Lafayette solons split on prisons sale; Hardy gets last laugh
[Editor's Note: The last paragraph in this story was added Tuesday afternoon following a brief phone discussion with Rep. Page Cortez.]
Lafayette’s members on the powerful House Appropriations Committee were divided Monday on deferring — effectively killing — a bill that would authorize the sale of four prisons in north and central Louisiana to private companies. Democrat Rickey Hardy joined the 13-vote majority in squashing the bill, which was a key component of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s legislative package for this session. Republican Page Cortez was among 12 committee members to vote against the deferral.
Although the state would still be the hook for paying a per diem to house state Department of Corrections inmates, the sale of the prisons was touted as a means of raising up to $211 million. Opponents of the bill argued it was fiscally irresponsible to use one-time monies for recurring budget expenses.
The committee chamber was packed to the gills during the almost four-hour hearing. Many in attendance were employees of the prisons proposed for sale in Allen, Avoyelles and Winn parishes who would likely lose their jobs if the prisons moved into private ownership. Hardy drew a smattering of chuckles and applause, prompting Chairman Jim Fannin to call the chamber to order when, more than three hours into the meeting and following a Q & A with administration representatives, he observed, “The prison sale, to me, is the prime example of a married couple. The husband and the wife are married, and he sells or leases his wife but he’s still married and has all the responsibilities to go with it. Any man with a little common sense would know that’s a bad deal — some things you just don’t do.”
The Ind spoke early Tuesday afternoon with Cortez, who points out that the bill had been amended during the hearing and would only have authorized the administration to send out a request for proposals for purchasing the prisons. The Joint Committee on the Budget, according to one amendment, would receive the top three proposals by Dec. 31 for review, but initiating the RFP process did not guarantee the prisons would be sold to private contractors. Cortez maintains that his vote not to defer the bill “was simply to give [the administration] authority” to do the RFP and his “contention is still that [selling the prisons] is not a sound financial decision.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.