The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    April 2, 2019    |    Issue 181    |    |    @LaPoliticsNow    |     

Your Roll Call

An in-depth look at #LaLege… What bills are up on the docket… the history of cameras in the chambers… will we see some fireworks this session… Kyle Ardoin talks elections… Edwin Edwards, Jimmy Swaggart, John Breaux and Marc Morial have been spotted… Ralph Abraham’s first digital ad rolls out… Eddie Rispone gets billboards up (or not)… Bill Cassidy gets a shout-out from Donald Trump… 

Capitoland Countdown

6 days until the start of the regular session... 65 days until sine die… 128 days until qualifying opens... 195 days until the primary elections... 230 days until the runoff elections... 288 days left in the term…

T H E   L O U I S I A N A   L E G I S L A T U R E

Then & Now & Tomorrow

You can’t understand the Louisiana House and Senate today — much less the Legislature of the future — without understanding what those bodies were like yesterday. Perspective matters, especially during the final year of a term. This quickly-approaching regular session, however, has already been picked clean of meaning by politicos and pontificators. So let’s take a (somewhat) fresh approach… 

T H E   N O W

A Few New Bills on Tap

With just under a week remaining until the start of the regular session, lawmakers are already filling bills for consideration when members convene. Since legislators are limited to only five instruments this session, everybody will be carefully considering what measures they are choosing to introduce. Here are some of the bills filed within the last week: 

HB522 by Ways & Means Chair Neil Abramson: “Provides relative to the levy of sales and use taxes in the city of New Orleans.” 

HB564 by Rep. Edmond Jordan: “Provides for the regulation of the cultivation, manufacturing, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products.” 

SB183 by Sen. Dan Claitor: “Provides relative to the Tulane legislative scholarships.” 

SB192 by Sen. Norby Chabert: “relative to state symbols; to designate ‘Jambalaya (On The Bayou)’ by Hank Williams Sr. as an official state song; to designate the Cajun waltz as an official state dance; and to provide for related matters.”

SB134 by Sen. Wesley Bishop: “ Redesignates Interstate 10 in Louisiana from the Mississippi State Line to the Texas State Line as the "Who Dat Nation Highway.”

T H E   # L A L E G E ,   B A C K   T H E N

How to Get on the Floor Without Asking

In the weeks before the start of the 1956 regular session, WDSU reporter Bill Monroe desperately wanted to get one of his station’s cameras up to Baton Rouge so he could include footage of the Legislature in his daily reports on the goings on at the Capitol. 

Earl K. Long had just be re-elected to a third term in the Governor’s Mansion by one of the largest margins in Bayou State history. Having covered politics for quite a while, Monroe knew that Uncle Earl’s antics would make great TV. 

After some pleading, the veteran reporter managed to free a camera from WDSU’s home base in New Orleans. Monroe knew the Legislature well enough to know that if he asked permission to bring his camera on the floor, a member would likely object and his stories would be delayed while debate raged on over the admission of this new technology in the chambers. 

“We thought, why don’t we just try not asking anybody’s permission and just go in and set up the cameras,” Monroe later recalled in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

WDSU technicians arrived early in the morning on the opening day of the session, setting up cameras in the center aisles of both the House and Senate chambers. “We were very obnoxious, in the way. We really shouldn’t have been there,” Monroe said. 

Lawmakers didn’t object to the cameras on the floor, thinking that WDSU had gotten approval to broadcast the proceedings from the speaker’s office or the governor. “They got the impression that we must have gotten permission from somebody,” Monroe said. “Louisiana turned out to be the only state in the Union that had cameras on the floor of the Legislature that never had permission.” 

T H E   ( V E R Y   N E A R )   F U T U R E

Are Session Fuses Being Lit?

I wanted a straight answer on the politics that have been fermenting for the regular session of the Legislature that convenes Monday, April 8. So I called Senate Natural Resources Chairman Norby Chabert of Terrebonne Parish. A former Democrat turned Republican and the third member of his immediate family to serve in the Louisiana Senate, Chabert knows politics, from managing campaigns and precinct-level turnout to policy angles and leveraging gavels.

“What are the fireworks gonna be like?” I asked Chabert. “Will there even be fireworks?”

He laughed, in a knowing way. Then he sighed, because most folks aren’t looking for a flicker of controversy or even a spark of emotion from the approaching session — primarily because it falls just a few months prior to re-election bids.

Gotta look good for the voters. That’s the historic model for a year like 2019. In other words, the final year of a legislative term is typically non-confrontational, somewhat guarded by the elected membership and lacking in substantive accomplishments.

