As he has done every year since being elected in 1996, Dupre is pushing a set of bills during the ongoing session that chips dollars off existing sources to bankroll the coast. One such measure creates the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corporation, which would allow the state to borrow about $500,000 immediately against an expected increase in oil-and-gas royalties. Another bill would slowly boost the annually-dedicated $25 million from mineral resources for coastal activities, siphoning some cash away from roads. "I know all of that sounds like a lot of money," Dupre tells the committee with a smile, "but remember that the [state's coastal master plan] is $50 or $60 billion."
Directly across from Dupre in the committee room sits the glaring Sen. Joe McPherson, a profoundly mustached Democrat from Rapides Parish ready to pounce with his Mayberry twang. A successful businessman back home in Woodworth, McPherson is a stickler for numbers. He also has a military presence he isn't afraid to use. McPherson has been bearing down on Dupre's funding proposals ' the money, not the concept ' arguing north Louisiana isn't getting a fair shake. "You always take the cream off the top for coastal restoration," he barks at Dupre. "You should be able to build a wall around Montegut with all the money you got. You're not giving up."
The issues that have traditionally set lawmakers from the piney woods of north Louisiana against those from the swamps and bayous of the south amount to an ancient political rivalry ' Protestants in the north, Catholics in the south, conservatives against liberals, urban opposed to rural and so on. In the wake of the 2005 hurricane season, the debate manifested itself in matters of coastal restoration, construction and insurance relief, especially during the legislative session.
With the state's recovery still limping along, the animosity could grow worse before it gets better. Northern lawmakers could become more vocal, creating a legislative civil war over regional funding and priorities. Some coastal lawmakers were clueless last week when dozens of Shreveport residents stormed the Capitol to rally for I-49's northern construction, mainly because they were only tracking the southern portion. Likewise, northerners asked very few questions ' if any at all ' during the session's hearings on the state's landmark plan for the coast. Even Blanco admits the enmity and ignorance is troubling, and could grow increasingly bitter. "There's always that possibility, but that's why I pay attention to the needs of north Louisiana," she says, adding northern priorities hold as much weight on her desk.
The territorial grudge match resurfaced again when both chambers of the Legislature voted on bills to ease the burden caused by ever-increasing insurance rates, especially for hurricane-prone parishes. House Bill 962 by Rep. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, proposes to cut the rates that Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. charges to policyholders in parishes with a majority of residents using the state-run insurer of last resort. In short, there would be very little relief for residents above the Mississippi line. "People in north Louisiana, which no one seems to care about, are paying higher rates than anyone," argues Rep. Rick Farrar, a Pineville Democrat.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 242 by Sen. Walter Boasso, D-Arabi, would establish $500 million in refundable tax credits aimed at residents and businesses still recovering from the 2005 hurricane season, or those forever preparing for the next disaster. Some worry the bill will position Citizens to actually become more competitive, forcing up rates for parishes with fewer policyholders. "(The legislation) is an incentive to get more and more with Citizens," says Rep. Kay Kellogg Katz, a Monroe Republican.
On the community level, where sentiment becomes action, Dr. Jeffrey D. Sadow, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, says "barely anyone up here even knows all those different bills are out there," but voters in the region are scrutinizing funding for roads like I-49. There has also been a bit of grumbling amongst local officials, he says, over the state's new building codes, which impose stricter guidelines on every parish, whether they border Texas or saltwater. "'Why should we have to pay for everyone else?' is one of the questions I hear," Sadow says.
Could the sentiment snowball and head in another direction? "If it so happens, when all is said and done in the coming weeks and session is over, there's a perception that nothing was done on I-49 or anything else, that is something that could very well turn into an election issue this cycle," he says.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 20, 2013:
Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey deserves an attaboy for his unexpected vote during Wednesday’s meeting approving a mediation session between the board and Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cable television network's suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the hit reality show has drawn criticism from the governor of Robertson's home state.
The State Bond Commission gave preliminary approval to the borrowing plan Thursday without objection.
The Pediatric Clinic is housed in the same location previously closed by state budget cuts in June 2012.
Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.
In a letter distributed during Wednesday night's meeting, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, in his final meeting as board president, called on his fellow board members to start focusing on the children and stop battling Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board tells it all: The board has lost sight of its elected purpose.
A public Mass will be held Thursday in New Orleans for artist George Rodrigue, who died Saturday of cancer at age 69.
Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration hasn't done an independent performance review of its $363 million privatization contract for mental health and addictive disorder treatment services.
"Whether it's the tackle position, whether it's a player on defense ... we're going to look closely at what our options are and what gives us the best chance."
Get to Cajun Field today and show your bowl-bound pride
In the end, edge to Tulane, but the 12th man could be the deciding factor.
Says ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert, “Obviously, they are not responsible enough to have the privilege of selling alcohol. This blatant disregard of the law will not be tolerated.”
Louisiana's Department of Education isn't properly monitoring the state's voucher program to make sure students are placed in private schools that demonstrate student achievement and success, according to an audit released Monday.
Five members of the Lafayette Parish School Board are facing potential fines of as much as $1,400 for excessive absences from board meetings in 2013.
Acadiana (14-1) broke the state championship record for points and rushing yards, rolling up 670 yards. Photo by Buddy Delahoussaye
The artist who chronicled Cajun life and later found fame with his enigmatic “Blue Dog” images died Saturday in Houston after a long battle with cancer.