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.
Jindal describes the privatization as a cost-cutting move to save the state more than $100 million this year, while improving services and medical training.
A Baton Rouge judge is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws.
Ambassador François Delattre will also receive an honorary doctorate of francophone studies at the commencement at the Cajundome.
During the past seven games, the Saints have forced two turnovers — a league low during that span. Now they're trying to figure out what has changed since their first seven games, when they forced 15 turnovers.
Choice cuts from Acadiana’s news media for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013:
For many fans, it was their third consecutive year participating in French Quarter parade.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 20, 2013:
Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey deserves an attaboy for his unexpected vote during Wednesday’s meeting approving a mediation session between the board and Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cable television network's suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the hit reality show has drawn criticism from the governor of Robertson's home state.
The State Bond Commission gave preliminary approval to the borrowing plan Thursday without objection.
The Pediatric Clinic is housed in the same location previously closed by state budget cuts in June 2012.
Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.
In a letter distributed during Wednesday night's meeting, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, in his final meeting as board president, called on his fellow board members to start focusing on the children and stop battling Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board tells it all: The board has lost sight of its elected purpose.
A public Mass will be held Thursday in New Orleans for artist George Rodrigue, who died Saturday of cancer at age 69.
Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration hasn't done an independent performance review of its $363 million privatization contract for mental health and addictive disorder treatment services.
"Whether it's the tackle position, whether it's a player on defense ... we're going to look closely at what our options are and what gives us the best chance."
Get to Cajun Field today and show your bowl-bound pride