THE FIRST 100 DAYS: A REVIEW FROM D.C.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term, “first hundred days,” in a radio address in 1933. He was referring to the 100-day session of the 73rd U.S. Congress, but somehow the term came to apply to the first 100 days of a presidential administration.
No matter where one falls on the political spectrum and with little surprise, the first hundred days of President Donald Trump’s administration have been rather turbulent.
“Well, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my 42 years in a political arena at a local, state or federal level. It’s strange and complicated — and a mystery at the same time as to what’s going on,” said Congressman Rodney Alexander, senior director of federal affairs at The Picard Group.
Alexander was elected to six terms, from 2003-2013, as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives. “Everybody has an opinion on what’s going on up here, but I’m not sure anyone really knows for sure,” he said.
Alexander said the confusion goes beyond the Executive Branch, with House and Senate members voting no on things they voted yes on last year and/or voting yes on things they voted no on last year — all with no explanation.
“You have a certain element, on both sides of the spectrum, committed to voting no on everything. Then, you have some with a wait-and-see attitude — they’re saying, ‘Let’s let it come to a stop, then we’ll figure out how to get started again,’” he said. “The President has some good things in mind for the country, but the art of the deal sometimes doesn’t have anything to do with politics. Things successful in the business arena don’t necessarily apply to politics.”
Emily Bacque, The Picard Group’s director of federal affairs, agrees that there’s a different tone in the Capital City. “It’s chaotic, but every transition is chaotic,” she said. “We saw something similar when Obama and Bush came in. The 100-day mark is Saturday, but Trump will be the first president in years not to have any major legislation passed in those first hundred days. It goes to show the disarray the Republican House is in and how difficult it is to reach consensus.”
Bacque said that the general pace inside the Beltway seems particularly fast this year.
“It’s always fast from January to June, but it’s so much more intense this year. You feel it everywhere. People are exhausted. Maybe it’s because you never know what’s going to come from the White House on any given day,” she said.
She’s also noticed considerably increased crowds, especially at the Capitol. “The lines, the crowds, the traffic — it feels like so many more people are coming to have their voices heard, maybe it’s the fear of the unknown,” Bacque said.
One of Alexander’s biggest concerns is the stigma the word compromise has come to have — and the hesitation to use it when it comes to leading the country. “Compromise is needed even to keep a marriage together,” he said. “When one loses the ability to compromise or puts it in the ugly-word category and refuses to use it, then that complicates things even more.”
Alexander and Bacque said they remained hopeful. In separate interviews when asked what they thought would help, both Alexander and Bacque brought up the benefits of travel and gaining understanding of the hardships others face. Alexander said that seeing up-close-and-personal struggles in Third World countries offers a different level of insight and appreciation on life in the USA.
“I wish there was a way young people and others could go to places where they have so much less,” he said. “We still have the best the world has to offer.”
Bacque said she’s been giving more thought to the benefits of domestic travel and mentioned that Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley in California, recently traveled to Rep. Hal Rogers’ 5th Congressional District in rural Kentucky.
“I really was struck by this idea of we need to get to know each other,” she said. “There may be more compromise if we know each other better.”
Alexander said that people have asked him “why no one on the other side of the globe likes us.”
He offers a simple response, “Have you been to Washington? We don’t like us.”
Even still, both Alexander and Bacque agree that work is getting done — it’s a different pace and atmosphere, but work is happening.
“Regardless of the frustration level in Washington at times, things are still going to get done,” Alexander said. “We are able to take advantage of the years of experience we have and get results for the Picard clients.”
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
Because of last year’s Village of Hope Gala in Lafayette, 53 families in Haiti have a place to call home. Though modest by American standards, these simple structures make a world of difference for the families who are a part of the Kobonal Haiti Mission, founded by Father Glenn Meaux, a priest from Abbeville.
On April 27, Cross Catholic Outreach volunteers will host the sixth annual Village of Hope Gala in Lafayette. The Picard Group’s Natalie Person, director of healthcare services, has served on the organizing committee this year, along with the event’s founder and TPG principal, Tyron Picard. They are both looking forward to the event, which will feature a four-course meal prepared by Chef John Folse & Co., a silent and live auction — and the anticipated funds it will raise to build homes and change lives in Haiti.
