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
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.