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.
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.