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
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 15, 2014:
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.
When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
The legislation — House Bill 503 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport — passed by an 8-5 vote and advances next to the full House.
The Republican Party of Louisiana has had enough with the philandering hypocrite Vance McAllister. David Vitter? Eh...
A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance.
Louisiana would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex, if lawmakers agree to a bill that narrowly received the backing of a House committee Wednesday.