Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Written by Jeremy Alford
How Gov. Bobby Jindal, with nothing but the power his office provides, put a damper on the Legislature’s recent streak of independence.
“That’s just stupid.”
The assessment offered by the mother of Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, when he told her that the House wouldn’t have the votes to override a gubernatorial veto of a cigarette tax
When something happens “inside the rails,” meaning those tiny, intricately carved borders that keep lobbyists and others off the floors of the House and Senate, it’s usually a reference to an event or occurrence that impacts lawmakers only. It’s juicy fodder for hacks and flacks, but doesn’t mean much to the general public at large.
That’s how the Legislature’s recent streak of independence measures up. It’s “inside the rails” and doesn’t likely resonate with your mom or neighbor or postman.
|Rep. Rick Gallot|
Gov. Bobby Jindal saw to that last Tuesday when he vetoed legislation meant to renew a 4-cent cigarette tax. Lawmakers hooped and hollered about getting it to Jindal’s desk, but he had the final say with the stroke of a pen.
Two days later, House members attempted to override Jindal, but their effort came up a dozen votes shy of the 70 needed to buck the man who’s positioned where the buck supposedly stops.
How did Jindal do it, especially since House Bill 1, the stat’s budget plan, is devoid of any fun funds? It has been common knowledge since the regular session kicked off in late April that the administration would have one arm tied behind its back without the use of earmarks and pork projects, which are offered up as payment for votes, practically since the beginning of legislative time, and their absence this cash-strapped session has been blamed for some of Jindal’s policy failures. (Read: merging UNO and Southern; selling off prisons; proposed budget cuts; tuition increases; and so on.)
But then there’s House Bill 2, the state’s annual construction plan. It is very much in play as the session winds down. The plan, known as the capital outlay bill, includes projects in practically every part of the state, but it’s finalized in the fall by the commissioner of administration and state Bond Commission — regardless of how the bill passes.
A senator, who requested anonymity but also asked that the interview take place in the view and earshot of administrative staffers, said that “capital outlay is being dangled over our heads like meat” for all of the major floor votes over the past two weeks or so. “That’s all you hear people talking about,” the senator said. “We’re being threatened with these projects.”
A high-ranking legislative staffer on the House side added that the administration in many cases is telling lawmakers that their project priorities could be changed if they don’t follow suit. Projects in House Bill 2 are organized by five different priorities. Some mean cash will be available in the coming fiscal year; others are essentially a holding place.
The staffer said many lawmakers are still proud of the battles they won this session, but Jindal, with the power of the purse strings and veto pen, prevails in the end: “He wins the last battle.”
It’s an interesting time at the state Capitol these days. House members who are term-limited are saying their good byes, even though quite a few will attempt to move over to the Senate where other outgoing pols are giving final addresses, too.
In his farewell speech, Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, suggested that thumbing a nose to power is sometimes required — if only to keep things lively. “If you’re good, you get called to the Governor’s Mansion to eat cookies, maybe get a company man t-shirt,” he said.
Last week, after several lawmakers switched their votes to protect Jindal’s veto record, there was certainly a good deal of cookie-eating going on. Hopefully, they were also listening to Gallot’s speech last week, for he offered some deep words of political wisdom.
The words are especially true as you consider that the cigarette tax vetoed by Jindal eliminates $12 million annually for various health care programs. That, and there’s the capital construction project in Small Town Louisiana that won’t get built now because some rural lawmaker wouldn’t bow to the governor.
Politics has a way of leveling the playing field. Eventually. At some point. “What goes around comes around,” Gallot said, “sometimes quicker than you think.”
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.