Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Written by Jeremy Alford
How Gov. Bobby Jindal, with nothing but the power his office provides, put a damper on the Legislature’s recent streak of independence.
“That’s just stupid.”
The assessment offered by the mother of Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, when he told her that the House wouldn’t have the votes to override a gubernatorial veto of a cigarette tax
When something happens “inside the rails,” meaning those tiny, intricately carved borders that keep lobbyists and others off the floors of the House and Senate, it’s usually a reference to an event or occurrence that impacts lawmakers only. It’s juicy fodder for hacks and flacks, but doesn’t mean much to the general public at large.
That’s how the Legislature’s recent streak of independence measures up. It’s “inside the rails” and doesn’t likely resonate with your mom or neighbor or postman.
|Rep. Rick Gallot|
Gov. Bobby Jindal saw to that last Tuesday when he vetoed legislation meant to renew a 4-cent cigarette tax. Lawmakers hooped and hollered about getting it to Jindal’s desk, but he had the final say with the stroke of a pen.
Two days later, House members attempted to override Jindal, but their effort came up a dozen votes shy of the 70 needed to buck the man who’s positioned where the buck supposedly stops.
How did Jindal do it, especially since House Bill 1, the stat’s budget plan, is devoid of any fun funds? It has been common knowledge since the regular session kicked off in late April that the administration would have one arm tied behind its back without the use of earmarks and pork projects, which are offered up as payment for votes, practically since the beginning of legislative time, and their absence this cash-strapped session has been blamed for some of Jindal’s policy failures. (Read: merging UNO and Southern; selling off prisons; proposed budget cuts; tuition increases; and so on.)
But then there’s House Bill 2, the state’s annual construction plan. It is very much in play as the session winds down. The plan, known as the capital outlay bill, includes projects in practically every part of the state, but it’s finalized in the fall by the commissioner of administration and state Bond Commission — regardless of how the bill passes.
A senator, who requested anonymity but also asked that the interview take place in the view and earshot of administrative staffers, said that “capital outlay is being dangled over our heads like meat” for all of the major floor votes over the past two weeks or so. “That’s all you hear people talking about,” the senator said. “We’re being threatened with these projects.”
A high-ranking legislative staffer on the House side added that the administration in many cases is telling lawmakers that their project priorities could be changed if they don’t follow suit. Projects in House Bill 2 are organized by five different priorities. Some mean cash will be available in the coming fiscal year; others are essentially a holding place.
The staffer said many lawmakers are still proud of the battles they won this session, but Jindal, with the power of the purse strings and veto pen, prevails in the end: “He wins the last battle.”
It’s an interesting time at the state Capitol these days. House members who are term-limited are saying their good byes, even though quite a few will attempt to move over to the Senate where other outgoing pols are giving final addresses, too.
In his farewell speech, Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, suggested that thumbing a nose to power is sometimes required — if only to keep things lively. “If you’re good, you get called to the Governor’s Mansion to eat cookies, maybe get a company man t-shirt,” he said.
Last week, after several lawmakers switched their votes to protect Jindal’s veto record, there was certainly a good deal of cookie-eating going on. Hopefully, they were also listening to Gallot’s speech last week, for he offered some deep words of political wisdom.
The words are especially true as you consider that the cigarette tax vetoed by Jindal eliminates $12 million annually for various health care programs. That, and there’s the capital construction project in Small Town Louisiana that won’t get built now because some rural lawmaker wouldn’t bow to the governor.
Politics has a way of leveling the playing field. Eventually. At some point. “What goes around comes around,” Gallot said, “sometimes quicker than you think.”
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."