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.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.
With her political future in jeopardy, Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a natural constituent base in her re-election bid.
Terrance Broadway threw for a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 34-10 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night.