Money Forces Political Tides To Rise

“Before the BP settlement, this whole master plan was an academic exercise.”

Those were the words Gov. John Bel Edwards shared during a recent meeting with coastal stakeholders. For their part, the local levee board members, advocates, legislators and state officials who were in attendance knew exactly what the governor was attempting to communicate.

After years of trying to convince the world that Louisiana was washing away, and following countless hours of public meetings and policy summits, the gigantic pile of money needed to jumpstart the state’s coastal master plan is finally on its way.

There are two substantial pots of money driving this transition:

— Roughly $10 billion will be paid out to the state over the next 15 years for legal settlements reached with BP over its 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

— There’s also $140 million annually that will be gleaned from offshore oil revenue, beginning next fiscal year through the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA.

The combined cashflow has contractors, parish governments, engineers, landowners and many others beating their chests ahead of the competition to come. Elected officials, meanwhile, are looking and sounding more serious when it comes to their oversight roles.

Spending priorities are being questioned with a fresh intensity and bills have been introduced at the Capitol to address how some of the incoming revenue should be distributed. On another front, protection advocates are facing off against restoration supporters, with both arguing that their respective projects are critical to the state’s core mission.

As erosion and subsidence relocate the coast and its byproducts further north, the proverbial table where deals are made seems to be growing larger. Occurrences of saltwater intrusion have been found as far north as Baton Rouge and officials in the River Parishes region are reporting unprecedented backwater flooding connected to lower-lying areas.

Edwards, convinced that we’ve reached a turning point, even declared an official state of emergency last month for Louisiana’s coast. It was a public relations tactic, to be certain, but the urgency stated above the governor’s signature couldn’t be more real.

Make no mistake — the state’s plan to save the coast is being funded and implemented on a grand scale that promises high hurdles.

How grand is the scale? The National Wildlife Federation, for one, believes Louisiana is “embarking on the largest restoration effort in U.S. history.”

How high are the hurdles? The Public Affairs Research Council recently compared the process of putting the state’s blueprint into action with tackling a “five-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.”

But before history can be written and puzzle pieces can be placed, lawmakers this session have to approve two important plans.

That includes the 50-year, comprehensive master plan ($50 billion), which lawmakers only get to weigh in on every five years. So this session will give the Legislature its last look at the master plan for this term.

There’s also the annual master plan ($644 million) that requires approval this year and every year. This go around, though, there’s a slightly new twist. While in the past the annual plan was hosted in a single resolution, there are now two duplicate resolutions pending action in the session — one in the House and another in the Senate.

Few can offer a straight reason why this has happened, but there’s speculation that each chamber has its own copy just in case one of them is held for political ransom. In other words, no chances are being taken this year. If the BP settlement and GOMESA cash represent a room full of promise, then the annual plan is the key required to open the door.

Elsewhere in the halls of the Capitol, Senate Natural Resources Chairman Norby Chabert made a push recently to redirect most of the state’s share of the GOMESA revenue stream for next fiscal year. Chabert originally wanted to give the cash to local levee districts, rather than allowing the pursestrings to be controlled by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the state’s guiding coastal board. (The legislation has since has since been amended as part of a developing comprise deal.)

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, the former chairman of the CPRA, is interested in local funding formats as well, particularly when it comes to levee boards and parishes that tax themselves for restoration and protection needs. Zeringue is leading policy discussions about how these tax dollars are applied to projects and how spending, more generally, can be spread across different jurisdictions.

As the years start to roll by and the money continues to roll in, proposals like those being authored by Chabert and Zeringue will become perennial topics. Or at least they should be, given the dollar signs involved.

That said, the governor was right. The fight to protect the coast has evolved well beyond an academic exercise. It’s now an administrative and political battle that the entire state should be paying attention to this year.

If you’ve already missed some of the unfolding saga, don’t worry. The story of Louisiana’s coastal cash is only just beginning.

