For the past two years, many have commented on the cohesiveness of the Lafayette legislative delegation; as being one of the most unified in history. After all, Sen. Mike Michot had single handedly urged and supported Rep. Joel Robideaux in the state House race to replace Jerry Luke Leblanc. Then, Michot and Robideaux had laid it all on the line to support Page Cortez against Pat Leblanc in the race to replace Ernie Alexander. The budget battles of this past session may have created the first cracks in that relationship.
Michot, chairman of the Finance Committee, was widely praised in higher education and health care circles as being the only legislative leader to craft a budget plan which would minimize cuts on higher ed and health care by using small withdrawals from multiple dedicated fund balances (budget stabilization, Medicaid stabilization, etc.) so as to not deplete any of those funds, and avoid the impact of those cuts on health care and higher education. The proposed cuts had something historic in managing to unite all former living governors at a press conference (except Edwin Edwards) to urge Jindal and the Legislature to use the resources available to restore them. However, when the Senate/Michot plan, which restored a vast majority of higher ed and health care’s cuts using $280 million from multiple funds, was sent to the House for a vote, Robideaux and Cortez stuck with House Speaker Jim Tucker in his opposition to the Senate plan and voted against it. Locally, Reps Fred Mills, Sam Jones and Ricky Hardy all broke ranks with the House leadership and supported the Michot plan. The plan affected restoration for the $30 million in health care cuts and $23 million in higher ed cuts affecting Lafayette — an estimated 500 jobs at risk.
Since the plan fell only a handful of votes short of passage, Lafayette health care leaders and ULL officials were dismayed at the actions of Robideaux and Cortez in sticking with the overtly partisan Tucker over their home town colleague and delegation dean Michot. Said one involved local political observer, “We supported Cortez because Ernie Alexander proudly voted down party lines with Jim Tucker, even if it meant a negative impact on UL and Lafayette. Cortez appears to be Ernie Lite. Robideaux was a swing vote — had he supported the Senate plan, he likely would have pulled enough Acadiana votes with him to allow the Senate version to pass.”
For his part, Michot has been very quiet about the votes of his House colleagues. But interestingly, there were no joint statements or press conferences from the three on the accomplishments of the session, suggesting a chill in the relationship. While an 11th-hour compromise was reached between the House and Senate on the session’s final day , it fell far short in its restoration to higher ed and health care than the Senate plan would have.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.