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
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.