SPONSORED: A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Despite the horrors of the day, the attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) shaped both the generation who survived it and their descendants

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 12/05: Former Congressman Rodney Alexander, Baton Rouge Councilman Buddy Amoroso and Charles Landry — Wednesday 12/06:

Remarks from Mary Landrieu

Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was presented with the Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award this past weekend by the Louisiana Center for

The Beltway Beat

— Congressman Ralph Abraham went duck hunting with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue this past weekend, in a couple of different blinds in

Political Chatter

— Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards hosted their Christmas festivities at the Governor’s Mansion today. — The First

LOWDOWN: Crowley Vs. Winnfield (Where’s The Real Political Muscle?)

Which Louisiana city has the best political crop? Is it Crowley or Winnfield? Or is it somewhere else? State Rep. John Stefanski of

Sponsored: The Spirit Of Metanoia

Metanoia is an ancient Greek word meaning “the journey of changing one's mind, heart, self and way of life.” But in an undisclosed haven

The Beltway Beat

— Dan Fagan in The Advocate: Is U.S. Sen. John Kennedy really anti-abortion? We get the “real answer” tomorrow, when the Senate holds a

Political Chatter

— Gov. John Bel Edwards is in Washington, D.C., today with Rep. Tanner Magee, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections deputy

Alford: Cybersecurity a Burgeoning Issue

Hang around the process long enough and you’ll recognize the same phrases being parroted in each and every regular session of the Louisiana

LaHistory: Bob Kennon and the JFK Mailer

By Mitch Rabalais In late November, Louisiana politics is usually consumed with the excitement of the final weeks before an election —

From the LaRC: Huey’s Been Drinking Again

We thought you’d enjoy this… The Louisiana Research Collection scored this great photograph of Huey P. Long, captured in August 1933 at the

POD: Our Ex-Cop-Gone-Congressman

Next month will mark Congressman Clay Higgins’ first full year of serving in U.S. House. We talked to Higgins on the pod back in the spring,

LOWDOWN: Jimmie Davis + 3 Legislative Factoids

That time Louisiana's governor rode his horse into the Capitol building... Plus we recall that very uncomfortable period when two different

Duncan Devotees Target Kennedy

This story was first published for subscribers to LaPolitics Weekly on Nov. 9, 2017. Wish you had read it then? Subscribe

They Said It

These were first published for subscribers to LaPolitics Weekly on Nov. 9, 2017. Wish you had read it then? Subscribe now! “I had a 4.0

BREAKING: Sexual Harassment Claims Precede Resignation In Governor’s Office

Over the past week sources have confirmed to LaPolitics that sexual allegations were going to be leveled against one of Gov. John Bel

Turkey Talking, Fool! (Rick Ward & The Presidents)

In this week's episode of The Lowdown we're talking turkey, fool! And you better believe that Louisiana politicians, like Sen. Rick

They Said It

These were first published for subscribers to LaPolitics Weekly on Nov. 2 and Oct. 26, 2017. Wish you had read it then? Subscribe

Sponsored: A Little Bit Beltway, A Little Bit Bayou

Paige Hensgens Hightower has the best of both worlds – a little bit Beltway and a little bit bayou. Her love for Capitol Hill and her heart

Four Reasons to be Thankful This Week

If you’re a longtime subscriber to LaPolitics Weekly, or if you’ve been with The Tuesday Tracker since the beginning, then you already know

JBE & DXC

Back home in Reilly’s Banana Republican, the governor’s comms shop whipped the press corps into a frenzy Sunday afternoon by sending out an

J-B-E, THE D-E-Ms & SOME P-D-A

There’s already a followup to our recent analysis about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rising political stock among Democrats nationally. Check

Happy Birthday, Trackers!

— Tuesday 11/14: Austin Stukins — Wednesday 11/15: Ryan Berni, Andy Kopplin, Matt Dardenne, Aaron Eggleston and Pam Bounds — Thursday

The Beltway Beat

— Congressman Steve Scalise honored his security detail saviors from the Congressional Baseball game practice shooting at the United States