As he has done every year since being elected in 1996, Dupre is pushing a set of bills during the ongoing session that chips dollars off existing sources to bankroll the coast. One such measure creates the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corporation, which would allow the state to borrow about $500,000 immediately against an expected increase in oil-and-gas royalties. Another bill would slowly boost the annually-dedicated $25 million from mineral resources for coastal activities, siphoning some cash away from roads. "I know all of that sounds like a lot of money," Dupre tells the committee with a smile, "but remember that the [state's coastal master plan] is $50 or $60 billion."
Directly across from Dupre in the committee room sits the glaring Sen. Joe McPherson, a profoundly mustached Democrat from Rapides Parish ready to pounce with his Mayberry twang. A successful businessman back home in Woodworth, McPherson is a stickler for numbers. He also has a military presence he isn't afraid to use. McPherson has been bearing down on Dupre's funding proposals ' the money, not the concept ' arguing north Louisiana isn't getting a fair shake. "You always take the cream off the top for coastal restoration," he barks at Dupre. "You should be able to build a wall around Montegut with all the money you got. You're not giving up."
The issues that have traditionally set lawmakers from the piney woods of north Louisiana against those from the swamps and bayous of the south amount to an ancient political rivalry ' Protestants in the north, Catholics in the south, conservatives against liberals, urban opposed to rural and so on. In the wake of the 2005 hurricane season, the debate manifested itself in matters of coastal restoration, construction and insurance relief, especially during the legislative session.
With the state's recovery still limping along, the animosity could grow worse before it gets better. Northern lawmakers could become more vocal, creating a legislative civil war over regional funding and priorities. Some coastal lawmakers were clueless last week when dozens of Shreveport residents stormed the Capitol to rally for I-49's northern construction, mainly because they were only tracking the southern portion. Likewise, northerners asked very few questions ' if any at all ' during the session's hearings on the state's landmark plan for the coast. Even Blanco admits the enmity and ignorance is troubling, and could grow increasingly bitter. "There's always that possibility, but that's why I pay attention to the needs of north Louisiana," she says, adding northern priorities hold as much weight on her desk.
The territorial grudge match resurfaced again when both chambers of the Legislature voted on bills to ease the burden caused by ever-increasing insurance rates, especially for hurricane-prone parishes. House Bill 962 by Rep. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, proposes to cut the rates that Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. charges to policyholders in parishes with a majority of residents using the state-run insurer of last resort. In short, there would be very little relief for residents above the Mississippi line. "People in north Louisiana, which no one seems to care about, are paying higher rates than anyone," argues Rep. Rick Farrar, a Pineville Democrat.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 242 by Sen. Walter Boasso, D-Arabi, would establish $500 million in refundable tax credits aimed at residents and businesses still recovering from the 2005 hurricane season, or those forever preparing for the next disaster. Some worry the bill will position Citizens to actually become more competitive, forcing up rates for parishes with fewer policyholders. "(The legislation) is an incentive to get more and more with Citizens," says Rep. Kay Kellogg Katz, a Monroe Republican.
On the community level, where sentiment becomes action, Dr. Jeffrey D. Sadow, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, says "barely anyone up here even knows all those different bills are out there," but voters in the region are scrutinizing funding for roads like I-49. There has also been a bit of grumbling amongst local officials, he says, over the state's new building codes, which impose stricter guidelines on every parish, whether they border Texas or saltwater. "'Why should we have to pay for everyone else?' is one of the questions I hear," Sadow says.
Could the sentiment snowball and head in another direction? "If it so happens, when all is said and done in the coming weeks and session is over, there's a perception that nothing was done on I-49 or anything else, that is something that could very well turn into an election issue this cycle," he says.
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”