“It won’t quite be the Fourth of July,” Chabert said flatly, “but it’ll definitely be New Year's Eve.”

This term, to be certain, has been radically different from those of modern note. In 2016, for example, this current crop of lawmakers spent more time in session than any of their peers dating back to 1812, and each annual regular session thus far has been accompanied by one or more special sessions.

Different indeed.

What if this final regular session is as equally different? Where can the fireworks be best viewed? For starters, the main budget bill and Louisiana's revenue challenges in general will continue to dominate serious conversations. So, of course, the potential for disaster begins there. 

The required executive budget proposal hasn't been drafted yet because of a revenue panel's inability to recognize a pot of dollars that the state would in turn be able to spend. That means, for the first I can recall in two decades, that a regular session will convene without HB 1, the annual operating budget, being introduced. Legislators have already found a workaround, via what amounts to skeleton bills, but the otherwise avoidable hiccup should be an unmistakable signal that this final year of the current term may be as different as 2016, 2017 and 2018. 

Then there are the new faces, and the old faces who want new jobs. Those personalities, in particular, could make the session stickier than usual by adding noise and fraying nerves. There will be 10 brand new state representatives serving in their first ever session come April 8. It's difficult to believe so many newbies were elected since the term’s seventh special session adjourned June 24, 2018, but turnover has come to define this term of state government. Plus, there's no guarantee that these newcomers will arrive with the go-along-get-along philosophy of some of their predecessors.

Moreover, there are 16 senators and 31 representatives who are term limited, just like Chabert. The convention wisdom often suggests that these exiting lawmakers are primed to perform, since they have nothing left to lose and they’re facing their collective swan song. Some term-limited lawmakers, such as Chabert, insist they’ll approach this regular session like those that came before.

Then again, the Senate isn’t where the action is if you’re watching loose cannons. Instead keep an eye on House members who are aiming for Senate seats, or other elected jobs, and are looking for ways to stand out. That kind of external ambition, in concert with the 10 new members serving in their first session, could be enough to help buck a small part of the lame-duck stylings we're used to seeing at a term's end.  

On the surface however, expectations are low for the regular session. Lawmakers didn’t show their usual lust for pre-filings bills, which limits the playing field in terms of policy potential. But odd-numbered years are different because lawmakers are confined to introducing only five general subject matter bills. Even-numbered years, by comparison, present opportunities for practically unlimited legislation. 

Perhaps there will be a noticeable change for this most recent term-ending regular session. Maybe the new kids on the block will partner with the old-timers to create an entirely new tone. If not, the Legislature’s unique brand of politics will still create fireworks that will be worth watching if you have even a passing interest in politics or government. As Chabert noted, those fireworks won’t quite be Fourth of July quality, but you’ll be able to hear them and occasionally see them, like on New Year’s Eve.

Now, those firework displays may not prove to be worth the time spent watching them, but no one is promising a worthwhile and productive experience — just a loud and occasionally bright-lit show of theatrics and intrigue. This is, after all, the final regular session of a legislative term, just with different personalities and priorities.

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HDA Client Sasol to sponsor 7th Annual SEED Center 

Business Incubator Pitch Competition

As Sasol progresses through the commissioning phase of its world-scale petrochemical complex in Louisiana, the company is also working in its community to help build a better Southwest Louisiana for its neighbors. As part of Sasol’s commitment to building local business, the company sponsors the Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development Center’s annual Business Incubator Pitch Competition, which will be held April 25.

The competition awards over $65,000 in cash and prizes to entrepreneurs, and a $5,000 grand prize to the winners. Residents in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis Parishes are welcome to apply for a chance to pitch their business and win!

Registration for the 2019 Business Pitch is now open, and closes April 9. Click here to register.

Adrian Wallace serves as the Executive Director of the SEED Center Business Incubator. The SEED Center endeavors to continue to build and enhance its programming and resources to build a sustainable and creative entrepreneurial culture in Southwest Louisiana. The purpose of the Sasol-sponsored business pitch competition is to raise awareness about the Business Incubator, SEED Center and the many resources it offers to entrepreneurs.

Hear Adrian's story.

Learn more about Sasol’s efforts to build community, careers and local business at 


Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin 

LaPolitics: On average, the turnout for last weekend's special elections was at just over 19 percent. Did the voter turnout out for these races meet, over-perform or under-preform your expectations? 

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin: It over-preformed my expectations — we’ve had as low as single digit turnout for similar legislative special elections, so while I always want higher turnout, Saturday’s turnout was higher than some recent special elections. 

While I know that is it still early, where do you believe that turnout this fall will compare to 2015? 

