committee began deliberately and carefully to evaluate the pros and cons of conducting a national search, even to the point of seeking out a highly-respected national consultant, but everything we’ve looked at confirms that we already have one of the best candidates we could hope to find right here in our midst,” said search committee chairman Roland Toups. “Based on the direct experience many on our board have had working closely with Dr. Clausen over the years, coupled with Dr. Clausen’s stellar national reputation and strong recommendations by a range of national higher ed experts that she be considered, it became clear that there was no compelling reason to look beyond Sally Clausen. I am convinced that she gives us the best chance of maintaining the momentum Louisiana postsecondary education has developed over the past decade under Commissioner Savoie.”
All that remains for our conspiracy theory to be complete is for Jimmy Clarke, Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s former chief of staff, to get Sally’s old job. Unless, of course, Gov. Bobby Jindal decides enough is enough.
IS MCCOLLISTER’S SACRIFICE A POLITICAL DONATION? ... During a sometimes-touchy hearing last week, a Senate committee surmised that a bill co-sponsored by lawmakers from Thibodaux and New Orleans had everything and nothing to do with Gov. Bobby Jindal. House Bill 89 would only allow the individuals who have been charged with violating campaign finance or ethics laws to pay the related fines. On paper, it was just another ethics reform bill for the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, but the political back story may have played a role in its defeat.
After Jindal’s campaign failed to timely report an $118,000 donation from the Louisiana Republican Party last year, Baton Rouge Business Report publisher and Jindal campaign treasurer Rolfe McCollister Jr. offered to personally pay the pending fine, which could reach as high as $2,500. Under the proposed legislation by independent Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard and Democrat Karen Carter Peterson, such third-party payments would be prohibited.
New wrinkles surfaced during the debate about whether McCollister’s payment of Jindal’s fine would constitute a political donation. If it would, then McCollister might be prohibited from paying the fine if it exceeds the personal donor cap in state law, says Sen. Mike Walsworth, a Republican from West Monroe. A review of Jindal’s campaign finance records indicates that McCollister, at least personally, would be in the clear under these circumstances.
Still, one question remains: Is it a donation? Richard Sherburne, administrator of the state Ethics Board, said his office would take the check regardless, but he wasn’t sure if the money would count as a donation and would have to be reported as such. “I think the board would have to take a closer look at that,” he says.
While Jindal appears to be at the heart of the issue, speaker pro tem of the House Peterson disagrees. She says she was “incredibly offended” by media reports suggesting that the governor was the primary target of her efforts. “There have been accusations made that this is an attempt to embarrass someone or to make someone look bad,” Peterson says. “That’s not how I operate.”
The bill’s still alive in some respects. Peterson also amended three other bills moving through the special session with her proposal, meaning the issue could potentially reach the Senate floor without another committee hearing.
LFT PREPS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA ... One of Louisiana’s biggest unions, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, is girding up to have its legislative agenda ready for the start of the March 31 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature. LFT has launched a six-week online survey of its 18,000-plus members and compiled the first week’s results.
The results cite inadequate teacher salaries, overemphasis on standardizing testing and more as barriers to teacher recruiting and retention. (LFT asked members to pick three out of eight multiple-choice answers, with “inadequate compensation” one of the options.)
While LFT’s legislative agenda is still being hammered out, the issue of teacher pay will always be a top priority. “Instead of saying we want X amount of dollars, we want people to do what politicians have been saying for years: we have to dedicate a constant stream of revenue so we can predict what teacher raises will be down the line,” says LFT spokesman Les Landon. “It’s ridiculous that teachers have to have a demonstration every few years at the Capitol to draw attention to the issue.”
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Scott Jordan and Leslie Turk
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.