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 Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.