The old adage that no one is safe in life or property as long as the Louisiana Legislature is in session certainly applies this year.
The legislative session has spawned retirement controversies, Web-based agendas and stupid bills. By Jeremy Alford
The old adage that no one is safe in life or property as long as the Louisiana Legislature is in session certainly applies this year. Just ask school teachers and state employees, who are the latest targets of “reform” efforts led by Gov. Bobby Jindal as he positions himself for more national attention.
This year’s targets even include public officials themselves — even lawmakers.
Here’s a look at some of the latest controversies:
RETIREMENT ON THE ROCKS
While Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package sailed through both chambers, the governor’s retirement package entered rough waters.
Last week, we reported in this space that Jindal bought 2.2 years worth of service from the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System to enhance his own retirement plan — just as he was trimming the sails on the retirement programs of state workers.
The Baton Rouge Advocate, following up on Jindal’s pension maneuvers, learned that Jindal also began to purchase another two years of retirement benefits through the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. (He formerly served as president of the University of Louisiana System.)
On top of that, a Jindal bill that would make LASERS participants pay 3 percent more toward their retirement exempts the governor. Team Jindal offered the flimsiest of excuses: the constitution bars a “reduction” in the “compensation” of elected officials during their terms of office.
Critics howled, and Jindal apparently realized the ridiculousness of such logic: On Monday Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin confirmed that the governor will ask lawmakers to change the measure to include him in its provisions. “The governor thinks it’s the right thing to do,” Plotkin said.
BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, has drifted into an Internet controversy. A conservative blogger has requested copies of “any and all electronic and written correspondence” between her and the teacher unions dating back to January.
Several other Democratic lawmakers were targeted by the public information request, but Peterson has been the most vocal. She says the request will “cause significant strain on Legislative staff and incur considerable costs to the taxpayers.” Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp says the request will take 446 calendar days of work to fulfill. Peterson, for her part, has been holding forth from the Senate floor and complaining about “shameful political attacks.”
Politicians’ emails on their taxpayer-financed computers and smart phones are public record, however. At the same time, some public records requests can be burdensome if they are overly broad in scope. After all, a Democrat colluding with teacher unions is no more unusual than, um, Bobby Jindal conspiring with the Louisiana Family Forum.
Given recent events, where a New Orleans cop was disciplined for commenting on WWLTV.com and a federal prosecutor resigned for doing the same on NOLA.com, the Internet has become a major political player.
Lawmakers have filed their final round of bills, a total of 1,189 in the House and 746 in the Senate.
Some could spur interesting debates, like Senate Bill 738 by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D- New Orleans, which re-defines what “self defense” means, and House Bill 1072 by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, which would allow the NBA Hornets to take part in the state’s Quality Jobs Program.
House Bill 1170 by Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, would regulate the retail sale of cigarette rolling machines. Um, why not just call this one “the Doobie Law?”
Of course, some are just of the same old flag-waving variety. Senate Bill 641 by Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Pearl River, would require public school students in grades four through six to be able to recite passages from the Declaration of Independence. When in the course of legislative events …
It’s doubtful that any of those bills will be as controversial as Jindal’s education and retirement packages, but they’re a reminder of what some lawmakers consider their real priorities — as well as their targets.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election the same as other candidates, filling out paperwork and handing over qualifying money. But he finished it like no other, doused with ice.
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A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
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A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.