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.
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.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.