TUESDAY TRACKER – ISSUE 154 – AUGUST 14, 2018

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August 14, 2018 — Issue No. 154

By Sarah Gamard (Sarah@LaPolitics.com), Jeremy Alford (JJA@LaPolitics.com),

& Mitch Rabalais (Mitch@LaPolitics.com)

(Printable PDF)


THE POLITICAL ABC’s

(Alario, Barras & Comedy)

Seven answers & one joke each,

directly from the gavel masters

It has been nearly three months since the finale of 2018’s edition of session-palooza. That’s plenty of time for House Speaker Taylor Barras and Senate President John Alario to recover, second guess their career choices, and start looking forward.

LaPolitics reached out to both of the legislative leaders and asked identical questions about the recent sales tax legislation, their forecasts for next fiscal year, upcoming special elections and more.

LaPolitics: What have you been up to since session-palooza ended?

Alario: I’ve made a couple of trips. I attended the Presidents’ Forum, which is an association of presidents of the Senate throughout the United States. It’s a national event and they’ve usually got a really good agenda of issues that we all discuss amongst each other. I went to the Southern Legislative Conference in St. Louis, basically to support Speaker Barras, who’s going to be chairman of it next year. We’ll be hosting it in New Orleans next year, so we were glad to encourage people to come. I made a speech at the Finance Association in Destin, followed by a speech at the Sheriff’s Association in Destin, also. Since then, I’ve been back home catching up with different things here.

Barras: It hasn’t been much of an off season yet. Three and a half weeks after the session ended, we headed to St. Louis for the Southern Legislative Conference. Our House and Senate members that were there were in charge of putting on a little teaser “Come to Louisiana” party at the end of the conference, so we got real busy after session ended getting all that together. We had a great time. We second lined, had beignets and everything. I think we’ve teased them enough that a bunch people are heading to Louisiana next year for SLC. I will serve as chairman of SLC next year, so it’s most fitting that we’ll be hosting in New Orleans. So that kept me pretty busy. Last week was the ALEC conference in New Orleans, so I was there. Next Tuesday, I leave for the (National Speakers Conference) in Milwaukee. So I’m squeezing in some bank work, but it’s been tough.

LaPolitics: Do you think we’re done with special sessions in 2018?

Alario: Well, I hope so. You never know.

Barras: Oh, God, I hope so.

LaPolitics: Could anything prompt another session this calendar year?

Alario: If a hurricane comes along as devastating as we had with Katrina, we had to come in several sessions after that happened. You’ve got all kinds of reasons the Legislature has to meet. But barring that, I don’t see any need for one at this point. There’s always the possibility of some federal legislation would come along that we might have to adjust to. I don’t want to say ‘never,’ but it looks like the coast is clear for now.

Barras: I don’t anticipate seeing any reason that a special session would be needed at this point. I think general economics have been pretty much what we had expected. Maybe some slight improvement. So that does help. It’s not like the economy is deteriorating any longer. Depending on what the administration comes with as far as the executive budget is concerned at the beginning of ‘19, I’m assuming they’re going to work within the parameters of the revenue that we have at this point. We’ll see where the Revenue Estimating Conference leads in our fall meeting.

LaPolitics: What will be some of the issues to watch for the 2019 regular session? Are any issues already surfacing?

Barras: Other than possibly some of the more general reform ideas, both on the budget reform side as well as possibly on the revenue side, I don’t see the revenue measures getting much traction after what we’ve been through for the last three years. I’m not sure what new revenue could be considered — I doubt that any of those get traction, even if they’re proposed. But if you have some opportunity to look at other reform measures, I think you’d have the opportunity to do better in a fiscal session.

Alario: That’s certainly an opportunity for anybody who has any ideas of any fiscal reform. But I would imagine it’ll be more of a quiet session because of the fact that it’s an election year. We have different committees meeting on different issues and they may have some recommendations when the time comes, but I don’t see anything of any burning desire at this point.

