Blanco stumbled badly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but she has a shot at redemption in the current session. In baseball parlance, she's swinging for the fence ' which means she could hit a home run â?¦ or strike out.
"This is a very difficult position to be in," says Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University. "The task of rebuilding and everything else in this session is such a difficult job to accomplish, and her political capital, as far as approval ratings, is so low."
The latest poll by SurveyUSA, which is funded by a media consortium, has Blanco's approval at 36 percent, down sharply from the 55 percent approval rating she enjoyed a year ago.
Add to that the recent low voter turnout in New Orleans and Blanco's political prospects become even more tenuous. Roughly 27,000 fewer votes were cast in New Orleans' April 22 primary than in the 2003 governor's race. That could force Blanco to look elsewhere to shore up her base. Signing important bills into law and steering the Legislature her way would be a good place to start.
When the session convened, Blanco came on strong, vowing to veto any effort to expand gambling. She sent her chief attorney, Terry Ryder, to echo that message in committee meetings. One after another, lawmakers folded ' save Rep. Warren Triche, a Lafourche Parish Democrat who continued pushing his Texas Hold'em bill until it was defeated on the House floor.
The governor also promised to quell any move to resurrect the Urban and Rural Development Funds, which have been tagged "slush funds" because they were doled out by previous administrations to favored lawmakers for pet projects back home. Some lawmakers on key budget committees had pledged to restore the funds, but it now appears that move is dead, according to House Speaker Joe Salter, a Florien Democrat. "They don't exist," Salter told a north Louisiana newspaper, adding there will still be money available in places like the Parish Road Fund and Community Development Block Grants for lawmakers currying favor with the Fourth Floor.
From a political perspective, Blanco solidified one of her strongest bases of support ' oil and gas interests ' by backing a measure to allow the Department of Natural Resources, rather than the courts, to decide how to handle so-called legacy suits, which involve polluted land, property owners and oil companies.
The legislation, authored by Sen. Robert Adley, a Benton Democrat, made it out of committee and was pending action in the Senate last week. Supporting Adley's bill is a slick move for Blanco, who could use fundraising help from Big Oil before next year's elections.
Meanwhile, Blanco has issues with other political factions, such as the Legislative Black Caucus. While most lawmakers like Blanco's recent staffing changes (replacing her legislative director and chief of staff), the healing process is slow after the caucus felt snubbed by Blanco during previous legislative sessions.
"For myself, personally, there has been more of a concerted effort to communicate," says Rep. Michael L. Jackson, a Baton Rouge Democrat. "It doesn't mean that everything is fine and dandy at the Capitol, but there are new opportunities for us to adequately discuss issues."
On the policy front, Blanco saw a House committee ignore her wishes and approve a voucher program for underperforming New Orleans schools. She managed to swat the initiative down by just one vote on the House floor and by a tie vote in a Senate committee.
For their part, Republicans remain a thorn in the administration's side. They recently forced the governor to amend a section of her post-Katrina housing program that was going to be based partly on income levels. The GOP also is expected to oppose her health care priorities.
As the second half of the session approaches, the state's operating budget is still in committee and the governor's crown jewel ' her proposed teacher pay raise ' has yet to be fully aired. That will be the real test of her new staff.
"We feel confident and comfortable that the pay raise will be successful in passing," says Hunt Downer, Blanco's legislative director. "And there are many more initiatives from her package that have already passed or are coming up."
Goidel says some measures, such as strengthening the homeland security office and consolidating New Orleans government, could expedite the rebuilding process and give Blanco a boost ' if she can take credit for them. But what she needs most is the means to keep lawmakers from spinning out of control on other issues.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
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.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.