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.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
Security breach at White House; Bejing won't back down from protesters; pressure on third-graders and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.
Prospective Republican presidential candidates are expected to promote "religious liberty" at home and abroad at a gathering of religious conservatives Friday, with anti-Obama speeches from the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The American Zombie blog by New Orleans independent journalist Jason Berry has a photograph of U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier having dinner with Lafayette attorney Pat Juneau — yeah, that Pat Juneau, the BP claims administrator whose fate Barbier will soon decide.
But retirees and employees who face the higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs responded angrily, telling lawmakers that they shouldn't be held responsible for what they consider the Jindal administration's mismanagement of the Office of Group Benefits.
Indictment accuses ‘chef’ who claims to work for the needy of stealing from a disabled man in his care.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's top budget adviser says the state employee health insurance program will face a dire financial scenario without the heavily criticized changes planned by the administration.