LaPolitics: Are any committee changes from your chamber on the way?

Alario: I don’t expect any. Sen. Jonathan Perry has gotten elected to appeals court judgeship, so that’ll provide for some opening in some of the seats that he held. (Commerce, Jud C and local.) And there may be some shifting around, depending on requests I get from members.

Barras: (Laughing) Just by the vacancies that have been created, there will be quite a few changes. I have, officially, two vacant seats now. A number of members in the House are vying for various positions in the fall, whether it’s judgeships or mayorships or whatever the case may be.

LaPolitics: How many more special elections do you think we'll see before the fall of next year?

Alario: If Rep. Bob Hensgens gets elected to the Senate, then you’ll have a special election to replace his seat. But other than the death of somebody along the way, or a resignation or whatever, I don’t anticipate any.

Barras: Rep. Hensgens qualified to run for the vacant Senate seat that Sen. Perry created when he became the appellate court judge. So that’s a November election. I know a number of my members were already in races that they had already qualified for in the November-December cycle for judgeships and mayors and those sorts of things. Those folks that get elected in November or December will certainly resign, I’m assuming, by the first of the year.

LaPolitics: Now that we're well past the midway mark of the governor’s first term, what do you think this go-around will ultimately be remembered for?

Alario: I think he (Gov. John Bel Edwards) will certainly be remembered as a hard worker. I’ve had the pleasure of serving with seven different governors and I think the world of each and every one of them. I’ve found each of them had a desire to make Louisiana a much better place. John Bel Edwards puts lots and lots of effort and time into the job trying to solve the problem. He’s had more of a difficult time because of the partisanship that has kind of crept into the legislative process. But I think he’s handled it rather well. I think it’ll show that he served the state on some very difficult times. You’ll recall, when he first took over, he was facing a $2 billion shortfall, worked his way through that, whittled it down to something less than $1 billion and then worked through that. I think all of that speaks well of his management style.

Barras: If I had to say what it would be remembered for, I think it’s going to be remembered for an extensive — I don’t know that everybody would agree that it was a great debate, but it was extensive debate on truly what the level of revenue that we need to run the state of Louisiana. I think that’s where the debate continues to rest: Is it $33 billion or is it $30 billion or is it $28 billion? I think the more efficient we get, I think that the more clear that will become. And I think the debate goes on for another several years, to be honest with you.

LaPolitics: Just to make sure people are reading to the bottom here, lay a joke on us. Any good ones that you recently heard?

Alario: You may or may not be able to use this. It’s one I heard recently. An old fella comes into the ice cream parlor. He’s struggling to come in, shuffling his way through. He finally gets to the stool and drags himself up on it. The waitress comes over and he says, “Banana split.” She says, “Crushed nuts?” And he says, “Oh, no ma’am, arthritis.”

Barras: I haven’t heard any one that would be clean enough for the readers, probably.


A Message From Harris, DeVille & Associates

Check It Out: Sasol’s New Video

HDA client Sasol has released a new progress video as the company begins commissioning the Lake Charles Chemicals Complex.

Progress continues on Sasol’s ethane cracker and derivatives project in Southwest Louisiana with commissioning activities now underway.  The project reached 88 percent completion in June 2018.

Learn more at www.SasolNorthAmerica.com. You can watch the video by clicking here.


ALFORD’S OPINION COLUMN

An Official Con-Con Reminder

ALFORD: Approach To Constitution Requires Caution

It has been three months since the Louisiana Legislature concluded its regular session without addressing the war cry for a constitutional convention. Sure, it passed a set of resolutions honoring the 45th anniversary of the 1973 con-con, but supporters were hoping for more of a forward-looking response.

Opponents, as you could guess, were just fine with that outcome. At the top of the list of non-supporters was Gov. John Bel Edwards, who isn’t necessarily against the idea. He just believes there should be an informed buildup to a convention, and that clear objectives should be stated after considerable study. Interestingly enough, Edwards’ own history dovetails with neatly with this very topic, since his father was a delegate in 1973. So was the grandfather of Richard Carbo, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.

