When asked about it last week before a committee meeting, Arnold took a deep breath and smiled. He straightened his Looney Tunes tie, staring down at Daffy and Tweety, before gesturing with his hands.
"I don't have a problem with Old Metairie," Arnold says. "It was just a message I was trying to send."
The message was intended for Metairie Republican Rep. John LaBruzzo, who was pacing the hallway outside the committee room. In a matter of minutes, LaBruzzo would present another bill to send a message in retaliation to Arnold, his family and other members of the Legislature.
Arnold, along with New Orleans Democratic Rep. Alex Heaton, helped kill a bill in February that would have consolidated the seven assessors' offices in New Orleans. On the surface, there's nothing unusual about their votes. But consider their family connections ' Fifth District Assessor Tom Arnold is the lawmaker's father, and Seventh District Assessor Henry Heaton is the other legislator's brother ' and things become a bit questionable.
That's why LaBruzzo filed a bill for the Legislative session to prohibit lawmakers from voting on legislation that would affect tax assessors to whom they're related. It's a very pointed bill ' pointed right at Arnold and Heaton ' and LaBruzzo says the fallout has been harsh, ranging from political threats to expletive-laced attacks.
Last week, when LaBruzzo went into the House and Governmental Affairs Committee to present his bill, Arnold was ready to pounce. LaBruzzo, however, knew the cards were stacked against him and voluntarily pulled the bill from consideration, vowing to seek an opinion from the state Ethics Board. Before Arnold could chime in, LaBruzzo was out the door.
Arnold stormed into the hallway looking for a reporter. "I was going to present this during the meeting," he says, "but [LaBruzzo] pulled the bill and left."
He held four sheets of paper in his hands, each explaining a different bill filed by LaBruzzo over the last couple of years. Every single one dealt with medical equipment ' LaBruzzo's profession.
"If he really wanted to change the rules," Arnold says, referring to the ethics code that prohibits lawmakers from voting on issues from which them might benefit economically, "he should have it apply to everyone."
More than anything else, the Arnold-LaBruzzo feud represents the state of assessor issues in the Legislature and elsewhere ' emotional, confrontational and sometimes comical. The legislation to consolidate the Orleans assessors into one office ' like others around the state ' is back this session. But it was yanked from the agenda earlier this month in a Senate committee when the votes didn't add up for passage, even with a personal appearance by Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonprofit policy group, blasted the inaction and said if the concept is abandoned this year, the offices will remain a "symbol of wasteful government that treats taxpayers in that city unfairly and inequitably."
The consolidation issue isn't the only one on the table for assessors this session. The Louisiana Assessors' Association is prepared to support increasing the homestead exemption. The exemption allows homeowners to exclude the first $75,000 in fair market value of their primary residence from parish property taxes ' except in New Orleans. Altazan says an increase in the exemption could hurt local school boards that derive money from property taxes, but assessors want to help homeowners in storm-devastated areas.
The stance surprises come Capitol observers, as does the association's take on the consolidation issue. Altazan says the group is trying to stay neutral on consolidation, arguing assessors in other parts of the state shouldn't meddle with New Orleans' future. If anything, the residents should vote on such a change, he says.
The stances are especially unusual because the association has not ratified either one; instead, they are being presented at the sole discretion of the legislative committee. The LAA met prior to the session, but it couldn't get a quorum, Altazan says. Another meeting is scheduled for this week, but he doubts the positions will dramatically change.
On the horizon, Altazan says some of the members are eyeing changes made by other states to transition assessors' posts from elected to appointed. For now, he says, it's not a real threat, and not as relevant as issues like the homestead exemption. The about-face on that issue is telling, Altazan says, and could indicate that assessors ' like everyone else around the state ' are adapting to a new way of life post-Katrina/Rita.
"Maybe it's the signs of the times," Altazan says.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.