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.
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.