We don't need a roll call of delegate to know that Edwards is right, and his advice should be heeded. There needs to be an ongoing con-con conversation, and that isn’t taking place. Some of Louisiana’s most influential special interests teamed up with notable donors to make a major push during the regular session. Defeat there led to the knee-jerk alternative of trying again in a subsequent special session, but that notion was deflated before it contained any air.

Now there’s just silence for what could become the most important undertaking of this generation’s political class. There’s no longer constitutional chatter spinning around Baton Rouge’s echo chamber. The same voters who lit up social media platforms with energetic calls for reform must have moved on. There’s just silence.

What does the lack of noise mean? If you don’t want politicians and attorneys tinkering with the Constitution, if you prefer the amendment method of altering our charter, then the silence is probably music to your ears. If you happen to think the Bayou State’s fundamental laws should be, well, more fundamental, or that certain articles need an overhaul, then the silence should be worrisome.

If future con-con efforts are expected to persist, the various architects need to put a flame underneath their drives and start a public dialogue. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do. Politically, wounds have to be healed in the House, which failed to yield a single yea vote from the body’s black members. Time is known to heal wounds, but only if the proper attention is paid. Pragmatically, a condensed timeline crashing into uninformed conventioneers would also be a recipe for calamity.

As far as what should be discussed, pick your poison. I recently sat down with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser for a taping of Capitol Gains, a political talk show produced by LaPolitics.com. I asked him if the office of lieutenant governor was actually needed, if Louisiana could survive without this number two statewide elected position. Nungesser made an eloquent defense for an elected role, even though many other states have managed with no such post.

The same question could be asked of the insurance and agriculture commissioners. And the same line of thinking could be applied to agencies and departments that might seem ripe for sharing resources, or being easily gathered under one operational umbrella. For example, opinion makers and think tanks could revisit the semi-perennial issue of overlaps in the offices of the attorney general, inspector general and legislative auditor.

The problem is with the toxicity of the subject matter. Bedrock laws aren’t easy to tackle. Powerful government officials would kick and scream at the mere mention. Horror stories would be presented to the public by all sides. Non-partisan or not, the messengers would likewise take on gunfire.

Do you think there are too many public colleges and universities in Louisiana? Good luck dealing with the chancellors and their alumni networks. Do you want to see the financing schemes for local governments changed? Just try and get past the political blockades sheriffs, assessors and clerks would construct.

Public engagement could change all that, of course, although history doesn’t offer much hope. In 1920, late Gov. John M. Parker campaigned on the promise of a con-con. But it wasn’t exactly a fire-breathing, headline-grabbing, red-meat election issue. It certainly didn’t foreshadow the infamous convention that transpired the following year, or the nightmare document that emerged from the chaos. When delegates missed two deadlines in 1921 and ran out of money just as many times, sure, voters began keeping tabs.

In his inaugural run for governor, Edwin Edwards campaigned on the same issue and gained little traction as a result. Like Parker, his opponent was in favor of a convention. There was no butting of heads or notable conflicts on the matter. Voters tuned it out until the constitutional convention of 1973, or CC73, started to hum with activity and Edwards (Version 1) commenced with an endless list of complaints.

So perhaps we need some friction to go along with an ongoing dialogue. Would that prompt you to take a deeper dive into Louisiana’s fundamental laws? If so, are you willing to share your thoughts with our elected officials? How about attending or following closely public hearings and civic meetings?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re definitely ready for the silence to end. If you answered no to one or more of the queries, then embrace the silence. Because if the con-con tide hasn’t washed away, there’s a decent chance this quiet period won’t last much longer.


RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY

The Bossier Rep Who Stuck With Nixon Until The Bitter End

On the morning of Aug. 9, 1974, Richard Nixon climbed onto the presidential helicopter, waved goodbye and flew away from the White House after resigning in disgrace.

