Clinging to hope and waiting for recovery, he kept track of the state Legislature and their special sessions from an RV in New Orleans and a rented apartment in Baton Rouge. Gerica says there wasn't much accomplished during those gatherings that lifted his spirits.
As the regular session prepares to convene on March 27, Gerica is again looking to the state for answers. But all he can find are pre-filed bills dealing with an official state poem, promises of more money for teachers and professors, and unexpected budget priorities.
"I don't see nothing that is coming up that is going to help us," Gerica says. "All I see is a lot of money being wasted."
Gerica isn't a government expert; he just keeps track of bills that might impact his fishing business. But even those who are inside the political machine don't see a whole lot of effort being devoted to hurricane recovery this go around. Butch Speer, clerk of the House of Representatives, says while the number of bills being filed is on par with previous regular sessions, only a small percentage of the measures to be debated will deal directly with hurricane recovery.
"We'll be arguing about the same kind of stuff we normally do in a regular session," he says.
What Speer means by "stuff" is virtually anything. For instance, Rep. Mert Smiley, a Republican car dealer from Port Vincent, wants the state to have an official poem and has filed House Bill 177 to anoint "I Love My Louisiana" by James Ellis Richardson with that designation. The House Judiciary Committee is actually expected to spend time on the matter.
Rep. Bryant O. Hammett, a Ferriday Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wants lawmakers to debate his House Bill 52, which prohibits computer-assisted hunting. This is the latest fad for hunters, found on Web sites like www.Live-Shot.com, where hogs and other critters can be gunned down through the Internet using webcams and mechanical rifles.
There are also a few bills making a return to the Legislature that always take up lively hours of debate, like bans on flag burning and human cloning. The regular session is scheduled to last 85 calendar days.
This year's $20.7 billion budget as proposed by the governor has the potential to eclipse all else. The monumental spending plan is $1.6 billion larger than the budget approved last year. It might seem irresponsible to increase spending in the shadow of an unprecedented natural disaster, but the administration argues the extra load is due to the large sums of federal relief cash flowing into the state.
The devil is in the details. Lawmakers are already rallying behind the idea of resurrecting the urban and rural development funds through the budget. Before being abolished, they were widely referred to as slush funds because governors have historically doled them out to select lawmakers for pet projects back home. Rep. Francis Thompson, a Democrat from Delhi, has vowed to personally carry out the mission.
"I'm not surprised by any of this," says Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonprofit group that monitors state government. "Those pots of money have been there for years, and when you have a budget that looks fat and happy on the surface, it's inevitable that we go back to that discussion."
That misconception will likewise confuse other budgetary issues, he adds. The governor has a $135 million proposal on the table to boost pay for teachers and college faculty, and there are major shortfalls in the public hospital system's needs.
For state officials, it will be a challenging balancing act. But for people like Gerica, it's a return to politics as usual while hurricane recovery takes a backseat.
"That's all this is," Gerica says. "But I'm still hoping there will be a couple of champions up there for us that will keep things moving along."
Jindal describes the privatization as a cost-cutting move to save the state more than $100 million this year, while improving services and medical training.
A Baton Rouge judge is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws.
Ambassador François Delattre will also receive an honorary doctorate of francophone studies at the commencement at the Cajundome.
During the past seven games, the Saints have forced two turnovers — a league low during that span. Now they're trying to figure out what has changed since their first seven games, when they forced 15 turnovers.
Choice cuts from Acadiana’s news media for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013:
For many fans, it was their third consecutive year participating in French Quarter parade.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 20, 2013:
Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey deserves an attaboy for his unexpected vote during Wednesday’s meeting approving a mediation session between the board and Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cable television network's suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the hit reality show has drawn criticism from the governor of Robertson's home state.
The State Bond Commission gave preliminary approval to the borrowing plan Thursday without objection.
The Pediatric Clinic is housed in the same location previously closed by state budget cuts in June 2012.
Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.
In a letter distributed during Wednesday night's meeting, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, in his final meeting as board president, called on his fellow board members to start focusing on the children and stop battling Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board tells it all: The board has lost sight of its elected purpose.
A public Mass will be held Thursday in New Orleans for artist George Rodrigue, who died Saturday of cancer at age 69.
Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration hasn't done an independent performance review of its $363 million privatization contract for mental health and addictive disorder treatment services.
"Whether it's the tackle position, whether it's a player on defense ... we're going to look closely at what our options are and what gives us the best chance."
Get to Cajun Field today and show your bowl-bound pride