I certainly hope that this fall’s turnout is higher than the 39% and 40% turnout we had for the primary and general. The governor’s race should be competitive, and if we have the level of polarization we saw in last falls midterm, we could have a much higher turnout. I’d love to see 40% turnout be the floor, not the ceiling.  

Will there be any changes in the qualifying or election process that candidates need to be aware of heading into the regularly scheduled races this fall? 

We are monitoring legislation from the upcoming session, but we are not expecting any major changes to the qualifying or election process. 

While everybody is aware of the big-ticket statewide contests, what are some of the more interesting down-ballot races that voters will be deciding on? 

Sheriffs, Clerks, Assessors, and a few district Judicial seats will be on the ballot, but I think the most interesting ballot initiative will be the vote on St. George.

What are the biggest issues or bills that the Secretary of State's office is tracking heading into the regular session? 

There is a bill that would change who can vote in the St. George election, more felon voting legislation, as well as mandatory voter registration bills and bills that strengthen voter integrity.

While I know that you can't reveal too much, what are some of the big things that will be seeing out of the Secretary of State's office this year? 

We are looking forward to getting new voting equipment for Louisiana’s voters and we have some special things happening at the Old State Capitol and with our other museums. 

S P O T T E D !

—Former Gov. Edwin Edwards was seen imparting some Cajun political wisdom on Congressman Clay Higgins as they had lunch together on Friday. Baton Rouge televangelist Jimmy Swaggart joined the duo for their meal as well. 

—Gov. John Bel Edwards was seen enjoying the LSU-Michigan State basketball game in Washington, D.C. with former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, Rep. Ted James, former Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman and Board of Regents Chairman Marty Chabert

Edwards also hosted former New Orleans Saints Tight End Ben Watson at the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday. 

—Congressman Ralph Abraham was seen “down da bayou” at a campaign event for Sen. Bret Allain

—U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was seen visiting with Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, the prime minister of Mali,  during the PM’s official trip to Capitol Hill. 

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S T A F F   S H I F T S 

David Weinman, who previously worked for former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the Republican Governors Association, has joined Congressman Ralph Abraham’s gubernatorial campaign as the communications director. 

—Assistant House Majority Whip Cedric Richmond has named Kwabena Nsiah as his new chief of staff. Nsiah, who has spent almost his entire career on Capitol Hill, perviously was the Congressional Black Caucus’ policy director during Richmond’s stint as chairman. 

P O L I T I C A L   C H A T T E R

—Congressman Ralph Abraham’s gubernatorial campaign has released their first digital ad of the cycle. Insiders say that the minute long spot will be part of several used in a “substantial” statewide ad buy. 

—An April Fool’s Day press release from Eddie Rispone’s gubernatorial campaign about billboards in the Baton Rouge area has left a lot of people scratching their heads and asking if it was a joke or not.

@GregHilburn1: “.@LouisianaGov gives polite shoutout to rival @RepAbraham to his right #lalege #lagov” - (well, that could be awkward) 

Hilburn also has the latest on a yard-work incident that resulted in Speaker Taylor Barras breaking his wrist and fracturing his arm. Gannett has confirmed that Barras did indeed injure his gavel and bill-signing hand. No word yet on how the House will proceed going forward 

—Retired U.S. Navy Admiral John Kirby and Boeing GR Vice President Gordon Johnroe will be speaking at a LSU Manship School forum on the military, national security and foreign affairs on April 8. 

—Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry and Rep. Gary Carter squared off Sunday on a WDSU forum discussing the upcoming regular session, each discussing their varying points of view. 

—The Millennial Voter Engagement Initiative will be hosting a panel discussion in New Orleans next week on the #MeToo movement featuring former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and City Councilwoman Helena Moreno

—President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is highlighting the work of Ace Specialties, the Lafayette-based company behind much of the commander-in-chief’s political swag, including his trademark red MAGA hats.  

—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy received the inaugural Rail Safety Advocate Award from the American Chemistry Council. 

Pre-orders are being accepted for Bob Mann’s latest book, Becoming Ronald Reagan: The Rise of a Conservative Icon

T H E   W A R   C H E S T   W A R

—Businessman Eddie Rispone will also be holding a hometown fundraiser in Baton Rouge at the Country Club of Louisiana on Wednesday. House Natural Resources Chair Stuart Bishop, Sens. Jack Donahue and Barrow Peacock are listed on the event’s invitation as hosts along with Lane Grigsby, Boysie Bollinger and Chef John Folse

—Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will be holding his “Louisiana Takes the Stage” fundraiser at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge on April 10. According to Nungesser’s Facebook page, the food for the event will come from a variety of local chefs and restaurants such as Drago’s, Acme Oyster House, Zea Rotisserie and Hooters. 

