With all the suspense of a Hollywood ending, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu announced Saturday afternoon that she would be the deciding 60th vote to allow the Senate version of the health care reform bill to come to the Senate floor without filibuster. Notice that she did not say she was voting for the bill at this juncture. Landrieu has relished her role as a centrist in the ongoing debate — and extracted concessions from Majority Leader Harry Reid, in return for supporting the procedural vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate. Ironically, that concession — a $100 million to $300 million dollar fix for Louisiana’s Medicaid program, which was set to be cut due to a skewed post-Katrina calculation of wages by the government — may ironically do more to help Gov. Bobby Jindal politically than it will Landrieu. While Landrieu will be bludgeoned by opponents of the bill and Republicans, Jindal can breathe a little easier in terms of the 2010 state budget, which was expected to contain a massive reduction in Medicaid payments to hospitals, doctors and other medical providers due to the funding formula recalculation. Interestingly, Landrieu has not said she will support the bill on the Senate floor at this point — merely that she supported the procedural process for allowing it to be considered. Peep thinks that Landrieu’s support on that vote will cost Harry Reid something else on Landrieu’s wish list for Louisiana.
DARDENNE STILL NIBBLING AT SENATE RACE
Secretary of State Jay “To Be or Not to Be” Dardenne continues to quietly gauge a Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2010.
According to two separate sources, Dardenne has conducted polling to gauge Vitter’s vulnerability, as well as visited with some long-time political supporters in Baton Rouge recently to ask their opinion of a challenge to Vitter. As Vitter tops the $4 million mark in fundraising, Dardenne’s dawdling on a decision continues to work against him. While Vitter remains damaged goods over his involvement in the D.C. Madame prostitution scandal, (poll numbers show that less than 50 percent of voters think he should be re-elected — a serious problem for an incumbent), his fundraising puts him at a distinct advantage in a primary that is less than a year away. The affable and politically spotless Dardenne would also spell bad news for Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, who has already taken on the credibility of the soiled Vitter with female voters, after Vitter failed to support an amendment to a defense bill that would prohibit defense contractors from mandating that their employees arbitrate sexual harassment/abuse claims. Vitter was thereafter confronted about the vote at a town hall meeting by an LSU student who was a rape victim, claiming he had turned his back on such crimes. Dardenne’s greatest enemy is time — the longer he waits to make a decision, the more difficult his chances of overtaking the wounded but well-funded incumbent.
STREAMLINING STAGE FOR KENNEDY
Reminiscent Jason in Friday the 13th, State Treasurer John Kennedy, with three statewide defeats (up to this point at least) has sprung a new political life by filling the vacuum left by Jindal’s absence of leadership at the Streamlining Government Commission. Much to the annoyance of businessmen, members of the Jindal administration and elected officials serving on the commission, Kennedy has grabbed the steering wheel of the commission, and in the process resurrected himself politically and check-mated Jindal on a couple of key political issues. The first was forcing the delay of a $50 million computer upgrade contract for the state’s outdated network. Although work had already commenced, the Jindal administration was forced to yield when Kennedy generated enough publicity about the state’s looming budget crisis. Next was a move to force an “independent” study on the efficacy of remodeling the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, versus continuing the ongoing multi-dimensional saga between LSU, Tulane and FEMA about who pays for and governs a new hospital. Over the objection of Jindal’s own commissioner of administration, Kennedy was able to pass the independent study recommendation by a 7-3 vote. Kennedy has shown no fear in challenging Jindal administration policies, and to date has not seemingly paid any political price (either from Jindal or his legislative leadership) for doing so. Kennedy ran for attorney general, governor (which he dropped out of), for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat against David Vitter in 2004, and for the U.S. Senate as a Republican against Mary Landrieu in 2008. With Jindal setting his sights nationally and Vitter being susceptible to a Republican primary challenger, Republicans should take note: He’s Baaaaack!
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.