In the intervening 44 years, journalists and historians have written countless accounts of the Watergate break-in, the subsequent cover-up and the scandal that doomed Nixon’s presidency. Frequently overlooked is the story of Louisiana Congressman Joe Waggonner and his supporting role in the national drama.

Right as Nixon was riding his landslide victory of 1972, Waggonner was winning his seventh term in Congress. The Bossier Parish native represented the northwestern corner of the state in the House, holding the seat in the Fourth District. A staunchly conservative Democrat, Waggoner often crossed party lines on votes and had a habit of lecturing the more liberal members of his party during floor speeches.

Waggonner’s conservative streak had endeared him to Nixon and his aides. The congressman had also been their unofficial whip among his Democratic colleagues, helping line up the votes to pass some of the administration’s key legislation. But above all, Waggonner had been reliable and loyal, and those were two qualities that the president, an incredibly insecure man, valued above all others.

As the congressional investigations into Watergate started closing in on the White House, Nixon turned to Waggonner for support. The congressman publicly defended the president, calling for an end to the inquiry and chalking it up to a partisan vendetta against Nixon.

However, the House Judiciary Committee discovered evidence linking the crimes to Nixon’s henchmen and started considering charges of impeachment. When the White House refused to hand over tapes of the president’s conversations, even the most reliable allies in Congress ran for cover and stopped taking calls from the commander-in-chief.

Panicked, Nixon phoned Waggonner, one of the few members who would still take his calls and was willing to fight impeachment. The congressman assured him that he could get 70 Democrats, mostly Southerners, to vote with him and block referring the charges against Nixon to the Senate for a trial. Since Waggonner’s counts had been highly accurate in the past, the administration believed it could survive a vote in the House.

But when the tapes were finally made public, there was very little doubt about the president’s complicity in the criminal acts committed by the White House. When the staff informed Nixon that the whip count was hemorrhaging votes, he again lobbied Waggonner for support. The outlook was grim. Less than half of the congressman’s original commitments were still willing to vote against impeachment and that number was dropping rapidly.

Nixon later recalled that, as he got off of the call with Waggonner, he began to realize that he may actually have to resign or be removed from office.

Days later, Waggonner was invited to the White House for a meeting with Nixon. Also in the room was the core of dwindling supporters that the president still had in Congress.

Nixon, exhausted and distraught, entered and informed the assembled group that he would announce his resignation that evening. "I am sorry I have let you down,” he told them.

It would not be their last meeting. When the former president finally left his home after weeks of seclusion, his first stop was a party in Shreveport, hosted by his old friend, Congressman Joe Waggonner.


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WHAT YOU MISSED IN LaPOLITICS WEEKLY

Here are the headlines subscribers to LaPolitics Weekly received in the issue that was published five days ago:

Eddie Rispone on 2019: “I’m thinking about running”

— Gubernatorial exploratory committee formed

— Opening doors through technology

— The cash that counts for John Bel Edwards

— A rather unusual race in House District 90

Clancy DuBos tells journos they're "under attack"

— Fish tales & flying scales with CCA

Troy Hebert leads off our "Field Notes," which are must-read this week

— They Said It: JNK Edition, JBE Edition and our regular LaPolitics Edition!

— Plus much more!

For 25 years LaPolitics Weekly has been Louisiana's premier trade publication for elected officials, lobbyists, campaign professionals, journalists and other politicos.

Become a part of this elite community by subscribing today!


A Message From Harris, DeVille & Associates

Our Chemical Industry Powers Local Communities

The chemical industry contributes enough money to local governments to pay the salaries of 40 percent of Louisiana’s full-time, public school teachers, according to areport from the Louisiana Chemical Association.

By providing nearly $960 million annually to Louisiana cities and parishes, the chemical industry is one of the largest investors in local economies. These funds go toward education, law enforcement, infrastructure and other services that our communities use on an everyday basis.

