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
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.