N E W S   S H A P I N G   O U R   P O L I T I C S

The AP: “Though Gov. John Bel Edwards previously said Louisiana would seek to impose work requirements on certain adult Medicaid recipients, his administration isn’t pursuing such a mandate, backpedaling on an idea struck down in other states by a federal judge.” 

Gambit: “The traditional rule among state lawmakers during election-year legislative sessions can be summed up simply: Avoid controversy at all costs — don’t rock the boat at election time.” 

The News-Star: “Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham has topped $1 million in donations for the governor's race, his campaign officials are reporting, which they believe is a significant milestone after their first report was mocked by others in the race.” 

The Times-Pic: “Louisiana’s medical marijuana industry has faced a host of problems getting off the ground, and now there might be a question of whether the program will run into more difficulties after the governor’s election in October.” 

—Catch former Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown’s take on the Bayou State’s auto rates… 

B E L T W A Y   B E A T

—U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy received a shout-out from President Donald Trump during a press gaggle on the South Lawn of the White House Friday. Trump announced to reporters that he was hoping that Cassidy, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida would be able to formulate a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. However, it appears that the White House may have put the brakes on the issue for now. 

—Cassidy and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy met with Office of Budget and Management Director Russ Vought and HUD Secretary Ben Carson Tuesday afternoon to discuss obtaining an final solution to the duplication of benefits issue 

—Minority Whip Steve Scalise filed a discharge petition Tuesday afternoon for the pro-life Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The Whip’s petition needs 218 signatures to be successful, which means that 21 Democratic members must cross the aisle for Scalise’s measure to pass. 

—Republican Study Committee Chair Mike Johnson got folks laughing with a an April Fools tweet involving President Trump and Socialists. 

—Congressman Ralph Abraham announced two grants in his district from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Tensas Health Center received a $1.2 million dollar grant and the Richland Health Center received $1.9 million. 

—While she usually works in Capitoland, Sen. Sharon Hewitt made an appearance in Potomacland Tuesday morning, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Sources. 


In Last Week’s LaPolitics Weekly

—Attorney General Jeff Landry blazes a trail through Potomacland 

—A deep dive into Landry’s connections to the Trump White House 

—A look at the General’s re-election operation and LCCM 

—Natural Resources Chair Stuart Bishop builds his war chest for the speaker’s race

—A new straw poll in Iowa (we’re talking Calcasieu, not corn

—Why is there no HB1 for the upcoming fiscal session? 

—Parish clerks of court facing a lot of turnover 

—A look at seven contested #LaLege races in Inside the Rails 

—GOP gubernatorial candidates Eddie Rispone and Ralph Abraham lead off our They Said It! feature 

—Plus more! 

Get on the inside today with a subscription to LaPolitics Weekly!


In last week's edition of LaPolitics Weekly, we mistakenly identified HD71 candidate Jonathan Davis as a current member of Rep. Valerie Hodges' staff. It has been brought to our attention that Davis, in fact, resigned his post in Hodges' office before declaring for the seat and launching a campaign. 

A message from Harris, DeVille & Associates  

German Fulbright Students Visit HDA Client BASF Geismar Facility

A group of 24 German Fulbright scholars visited the BASF Geismar, Louisiana site on Friday, March 15. This is the fourth year BASF has participated in the German-American Fulbright Commission program hosted by Louisiana State University. The German undergraduate and graduate engineering students spend three weeks in Louisiana learning about the business side of STEM-related careers and businesses. Their visit to the Geismar site allowed the students to tour one BASF’s largest production facilities in the world and speak to BASF employees about their day-to-day job responsibilities, education, career development and work environments.

# H B D ,   T R A C K E R S !

—Tuesday, April 2: Nick Speyer, Beau Tidwell and Maggie Heyn Richardson

—Wednesday, April 3: Grambling Prez Rick Gallot, Paul Sawyer, Todd Thompson, Lori Melancon, Lee Zurik, Bill Profita and Joey Durel

—Thursday, April 4: LaPolitics pro Mitch Rabalais, Ryan Haynie and Bambi Polotzola

—Friday, April 5: Rep. James Armes, Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and John Snell

—Saturday, April 6: Michael Marsh

—Sunday, April 7: Rep. Polly Thomas, Sen. Bodi White, Renee Stelly Amar, Robyn Ekings, Gayle Daniels Fisher and Deanne Bingham

—Monday, April 8: Late U.S. Sen. and First Lady Rose McConnell Long (1892) 

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Jeremy Alford/Louisiana Political Review

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