The report, conducted by noted economist Dr. Loren Scott, found that parishes with a large presence of industry and industrial tax exemptions pay their teachers more than parishes without much industry. Six of the top eight industry parishes pay more than $2,000 above the state average.  

During the next five years, more than $14.5 billion in industry investments will come onto the local property tax rolls. This means more investments in local governments, higher teacher salaries and more funding for social services.

With millions in local tax dollars, billions in revenue for businesses and tens of thousands of jobs, it is clear that the chemical industry powers Louisiana and our local communities.

To follow the Louisiana Chemical Association’s Facebook, pleasevisit our Facebook page.


POLITICAL CHATTER

— The Republican Women of Bossier, Women’s Republican Club of Shreveport, Caddo Parish Republican Party and Bossier Parish Republican Executive Committee are putting on a secretary of state candidate panel with Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, former Sen. A.G. Crowe, Rep. Rick Edmonds and Rep. Julie Stokes at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 at Shane’s Seafood in Bossier City.

— Speaking of, Cloud’s campaign video is out. The candidate talks about her experience working with former Secretary of State Tom Schedler and current interim Secretary Kyle Ardoin: “They told me to hush.”

John Legendfor the Washington Post: “It’s been a year since I traveled to Baton Rouge to support a series of reforms to reduce the incarceration rate in Louisiana. Many of those reforms — such as the overhaul of the state’s parole system and modifications to sentencing for less serious offenses — have already proved effective. But the work is far from over. Still lingering in the state’s constitution is a 120-year-old measure put in place to suppress the rights of African Americans: non-unanimous juries.”

— This morning: U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Congressman Garret Graves and Gov. John Bel Edwards were at the demolition ceremony at Denham Springs Elementary, which saw extensive damage from the August flood. Twitter pointers via Harrison Golden (@harrisongolden).

— Congressional Aide Michael Willis’ BAD JOKE OF THE WEEK: “Why can't you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom? Because the ‘P’ is silent!”

The Guardian: “There is little mystery about the safest available voting technology – optically scanned paper ballots, now used by about 80 percent of US voters. Some of the states that don’t have this technology, like Louisiana, would like it but don’t have the funds to switch. Others, like Georgia and South Carolina, simply aren’t interested in ditching their all-electronic systems despite the compelling reasons to do so.”

POLITICO: Governors could consider Medicaid spending caps, drug exclusions and subscription payment models as they look to control rising costs, according to a new report from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices… The report comes as Louisiana explores its own plan to pay for hepatitis C drugs. The state has been working with CMS on a proposal to create a subscription payment model. The state’s fee-for-service Medicaid program and five managed care organizations currently require evidence of liver damage before paying for treatment in most cases, according to the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. The proposed plan, still in the public comment phase, would offer manufacturers a regular fee in exchange for unlimited access to the drugs.”

— Two weeks in a row: HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” makes fun of paid demonstrators for Entergy in New Orleans (to skip ahead, start at 11:10).

— Also out of the Crescent City... The BBC “asked African Americans in New Orleans what they think about the current state of race relations in the U.S.”

— Congressman Clay Higgins (@RepClayHiggins): “Stopped by city hall in Scott to visit with Mayor Purvis Morrison and State Rep. @JulieEmersonGROUP PHOTO

— Congressman Garret Graves is holding office hours from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. today in Baton Rouge. The next “Grub With Garret” is this Friday, also in Baton Rouge.

— Sen. Sharon Hewitt will be the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District public to talk about the Pearl River Basin Demonstration Project this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Slidell Municipal Auditorium.

The Houma Courier: “Has early voting increased local turnout? If it has, the numbers show it’s not by much.”

Also: “A total of 7,330 Louisiana students earned credit by passing Advanced Placement tests in about three dozen subjects, according to the state Department of Education.”

Meanwhile: “Officials are warning parents to brace for a new, more rigorous system the state will use to rate its schools later this fall.”

