Leander Perez, the powerful boss of Plaquemines Parish who not only controlled people but also a wealth of mineral rights, refused to take the deal. Perez was a greedy man by all accounts '' he redrew entire city boundaries to move along personal business deals '' so it was no surprise when he held out for 100 percent of all royalties off Louisiana's shoreline.
"Give 'em Hell" Truman, as he was called for his tenacious political style, told both of the Bayou State politicos to stuff it, and other states snatched the deal. Today, Louisiana contributes more than $5 billion annually to the federal treasury from offshore oil and gas activity. As a result of those hardhead tactics 57 years ago, the state only gets back a measly $39 million each year.
Nearly three generations of congressmen and governors have tried to remedy the situation, but the issue hasn't budged a bit. Meanwhile, inland states like New Mexico get back upwards of 50 percent of the oil-and-gas revenue they send to the federal government ' but few deposit as much as Louisiana.
The most recent incarnation of this campaign came last month when Gov. Kathleen Blanco made national headlines for her 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 the most recent special session.
What Blanco means by "hardball" is her refusal to sign off on future federal offshore oil and gas royalties from Louisiana's coastline. 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. If Blanco's refusal to cooperate ends up in court, there's no telling where her "hardball" tactics might lead.
Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, are taking a more practical approach in Congress. Seeing that block grants and one-time injections will only carry Louisiana so far during recovery, both have filed legislation that would raise all coastal states' shares of royalties to 75 percent for the area between three and 12 miles offshore, and eventually 50 percent further out.
Supporters from parish presidents and state representatives to congressmen from Virginia and special interest groups are backing the Jindal and Landrieu bills.
Another tactic is being pushed by Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican. He is talking with Gulf Coast lawmakers about adding a coastal restoration fund to his drilling bill, which would not exactly increase any royalty shares, but would provide a long-term funding mechanism.
Mark Davis, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, is pleased to see the momentum building, but he has seen it before. Although the state has sympathy on its side and a governor willing to play "hardball," Davis says the concept of greater revenue sharing is still a long way off and the state should be exploring other alternatives for long-term funding.
"Louisiana can't afford to tie its wagon to a national revenue sharing campaign," he says. "It's just one option. â?¦ I don't think we should assume anything about the political environment right now. We're still a long way from success, and there are some huge roadblocks. We've come close before, and we've never actually crossed the goal line."
The stage was set three years ago when former Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin '' as chairman of the House Energy Committee '' passed an energy bill through the House with language granting Louisiana $1 billion over a number of years. It failed in the Senate by two votes. Again in 2001, Tauzin had brokered a deal for $600 million in another bill, but it too failed.
"We had done a great job of delivering the right message and making the case, but it got caught up in politics," Tauzin says. "The objections came from appropriators who wanted to keep controlling the money every year."
Rather than just handing a lump sum over to Louisiana, and possibly impacting programs in other states, Tauzin says lawmakers chose to maintain control over the purse strings. So while Louisiana might have the sympathy of the nation thanks to Katrina and Rita, that political reality remains.
Additionally, there's always the danger that Louisiana's efforts will be viewed as a money grab, especially when Blanco put such a positive spin on the state budget '' even though one of the nation's worst natural disasters hit about six months ago. When the governor proposed her $20.3 billion budget last week, it was not filled with cuts or cautionary verse, but rather pay raises for teachers and professors as well as status quo priorities.
Davis says Louisiana needs to figure out a way to leverage its needs and show Congress that more money is required to recover and strengthen the coast. He refers to it as the "free milk and the cow situation," which isn't working out.
"Why should [Congress] feel any pressure to help us?" he asks.
Tauzin says the federal government will learn '' if they haven't already '' that paying to protect Louisiana now will be cheaper than paying to put the pieces back together again later. Until then, Louisiana needs a solid strategy, one not based on "hardball" tactics that could possibly backfire, he adds.
"I don't think Louisiana needs to threaten," Tauzin says. "I think Louisiana has the support and the sympathy of the nation. If we squander it, it's our own fault. The nation is ready to rally behind rebuilding and revenue sharing. I just don't think we need to threaten to get there."
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.