During a tour of New Orleans' devastated Ninth Ward last week, President George Bush uttered the words Louisiana residents have waited six months to hear: "I fully understand ' and I hope our country understands ' the pain and agony that the people of New Orleans and Louisiana and the parishes surrounding New Orleans went through."
More important, Bush added: "Congress needs to make sure that the $4.2 billion I requested goes to Louisiana."
That statement came the morning after the House Appropriations Committee unexpectedly stripped the $4.2 billion earmarked for Louisiana's housing recovery ' which includes Hurricane Rita-affected areas ' out of a $92 billion supplemental spending bill and put it up for grabs between Louisiana and other hurricane-affected states such as Texas and Mississippi.
The timing couldn't have been worse, as Bush's plummeting approval ratings have emboldened congressional Republicans and Democrats to more aggressively challenge the president of late, most notably by killing the administration's Dubai ports deal. It sets up a power struggle in the coming months between Bush and Congress regarding Louisiana recovery funds ' and the political clout of Louisiana's congressional delegation faces its toughest test yet. ' Scott Jordan
GAS-GOUGING CLAIMS YIELD â?¦ NOTHING
Attorney General Charles Foti's office was deluged with complaints about gas stations unjustly jacking up their prices during last fall's hurricanes, but the subsequent investigations yielded nothing. Nearly 1,500 consumers statewide called or mailed in complaints to the office's Consumer Protection Section last year before and after the hurricanes, says Jennifer Cluck, an AG spokeswoman. "But upon further investigation, none of them rose to the level of where they would have violated that pricing statute," she says, referring to a law the Legislature passed last year to regulate such abuse.
The state attorney general is responsible for enforcing the law that prohibits providers of goods and services in Louisiana from increasing prices when a tropical storm or hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico. Attorneys and economists have slammed the law as vaguely written and difficult to enforce. While Louisiana was unable to find violators following the hurricanes, others did.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer launched a three-month probe following Katrina and fined 15 stations a total of $63,500. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue oversaw 15 settlements resulting from Katrina gas gouging, including both consumer restitution and civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 depending upon the severity of the violation. ' Jeremy Alford
BLACKBERRY AND A PRAYER
The Washington, D.C.-based newspaper Roll Call, a Beltway staple for political junkies, dished some dirt earlier this month on Congressman Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican. While worshiping at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday, Roll Call reports Jindal "spent a great deal of time on his BlackBerry during service and prayer, both reading e-mails and sending e-mails." The paper also quoted an unnamed eyewitness: "I guess Rep. Jindal couldn't sacrifice his BlackBerry for God." ' JA
EARLY RETIREMENT DANGLED FOR STATE EMPLOYEES?
Another early retirement bill is making its way toward state employees. State Rep. Warren Triche, a Chackbay Democrat, will be pushing legislation during the upcoming session to decrease the number of state jobs by offering some workers early retirement options. In the past, early retirement has been offered as an alternative to workers who had a terminal illness or a spouse taking a job out of state. "But the hurricanes last year changed everything," Triche says. "Many people who want to go back to their jobs can't because the jobs aren't there any more." Others have also been displaced or have lost everything, he adds.
House Bill 45 is nearly identical to two other early retirement bills Triche has pursued in recent years. This year's version would offer early retirement to members of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System who are at least 50 years old with 10 years of service. If a state employee decides to take advantage of the program, he or she would receive a retirement benefit equal to as much as 2 percent of their average compensation multiplied by the number of years of creditable service. Only one out of every three positions left vacant by the program would be refilled, Triche says, unless the commissioner of administration and the secretary of state civils service decide to retain the post. ' JA
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.