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.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.