Tucker, as an elected official, did win competitive tax credits totaling $1.89 million to rebuild two New Orleans apartment complexes that he owns, but he never used them. He claims the allegation against him was a political smear initiated by his enemies to derail his ascendant career.
Even after the Ethics Board cleared Tucker, Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, dredged up the charges once more when Jindal gave his imprimatur. In response, Tucker threatened to sue Whittington and the party for making libelous remarks.
Tucker donned a Teflon exterior when he dealt with the much-ballyhooed tax credits, but now he faces another legal problem ' just in time for the Jan. 14 speaker's election. Tucker did not grant an interview for this story, refusing to comment on pending litigation. A mountain of legal documents in two parishes and interviews with other lawmakers help fill in the blanks.
During the 2007 regular legislative session, Tucker proffered and spoke in favor of House Bill 501 (now Act 99) at a May meeting of the House Civil Law Committee. He sold it to lawmakers as a way to help aggrieved hurricane evacuees change venues for child support and custody hearings to parishes where they had taken up residence following the 2005 storms ' but only if their former spouse lives outside Louisiana.
Judges already had the discretion to grant change-of-venue motions ' and relocation after a hurricane certainly presents solid grounds for such a change ' but the law pushed by Tucker strips the courts of their discretion on such matters and, in theory, allows evacuees to "forum shop" if they prefer the judges where they now live over those in the parish where they previously argued their cases.
With Tucker arguing in favor, the bill passed the Civil Law Committee with little debate and was eventually signed into law by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
On Sept. 18, roughly one month after the new law took effect, Tucker's wife, the former Marisol F. Lannes, filed a motion to change venues in an ongoing child support battle against her ex-husband, who now lives in Illinois, proposing to move it from Plaquemines Parish to Orleans Parish and citing the very law her new husband helped pass. Tucker married the former Mrs. Lannes (now Marisol Tucker) in July of last year, and she moved from Belle Chasse to Algiers not long thereafter. The move covered a distance of just six miles, but that was enough; it brought her across parish lines ' fitting neatly into the parameters of the new law.
David Hufft, a Belle Chasse attorney who represents Marisol's former husband, David M.D. Lannes, claims that Tucker helped create the bill. He says Tucker violated the Louisiana Constitution, ignored an obvious conflict of interest and intended to "affect ongoing litigation" through legislation, which is nothing new to the Louisiana Legislature. Hufft also argues in court documents that Tucker's wife shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of the law "because the parties do not fall into the protected class, victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita, who relocated to a new parish a further distance from the current venue." (Hufft notes in court documents that Mrs. Tucker's new residence in Algiers is still closer to the Plaquemines Parish courthouse than it is to Civil District Court in downtown New Orleans.)
Hufft adds that prior to the motion to change venues being filed in September, the former Mrs. Lannes had received an "unfavorable ruling" in Plaquemines Parish and was therefore hoping for a more favorable venue. She has since appealed those rulings against her.
In Tucker's defense, he was not the official author of the legislation. That title goes to Rep. Jeff Arnold, a New Orleans Democrat who once lived a few houses away from Tucker and who remains a close friend of the speaker-apparent.
Arnold says it's not unusual for Tucker to handle a bill for him in his absence, as was the case during the May hearing of the House Civil Law Committee. Yet Arnold maintains that Tucker did not ask him to file the bill; rather, the request came from constituents. "But [Tucker] did let me know later in the process that the bill would affect his own situation," Arnold adds.
David W. Birdsong, a Metairie attorney who represents Tucker, issued a press release on the litigation. He points out that David M.D. Lannes had previously "been found guilty of a criminal physical attack on his ex-wife" and accuses the Illinois resident of trying to plant blemishes upon Tucker's public service career. "This whole thing is a smoke screen by Mr. Lannes, who is trying to threaten Mr. Tucker and his standing as a legislator in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in a child support case," Birdsong says.
Hufft, who could not be reached for an interview, isn't backing down. He has filed a motion to compel testimony from a dozen members of the House Civil Law Committee. He wants to question them about Tucker's possible involvement in the legislation beyond his testimony for it during the committee hearing. Rep. Shirley D. Bowler, a term-limited Harahan Republican, says she received a certified letter informing her of the situation, but she doesn't think anything will come of it. "I truly do not think we passed this bill to benefit any one person," she says.
Other committee members, like Rep. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, immediately recognized merit in Arnold's bill and Tucker's arguments during the May hearing. "I have a couple of clients in a similar situation," Morrell says. "Some judges are quite unreasonable."
Bowler, however, adds that she did originally have concerns that the bill would be used to "forum shop," but an amendment she added on the House floor addressed her concerns.
A hearing to decide whether the committee members should testify had not been scheduled by press time, but Bowler says the House will likely have House Clerk Butch Speer argue that lawmakers should enjoy some type of privilege with regard to their legislative decision-making process. "I just don't know how it came to this," Bowler says. "In all my 16 years in the House I have never seen a committee involved with a motion to compel testimony, especially with regard to what might have happened behind the scenes."
Ultimately, Tucker's new wife might get the forum she wants, but this controversy couldn't come at a worse time for him.
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
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.