“The goal is to raise $375,000 at this year’s event. Haiti has 80 percent of people living below the poverty line — many currently living in sticks and mud huts,” said Person.
The Kobonal Mission homes built in Haiti cost about $6,000 each. Meaux, who has been traveling to Haiti for 28 years, has also helped build and manage a school as part of the mission. This year, he will be bringing the school’s director to the event — along with Haitian beer.
Village of Hope Gala
Cocktails at 6 p.m.
Dinner at 7:30 p.m.
DoubleTree by Hilton Lafayette Grand Ballroom
1521 West Pinhook Road
Tickets are $200 each.
For more information, go to: www.crosscatholic.org/villageofhope or call 800-914-2420, ext.235.
Person said that the volunteer work she’s done for the Village of Hope Gala and the Kobonal Haiti Mission puts everything else in perspective.
“We’ve got children who don’t have anything to eat, huddled in their makeshift houses trying to stay warm and dry,” she said. “Those are real-life problems.”
Boni Ritter, who will be awarded as the 2017 Hands of Light recipient at the event, recently returned from a volunteer trip to Haiti. She has made two trips a year to Haiti for the last eight years.
“They’re finishing up with last year’s houses and waiting for this year’s gala to see how many houses we’ll be able to build in the coming months,” Ritter said. “We also distribute grains, other foods and clothes.”
Doyle’s Foods recently shipped a container of food, which had room for a few additional items — so a group called Emmy’s Shoes collected shoes and sent them. Other people collected toiletries and clothes.
“And a ladies’ sewing group made 56 pillowcase dresses,” Ritter said. “I actually ended up taking them when I went. I was excited to see the kids wearing the dresses and get photographs for the women who made them.”
Ritter says she has seen firsthand the difference the Village of Hope Gala has made.
“I’ve seen families who now have a home — some dignity. They want to do better in live,” Ritter said. “Father is doing so many things besides the housing. They have to work to get these houses. They have to belong to the mission. They have to attend church. He’s not just giving handouts. When they come for food, they have to bring him a bundle of wood. He’s taught them gardening, different skills to take home and use.”
The Village of Hope Gala is Picard’s brainchild, with the goal of raising funds for Meaux’s work in Haiti. Picard initially met with a group of about 25 people, who have brought the idea to life and changed lives in the process.
TRUMP'S EASTER EGG ROLL
Despite political mayhem in Washington, D.C., certain events must continue. Since 1978, the White House has hosted its annual Easter Egg Roll, and on April 17, 2017, the Trumps will host their first public event. The event is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 6:30 p.m., hosting five waves of ticket holders.
According to White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, tickets for the event have been distributed to area schools, military families and Congressional offices. The White House’s website says the event will feature a music stage, reading nook, egg roll, a Sesame Street costumed character and other fun events. (An interesting tidbit is that press secretary wasn’t Spicer’s first job at the White House. In fact, during George W. Bush’s administration, Spicer donned an Easter bunny outfit and helped entertain children during the event.)
Historians believe Dolley Madison organized the first Easter Egg Roll held on the Capitol lawn in the early 1800s. That tradition continued until Congress ratified the Turf Protection Act, which prevented the grounds of the Capital from being used “as playgrounds.” Then President Rutherford B. Hayes stepped in to save the day and hosted the first White House Easter Egg Roll in 1878. The event remains one of the oldest and most loved annual events in White House history — and represents a rite of spring for the nation’s capital.
Aside from a few years during and after World War I, World War II and White House renovations (when the event was held at other locations), the event has been the White House’s signature event ever since. Weather permitting, the event has been held on the Monday after Easter on the South Lawn of the First Family’s residence. Amid other festivities, children 13 and younger still use spoons to push eggs through the grass.
