Lawmakers, lobbyists and other Capitolites from cities like New Orleans, Houma, Mamou and New Roads don't like the prospects. For some, it may sound ludicrous, but Carnival is big business and ingrained tradition in many areas of south Louisiana, and it's a scheduling problem the Republican governor-elect will have to face.
That's the sweet thing about regular sessions of the Legislature ' in many ways, they're predictable. For instance, come hell or high water, we know the gavel drops on March 31 and must be put away no later than 6 p.m. on June 23. And already there are indications of what to expect.
An unprecedented and historic $30 billion state budget, for starters, is hard to miss. How the money is spent or saved under a new administration promising change and accountability will be watched closely. Creating more transparency regarding the budget is also necessary to reform the state's image and improve voter confidence.
For example, The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is eyeing something in the current budget called the "2004 Overcollections Fund." In short, it's a special piggy-bank that LABI contends the governor and Joint Legislative Budget Committee traditionally spend however they want.
The governor-elect has vowed to eliminate such funds ' and it probably won't stop there. Whatever else Jindal and his government reformers might find and expose during the session should make for an interesting few months this spring.
While the January special session will be dedicated to ethics, the regular session could be anchored by far-reaching education proposals. Education lobbyists are already expecting Jindal to stand behind legislation that would provide some sort of financial aid, whether through tax credits or another mechanism, to parents who send their children to private or parochial schools. Many lawmakers campaigned behind the voucher concept this year.
It isn't surprising considering the amount of money special interests have been dumping into the state. Particularly, All Children Matter, a Virginia-based 527 organization, bankrolled part of Jindal's radio efforts and also got involved in several other races around the state. Almost exclusively, the 527 group funds and supports candidates who will promote school vouchers in their state.
The group has serious backers. Just before the primary, ACM's Louisiana team received $100,000 from Wal-Mart tycoon Jim Walton of Bentonville, Ark. Additionally, Brooklyn-born neoconservative Bruce Kovner, founder of Caxton Associates, also put $100,000 into the pelican chapter's account during the same time period.
Merit-based pay for public school teachers is also likely to come up again, but the highest-profile issue could be Jindal's push to create more charter schools in Louisiana. On the horizon, there's chatter about reformulating the way Louisiana colleges are funded by implementing a performance-based system. Furthermore, a closer look at dual-enrollment programs, where students earn college and high school credits concurrently, may be on tap.
On the election front, Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne will be pushing a legislative package next year that changes the way voters carry out their democratic duty. For starters, Dardenne wants to eliminate the traditional July election, which is set aside to handle tax and bond issues, or anything else not involving a real candidate. The turnout for the summer ballot this year was a depressing 4.5 percent. Dardenne will also ask lawmakers to make early voting at satellite sites a permanent program and to expand it past the two locations that were in operation during the most recent election cycles.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon will have a legislative package as well, which ' in part ' extends a $100 million incentive program that actually pays private companies, in taxpayer dollars, to sell insurance in Louisiana. While the program is popular among most lawmakers, especially those below I-10, supporters are waiting for Jindal's blessing before declaring victory.
If a band of south Louisiana lawmakers has its way, it could be weighing in as one on issues like Donelon and Dardenne's initiatives. There's a caucus for black members, women, lawmakers from rural areas, Democrats, Republicans and even independents. There are also delegations for major metro areas like Orleans and Jefferson, as well as one for Acadiana officials. But there's nothing out there for the districts that hug the Gulf of Mexico.
That's why a band of legislators is hoping to file a resolution in 2008 to create an official Coastal Caucus. In recent years, the House and Senate have both created special committees for coastal restoration and hurricane protection, so supporters see this as the next logical step.
If nothing else, the concept could morph into a reliable voting bloc, although its potential for impact is debatable.
State District Judge Wilford Carter of Lake Charles handed down a ruling last month that will certainly be addressed by lawmakers in the regular session. In short, he ruled Louisiana's online sex solicitation stings were unconstitutional, siding with a defendant who was allegedly busted two years ago for soliciting a minor. The case is being appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, but that hasn't stopped the Legislature in the past.
The ruling basically stated that the defendant's "constitutional right to equal protection" was violated by the state law because it did not allow him to use a "consent defense," arguing that the person he was chatting with online was a police officer. There are likewise legal arguments being made that the online solicitation law infringes upon free speech.
Another hot-button freedom of speech issue is inevitable on the heels of 2007's Jena Six controversy; there will undoubtedly be a resolution or bill that addresses how and where people might display a hanging noose. While Congress, due to measures introduced by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, and others, has addressed the issue in its own way, the Louisiana Legislature will get its first crack in March.
There's even a recent case study to point to in Jefferson Parish, where a local government employee is accused of displaying a noose in his office. Seven supervisors in the line of authority are also on the hook, as a black sewerage worker is pursuing official action.
A far less important measure sure to make headlines is the resurrection of the so-called baggy pants law, meaning a statute stipulating how low an individual can wear his jeans or slacks. Sen. Derrick Shepherd, a Marrero Democrat, unsuccessfully brought the issue up when he was a member of the House, drawing laughs from his colleagues and an embarrassing spot on Comedy Central's Daily Show. The difference between now and then is a slew of local ordinances ' Port Allen, Lafourche Parish, New Iberia, Alexandria and others ' that could serve as a mandate of sorts for a lawmaker seeking statewide press attention. With all the other pressing issues facing Louisiana, more time spent on debating the height of one's pants could be a low point.
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.