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."
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.