The old adage that no one is safe in life or property as long as the Louisiana Legislature is in session certainly applies this year.
The legislative session has spawned retirement controversies, Web-based agendas and stupid bills. By Jeremy Alford
The old adage that no one is safe in life or property as long as the Louisiana Legislature is in session certainly applies this year. Just ask school teachers and state employees, who are the latest targets of “reform” efforts led by Gov. Bobby Jindal as he positions himself for more national attention.
This year’s targets even include public officials themselves — even lawmakers.
Here’s a look at some of the latest controversies:
RETIREMENT ON THE ROCKS
While Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package sailed through both chambers, the governor’s retirement package entered rough waters.
Last week, we reported in this space that Jindal bought 2.2 years worth of service from the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System to enhance his own retirement plan — just as he was trimming the sails on the retirement programs of state workers.
The Baton Rouge Advocate, following up on Jindal’s pension maneuvers, learned that Jindal also began to purchase another two years of retirement benefits through the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. (He formerly served as president of the University of Louisiana System.)
On top of that, a Jindal bill that would make LASERS participants pay 3 percent more toward their retirement exempts the governor. Team Jindal offered the flimsiest of excuses: the constitution bars a “reduction” in the “compensation” of elected officials during their terms of office.
Critics howled, and Jindal apparently realized the ridiculousness of such logic: On Monday Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin confirmed that the governor will ask lawmakers to change the measure to include him in its provisions. “The governor thinks it’s the right thing to do,” Plotkin said.
BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, has drifted into an Internet controversy. A conservative blogger has requested copies of “any and all electronic and written correspondence” between her and the teacher unions dating back to January.
Several other Democratic lawmakers were targeted by the public information request, but Peterson has been the most vocal. She says the request will “cause significant strain on Legislative staff and incur considerable costs to the taxpayers.” Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp says the request will take 446 calendar days of work to fulfill. Peterson, for her part, has been holding forth from the Senate floor and complaining about “shameful political attacks.”
Politicians’ emails on their taxpayer-financed computers and smart phones are public record, however. At the same time, some public records requests can be burdensome if they are overly broad in scope. After all, a Democrat colluding with teacher unions is no more unusual than, um, Bobby Jindal conspiring with the Louisiana Family Forum.
Given recent events, where a New Orleans cop was disciplined for commenting on WWLTV.com and a federal prosecutor resigned for doing the same on NOLA.com, the Internet has become a major political player.
Lawmakers have filed their final round of bills, a total of 1,189 in the House and 746 in the Senate.
Some could spur interesting debates, like Senate Bill 738 by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D- New Orleans, which re-defines what “self defense” means, and House Bill 1072 by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, which would allow the NBA Hornets to take part in the state’s Quality Jobs Program.
House Bill 1170 by Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, would regulate the retail sale of cigarette rolling machines. Um, why not just call this one “the Doobie Law?”
Of course, some are just of the same old flag-waving variety. Senate Bill 641 by Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Pearl River, would require public school students in grades four through six to be able to recite passages from the Declaration of Independence. When in the course of legislative events …
It’s doubtful that any of those bills will be as controversial as Jindal’s education and retirement packages, but they’re a reminder of what some lawmakers consider their real priorities — as well as their targets.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
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High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.