Gov. Kathleen Blanco made national headlines for her recent comments about sticking it to the feds. "It's time to play hardball, as I believe that's the only game Washington understands," she told lawmakers at the beginning of this month's special session. What Blanco meant by "hardball" is her refusal to sign off on future federal offshore oil and gas royalties from Louisiana's coastline. Although the state contributes more than $5 billion to the federal treasury each year from offshore drilling, it only gets back about $39 million annually. Yet states such as New Mexico get back upwards of 50 percent of the oil-and-gas revenue they send to the federal government; Blanco wants the same.
But Gary Strasburg, a spokesman for the Minerals Management Service, told The New York Times that Blanco's approval of the leases is only an "intergovernmental courtesy" and wouldn't stop the feds from getting their cash. Additionally, even if Louisiana were to get a greater share of offshore royalties ' partly for coastal erosion ' the fund to hold such dedicated monies wouldn't be ready. A constitutional amendment defining the fund was supposed to face voters in late April, but lawmakers have voted to move it to the fall due to the disorder caused by the storms. ' Jeremy Alford
OFFENSIVE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK
One UL Lafayette student and another former student have died of meningitis in the past three weeks, prompting the university to conduct thousands of vaccinations and sending a ripple of fear through the community. Leave it to the Times of Acadiana to handle the situation in its usual thoughtful manner; the paper's headline on its meningitis-related item last week read, "Meningitis Got Me Down." ' Scott Jordan
One day after a story appeared in The Daily Advertiser announcing a federal inquiry into illegal wiretapping within the Lafayette Police Department, the department's spokesman abruptly said he is leaving his position. Mark Francis, LPD's Public Information Officer for the last eight years, said last Thursday he would be stepping down as department spokesman in order to take a position within Crimestoppers, which offers cash rewards to residents providing crime solving tips to LPD and the Lafayette Sheriff's Office.
The day before, Francis was quoted in The Advertiser saying that federal investigators were looking into whether phone lines "surrounding" the office of Chief Randy Hundley were illegally tapped. The story left open the possibility that the phone lines in question belong to Hundley or Hundley's secretary, Veanette Luque, a 25-year veteran of the department. Francis confirmed the wiretap inquiry this week, deferring any further comment to the office of U.S. Attorney Donald Washington.
Francis says his departure as PIO is not connected to the wiretapping investigation or the story that appeared in The Advertiser. Beginning next month, Francis will be replaced by Jennifer Taylor, who now serves as assistant training director for the department. ' Nathan Stubbs
HEALTH CARE DOUBTERS
Health care issues were skipped over during the most recent special session, but a recent survey of New Orleans physicians offers a brief overview of some of the areas that might be taken up in the regular legislative session beginning in March. The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corp., reveals that the overall situation may be worse than originally thought.
Fifty-four percent of the physicians polled, all practicing within a 75-mile radius of New Orleans, believe that it will take five or more years for the health care system to return to its pre-Katrina state. The survey also conveyed very real concerns including inadequate staffing, lack of government assistance, care of the uninsured and return of the population. As for whether state government will answer the call in a meaningful way, only 32 percent believe that would happen. The poll was commissioned by the Touro Infirmary Foundation and cosponsored by the Louisiana Hospital Association. ' JA
LET THE SPECULATING BEGIN
According to a new report by FairVote, a nonprofit elections think-tank, Katrina and Rita will have wide-ranging effects on the upcoming midterm congressional elections ' not surprising news. But the Maryland-based group goes as far as to name two members who they say will have a difficult go at it: Reps. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge. The displacement of the Democratic population in the 3rd district could potentially make it difficult for Melancon, the report states, while the doubling of constituents in Baker's Baton Rouge 6th district will water down Republican votes.
While it's a bold analysis, FairVote officials admit it's still early in the election season. "Democracy itself is now a disaster area," says David Moon, program director. "But unlike when the storm hit, if we act now, we will have enough time to prepare a solution to the representation problems Louisiana faces." Among other prescriptions, FairVote recommends redistricting, even though that would mean a premature and unreliable mid-decade census. For the full report, visit www.fairvote.org/katrina. ' JA
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
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.