Through the years, First Families have added personal touches:
- In 1885, President Grover Cleveland met children attending the Easter Egg Roll in the East Room of the White House, where they proceeded to have the Easter Egg Roll indoors on the carpet — which was ruined and had to be replaced because as the Washington Postreported, was "ground full of freshly smashed hard-boiled egg and broken egg shells." Still, when Cleveland returned in 1893 for a second, non-consecutive term, he continued to grant the egg rollers carte blanche access to the house and grounds.
- In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison invited the United States Marine Band, directed by none other than John Philip Sousa, to play as guests enjoyed the Easter Monday tradition. Later in 1929, Sousa honored the occasion with his 1929 composition "Easter Monday on the White House Lawn." Listen to it here.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower revived the tradition after its twelve-year hiatus (after World War II and White House renovations) and made a personal appearance to greet his Easter guests.
- In 1969, First Lady Pat Nixon introduced the White House Easter Bunny for the first time.
- In 1985, Nancy Reagan personally invited a little girl to the event after a Reagan aide told her she was unwelcome because she supported Walter Mondale.
- In 2009, technology allowed organizers to create an online lottery system that permitted children around the country to have an opportunity to attend.
- In 2015, Michelle Obama moved to the beat at the Easter Egg Roll by performing with a memorable routine with the “So You Think You Can Dance” cast members.
These days, even with an online lottery and careful ticketing, Easter frolickers wait in long lines to get in. The Picard Group’s Paige Hightower went in 2013. “Once we entered it was packed with children and their families from all over,” Hightower said. “The grounds are perfectly manicured and everyone is in high spirits – an all-around exciting affair. There are tons of games for the kids to play, and rolling a hard-boiled egg across the lawn was the highlight of the day.”
Though this year’s event is expected to be a somewhat smaller affair, according to news reports, Hightower said in 2013 she appreciated the numerous people dressed in costume and hundreds of volunteers it took to ensure the event ran smoothly.
UNDERSTANDING A $2.7 BILLION IMPACT
On Monday, noted economist Loren Scott, Ph.D. presented to the Baton Rouge Press Club his latest findings on the $2.7 billion economic impact Louisiana’s public-private hospitals have had since the state transitioned from a charity hospital system.
Scott found the transition had three main financial advantages for the state. The largest is lease payments that are being paid to the state by private partners. In some of the agreements between the state and the private partner, the state retained ownership of buildings and equipment that were part of the charity system. The lease payments are new revenue for the state, and they’re also eligible for Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP), which are matching federal funds. In 2016, the state received more than $525 million in lease payments and FMAP funds.
Since the transition from public to privately run healthcare, payments made to physicians also became eligible for a FMAP matching payment from the federal government. The total Physician FMAP payments have averaged approximately $350 million a year.
The third monetary advantage for the state is capital expenditures made by the private partners. Without the transition, the money for these expenditures would have come out of the treasury. Nearly $40 million was spent on the repair of state property, more than $38 million on equipment, $36 million for property, and nearly $27 million on electronic medical records technology. This totals over $140 million over the last 4 years.
The report details other gains to the state including improved wait times, significant expansion of specialty services, transition of public employees to private entities, and improved outcomes throughout the entire State for the citizens most in need. Each partner has expanded specialty services offered in their region and developed specific programs designed to address chronic conditions of the Medicaid and uninsured patient population. This focus on preventative care and wellness will help shift the cost curve from more expensive emergency and acute care.
Scott’s report says that without the nearly $2.7 billion impact, additional budget cuts would have been necessary in Louisiana’s higher education and healthcare. Instead, the added money created sales, earnings and jobs in the higher education and healthcare sectors.
“Is there a way to measure the economic impact of the ‘transition’ on the Louisiana economy?” Scott wrote in the report. “…(O)ver this 4-year period (2013-2016), the state received nearly $2.7 billion in federally-matched lease payments, FMAP monies for physicians, and capital improvements that it would not have received absent the transition. The State of Louisiana has experienced some serious budgetary issues over the past four years, but these shortfalls would have been much worse absent the ‘transition.’”