— Rep. Reid Falconer (@Storeid): “August 18, National Honey Bee Day, mark your calendar!”

News from The News-Star: “Woman sees man pee in her Ruston yard, then he strips”

Less weird news from The News-Star: “City of West Monroe names code enforcement head, GIS coordinator”

— Louisiana’s 11-year-old population is falling behind on STEM-related courses and digital piracy. Via PBS NewsHour: “An 11-year-old changed election results on a replica Florida state website in under 10 minutes.”

Greg Hilburn for Gannett: “Insurance premiums won't go up for state employees and retirees next year, but that doesn't mean they won't have to pay more for less, prompting some lawmakers to explore a takeover of the program.”

The Shreveport Times: “The Bossier Parish Police Jury plans to appeal after a $25 million funding request to repair more than 50 damaged roads was denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).”

Jim Brown’slatest: “New Orleans is in a battle to stay afloat as it deals with major street crime, inept public officials, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system where even federal officials can no longer be trusted.”

— CORRECTION: In our last issue of the Tuesday Tracker, we wrote about Twitter coverage of last week’s Senate Health and Welfare hearing. Our story used timestamps of the tweets as they were listed on Twitter, which were in Pacific Standard Time. Our website’s version adjusted the times stamps to Central Standard Time. We apologize for any confusion.


Political tidbit? Let us know about it at news@LaPolitics.com!

Have a fundraiser or event? Send it to news@LaPolitics.com!

Career move? Political appointment? Send word to news@LaPolitics.com!


#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 08/14: Rep. Dustin Miller, Winston DeCuir Jr. and Phillip Joffrion

— Wednesday 08/15: Patrick Gleason, Karen Carvin Shachat, Joe Mapes and Randy Angelle

— Thursday 08/16: Judge Tim Kelley, Corey Meaux, Matt Adams, Frank Besson, Eileen Fleming, Roger Villere, Jim Brandt and Coach Blanco

— Friday 08/17: Catherine Brindley, Stan Levy and Danny Ford

— Saturday 08/18: Chris Frink, Bubbe Day, Mary Martiny DuBuisson, Mark Dennis and Jason Adam Oleet

— Sunday 08/19: House Natural Resource Chairman Stuart Bishop, former Rep. Richard Burford, Gordon McKernan, podcast superstar Kelly Kane, Nestor J Navarro Jr., Alejandra Juan, Trina Scott Edwards, Richard Perque

— Monday 08/20: Wilma Heaton, Chris Hester, Katy Danos and Jeff Crouere


WEDDINGS & ANNIVERSARIES

— Fred Mulhearn and his wife, Roxanne, celebrated 41 years of marriage this weekend!! (Aug. 12)

Derek Wooley and Jennifer Boulware Wooley celebrate 10 years this month! (Aug. 8)

— WHO WE MISSED: Fred Childers and Allison Childers celebrated three years of marriage this summer! (June 25)


PITTER PATTER

Jesse and Shannon Coen McCormick are expecting Baby No. 3 (and Boy No. 2) by Christmastime! Congrats, Mom and Dad!

Maverick Cole Brown was born on Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. in Baton Rouge at 8 lbs., 2 oz and 22 inches. Welcome to this crazy world, Maverick! Congrats, James and Gabriela Brown, and congrats former Secretary of State Jim Brown on grandkid number seven!


Birthdays, anniversaries, birth announcements, you name it. We want to know about your special day. Send those dates to news@LaPolitics.com!

Have a friend who should be reading The Tracker? Have them sign up here.

Got a hot tip? Send it to news@LaPolitics.com!


Copyright © 2018

Jeremy Alford/Louisiana Political Review

All rights reserved.

Tuesday Tracker

Web: www.LaPolitics.com

Email: JJA@LaPolitics.com

Phone: 225-772-2518

Mail: Post Office Box 84779, Baton Rouge, LA 70884

Fax: 225-612-6408

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Facebook: Maginnis-Alford

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