Gov. Bobby Jindal followed through with his promise to veto the renewal of a 4-cent state tax on cigarettes, characterizing it as a new tax. It was an existing tax set to expire, but that’s just semantics. Now we’ll see if Jindal can marshal his formidable power of persuasion (read, threaten to block public works projects) with some within the overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers in both the Senate and House who voted for the renewal. Jindal only needs to peel off a few — literally one from the House and four from the Senate — to prevent an override of his veto.
Lawmakers, especially within the GOP, are in something of a pickle: While the tax only generates $12 million annually, that’s still $12 million that will have to be cut elsewhere if the tax is not renewed through a veto override. Any lawmaker who voted for the renewal and then wilts under pressure from the governor’s office — Jindal has called the veto “personal” and has appeal to his fellow Republicans to back him — is agreeing to cut $12 million from the budget in order to lower the price of cigarettes. How do you spin that with voters back home?
As columnist James Gill observed about Jindal in Sunday’s Times-Picayune:
[T]he principle on which he has elected to stand is a highly perverse one, and his main concern remains himself. ...Jindal, in his quest to lower the price of cigarettes in Louisiana, is not only bucking public opinion but setting himself up to be the first governor in decades to suffer the indignity of a legislative override. He is evidently willing to pay the price of maintaining an anti-tax stance even when it defies all reason. Say tax, and Jindal will jump up and shake his head. Pavlov would approve.
Today’s Advocate has more on the veto and possible override, as well as a link to a 1997 article Jindal, then secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, penned for the Louisiana State Medical Society calling for higher sales taxes on cigarettes to offset the cost of health care for smokers. Jindal on Monday declined to comment on the article or what his apparently his ideologically driven one-80 on the issue.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
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.