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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.