The nine public-private partnership hospitals are:
- Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center – Baton Rouge
- Lake Charles Memorial Health System – Lake Charles
- Lafayette Health System/University Hospital and Clinics – Lafayette
- University Medical Center/LCMH – New Orleans
- Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center/Ochsner – Houma
- CHRISTUS St. Francis Cabrini and Rapides Regional Medical Center – Alexandria
- University Health Shreveport — Shreveport
- Our Lady of the Angels Hospital – Bogalusa
Gwen Guillotte, senior director of the healthcare services division of The Picard Group, attended Monday’s Baton Rouge Press Club event.
“Dr. Scott is such a reputable economist and great speaker. It was nice to see complicated material presented in a way that made sense,” Guillotte said. “We are well aware of the impact our partner hospitals have had on quality patient care. It was a nice affirmation to quantify the economic value we’ve brought to the state.”
Guillotte noted that one of the most significant factors of the presentation was that the data gathered was pre-Medicaid expansion. “All of this was based on data gathered before we factored in Medicaid expansion,” she said. “When the newer data is available, I believe it will demonstrate even more significant value.”
MURRAY MAKES A MOVE!
The Picard Group (TPG) is pleased to announce that Larry Murray is joining the firm as senior director of state legislative and regulatory affairs. Murray, who will be based in Baton Rouge, brings 35 years of experience in and around the State Capitol. He will join TPG’s state legislative and regulatory practice group.
“We have known and worked with Larry for nearly two decades — so we know firsthand the quality of his work, his affable personality and his impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity,” said Tyron Picard, TPG principal. “As the needs of the firm’s clients have grown, we sought to bring in a contemporary who we believed shared our work ethic, as well as our firm’s vision and values. Larry was the clear choice.”
Murray, a native of Central, Louisiana, began his career at the State Capitol when he was 17 as a page in the Louisiana House of Representatives. When his college plans to play football at Yale didn’t work out, a high school guidance counselor stepped in at the last minute to help get him into Tulane — even though the application deadline had passed. Murray earned an undergraduate degree in management from Tulane and was a 1983 graduate of Tulane Law School. He remains active in Tulane activities and served previously on Tulane University’s Alumni Board of Directors, the Provost’s Council, was president of the Tulane Associates Board of Directors and the school’s Annual Fund campaign.
“I ended up at Tulane by default. They gave me a partial scholarship,” Murray said. “After my family, it’s the love of my life. A kid from a very tiny place, going to Tulane and meeting people from all over the world and having the opportunities I had — that experience changed everything.”
Murray served as director of government relations for the Louisiana Bankers Association from 1986-1991. He was appointed as Louisiana’s Commissioner of Financial Institutions by Gov. Charles E. “Buddy” Roemer, where he continued to serve in that role under Gov. Edwin Edwards and Gov. Murphy J. “Mike” Foster.
“I started under an R, worked under a D and finished under an R — and I managed to survive,” Murray said about his tenure as Commissioner.
After leaving his position as Commissioner of Financial Institutions, he formed The Capitol Group and furthered his reputation as a problem solver on local, state and federal issues. Through the years, he has been asked regularly to testify before legislative and regulatory bodies on a wide variety of issues.
“I have certainly handled a myriad of issues at the Capitol through the years – from representing Fortune 500 companies to rewriting our states’ banking codes to banning cock fighting. Having worked there as long as I have and still feeling like I have the respect of policy makers and my colleagues — that’s an accomplishment,” he said. “Joining a premier organization like The Picard Group after being a solo practitioner for 15 years is very exciting.”
Mike Michot, TPG’s senior director of state affairs, is looking forward to working side by side with Murray. “As a legislator for 16 years, I had the opportunity to work closely with Larry as he lobbied me on behalf of his diverse clients and their issues,” said Michot. “He was someone who always handled himself in an extremely professional and courteous manner.”
Murray said his biggest takeaway from his years working at the State Capitol is that things are much more complicated than they seem.
