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 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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
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.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)