Hardy's noose bill moves forward, Jindal's earmark irony and more

HARDY’S NOOSE BILL MOVES FORWARD Democratic State Rep. Rickey Hardy’s bill to outlaw nooses displayed as a threat is another step closer to becoming Louisiana law. Last week, the House unanimously approved House Bill 726, which “creates the crime of public display of a noose with the intent to intimidate.”

Hardy’s bill comes after racial hostilities flared in Jena in 2006 after nooses were hung from a schoolyard tree. Six black teenagers at Jena High School later beat a white classmate and were charged with attempted murder. The case of the Jena Six garnered national attention resulting in a march on the small central Louisiana town.

Post-Jena, incidents of nooses being displayed in public places rose in Louisiana and across the nation. New York recently outlawed the displaying of nooses as a threat, making it a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

EARMARK IRONY Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken to beating up on earmarks, promising to veto the expensive riders if lawmakers are unable to justify their requests. For Jindal, however, it’s another case of “do as I say, not as I do.” As a congressman from Kenner last year, Jindal secured 26 earmarks totaling more than $100 million, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a national advocacy group. That’s more than any other member of Louisiana’s House delegation.

Considering Jindal missed as many votes in Congress as he made while running for governor last year, his 26 earmarks represent a notable milestone. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president who is reportedly eyeing Jindal as a potential vice-presidential running mate, has also taken a well-publicized stance against budgetary pork.

KATRINA FALLOUT CONTINUES FOR REPUBLICANS
Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, the catastrophe continues to make headlines in the 2008 election season. The past two weeks brought a trifecta of Katrina-related headaches for the GOP, beginning with the publication of former President Bush loyalist and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong with Washington. McClellan writes in his book that Bush was in “a state of denial” the week of Katrina, and contends, “One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term. And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.”

Republican senator and presidential nominee John McCain again distanced himself from Bush’s response to the hurricane in his visit to Louisiana last week, saying that he supported every investigation into the botched response to Katrina, but a reporter tripped up McCain by noting that McCain had twice voted against forming a congressional commission to examine the federal, state and local responses to Katrina.

And expect more Katrina talk, as Paul Alexander’s book, Machiavelli’s Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove, hits stores this week. Relying heavily on interviews with former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Sen. Mary Landrieu, the account details the back-and-forth between Blanco’s administration, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the White House in Katrina’s aftermath.

HORMONAL IN THE LEGISLATURE Last week, WAFB in Baton Rouge had a story that began: “At the Capitol, legislators might adopt a daily uniform. Everyone would dress the same, like in school. It sounds silly, but some are already trying it out.”

Now, before you question the wisdom of our lawmakers using taxpayer dollars to debate such an initiative, don’t fret. It turns out that the women legislators in the House Transportation Committee are informally collaborating to wear matching colors. It was black two weeks ago, white last week, turquoise and brown this week, and they haven’t decided on next week’s color yet. Democratic state Rep. Karen St. Germaine told WAFB, “I don’t have enough time to think about what I’m going to wear, so the memo saves me that day. I know exactly what I’m going to wear, like a uniform.” The color solidarity has its advantages, says St. Germaine. “Women get kind of lost in the shuffle sometimes and we just said, ‘Hello. Here we are.’”

Germaine added: “It’s a little bit better than standing up and yelling on a hormonal day. This was a lot more effective.”

Contributors: R. Reese Fuller, Jeremy Alford and Scott Jordan

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