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.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.