When Jack Donahue, a Republican contractor from the Mandeville area, trumped longtime state Rep. Pete Schneider with 64 percent of the vote two years ago without a runoff, heads turned. Even before that win, Donahue already was a mover and shaker in St. Tammany politics, serving on practically every board under the sun. The vote of confidence he received for the state Senate from one of the state’s wealthiest districts prompted the Louisiana Legislature Grass-Roots Guide, a publication overseen by power lobbyist Randy K. Haynie, to predict, “Look for him to be part of the new leadership in the Legislature.”
Today, a year and a half into his first term, the early predications about Donahue are coming true. He has grabbed headlines for embodying the Northshore’s anti-tax vibe and for raising hell during last year’s ethics session about the kinds of state work lawmakers should be allowed to pursue — he is, after all, a contractor.
Now he’s getting ink for being the chairman of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Commission on Streamlining Government, which is charged with reducing the size of the state’s bureaucracy and cutting spending as billion-dollar shortfalls loom.
While a number of elected officials sit on the commission, including the state treasurer, House speaker, Senate president and Senate Finance Chair Mike Michot of Lafayettte, Donahue could grab the spotlight because he chairs the group and authored the legislation that led to its formation. He’s already on the hot seat: At the commission’s first meeting two weeks ago, he told reporters that the commission could cost taxpayers roughly $10,000. Columnists and bloggers reacted predictably; the panel has to produce only one set of recommendations, due Dec. 15.
In an interview last week, Donahue said that number could grow, even though the state budget has zero dollars set aside for the commission. “No, there is no money for the commission in the budget,” he admits. “If the commission does go forward with some of its ideas, it would probably be under $20,000, and we should be able to easily get an appropriation for that.” As for where the money might come from, Donahue says the Senate, House and governor’s office might all be asked to pinch from their own operating budgets.
Some of that cash might be used to hire Christel Slaughter of SSA Consulting as a facilitator. The decision to bring on Slaughter, who was traveling out of the country last week and could not be contacted, will likely come out of the commission’s next meeting on Aug. 18 (two more meetings are tentatively set for early September). Donahue says he recommended Slaughter because he was impressed with her work on Blueprint Louisiana, a good government group that has made small yet substantial ripples in the pond of state government. He adds that Slaughter also helped pass the legislation creating the commission this spring.
Should she have a role to play, Donahue says it will be “the outside coordination of all the committees and meetings.” So far, Donahue says he has established five working groups that will make recommendations to the full panel on everything from health care to law enforcement. The Senate staff, meanwhile, will be doing the heavy lifting and research. “If we hired someone to do all that it would cost a fortune,” he says.
Some members of the panel, however, were not clear on that structure last week, even after the commission’s initial meeting. Treasurer John Kennedy sent out a letter to several parties, including Slaughter (“in your role as facilitator”), early last week requesting information on 25 areas of interest, from the five-year average turnover rate of state employees to attempts by the Louisiana State Police to buy gas in bulk. By mid-week, Kennedy’s office had received no reply, but Donahue says Senate Chief of Staff Jerry J. Guillot is divvying up the workload to get Kennedy his requested data.
Whether the commission can meet its goals during the next few months will be an interesting process to watch. Donahue says the Legislature will probably shy away from many of the hard-line recommendations, but people are beginning to realize how much significance the commission could have. Special interests, so far, are staying at bay, he adds, but “good government types and state employees” are contacting his office on a daily basis. For now, it’s nothing but rhetoric and planning, both of which Donahue seems to have mastered. “We’re going to be meeting regularly and getting down to business. Louisiana is going to change,” he says. “You just wait and see.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.