“If you’ve been around for a long time, you realize that there are very few simple decisions. It’s easy to make them in your living room, but when you get to the Capitol and see everyone’s points of views, things are more complicated,” he said. “Doing the right thing is not hard. Figuring out the right thing to do is sometimes very difficult. I don’t think there is any way for those Legislators to do their jobs without lobbyists providing insight and information. I hate the fact that more people don’t realize how hard Legislators work.”
Murray said he sometimes misses the levity of the State Capitol in years past.
“Everyone is ultra-serious these days for fear of making a lighthearted comment and it being captured and misconstrued on the internet,” he said. “People are afraid to use humor— and I miss that. Sometimes levity is a great way to diffuse tense situations.”
Former Congressman Rodney Alexander, TPG’s senior director of federal affairs who served 16 years in the State House, remarked about Murray, “Larry will be a great addition to our team at TPG. In my legislative days, we worked together on numerous legislative and regulatory matters. He was always prepared and solution driven.”
His wife is Denise Murray, an attorney at Whitney Bank. His children, Logan and Lara, are also both Tulane graduates and are involved in healthcare in Louisiana.
THE ROBIDEAUX REPORT IS COMING
Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux has announced plans for his inaugural parish-wide address — the Robideaux Report. The event will be from 6-9 p.m. March 30 at the Heymann Center.
The Robideaux Report, an event of Community Foundation of Acadiana, will feature a Year-in-Review from 6 to 7 p.m. and will offer an opportunity to discuss the opportunities the parish faces as a community and reveal of 2017 initiatives. Afterwards, a Showcase of Culture will include food, music, art and recreational opportunities from 7-9 p.m. The Showcase of Culture will feature elements that make Lafayette such a special place in which to live, work and play. Tickets are available for the event at https://www.robideauxreport.com/.
Both the Year-in-Review and Showcase of Culture are ticketed events, with tickets available on a first come, first served basis. General admission tickets to the Year-in-Review are FREE to the public and tickets for the Showcase of Culture are $50 each. Proceeds from the Showcase of Culture benefit the Lafayette Parish Strategic Initiatives Fund at CFA. This fund will support a wide range of initiatives that include, but are not limited to, efforts to sustain long-term economic growth, the promotion of our cultural assets, enhancements to our quality of life — and much needed infrastructure initiatives.
Some of the highlights of Robideaux’s first year in office include:
FLOOD RECOVERY In the wake of August’s historic flood that struck Lafayette, fire, police and public employees worked diligently to assist citizens in recovery, even while many of their own family homes were flooded. People from both the public and private sectors worked hand-in-hand in rescue efforts, establishing a temporary shelter and disaster recovery center, debris cleanout, removal and inspections, and remediation services. The debris collection contractor operated from sunup to sundown with as many as 13 trucks equipped with double trailers. More than 66,000 cubic yards of flood debris and more than 14 tons of electronic waste were collected.
BUDGET PRIORITIES Just weeks after taking office, Robideaux’s administration began a comprehensive review of the budget to address the gap created by the decline in sales tax revenue. The increasingly diverse economy minimized the impact of an ailing oil and gas industry, but the prolonged nature of the downturn means full economic recovery will be delayed.
BOND SAVINGS Under the guidance of CFO Lorrie Toups, LCG was successful in refunding four City Sales Tax Bond issues, producing savings of more than $14.4 million to be realized over the next ten years.
UNIVERSITY AVENUE As a major gateway to the city, parish and university, Robideaux’s administration has identified the redevelopment and revitalization of University Avenue as a priority project. In its current condition, the University corridor does not reflect the quality of place our citizens deserve and it does not appropriately welcome visitors to Lafayette.
ANIMAL SHELTER In keeping the commitment to move Lafayette forward, Robideaux’s administration has partnered with Target Zero, a national nonprofit organization which works with community animal shelters. Along with Target Zero, the administration outlined a plan to implement best practices to decrease animal euthanasia and increase the rescue and adoption rates, with the goal of achieving a “no kill” status for the Lafayette Parish Animal Control Center by 2020.
ST. MARY'S: 'Care for the least among us'
Not long ago, a Louisiana mother called St. Mary’s in Alexandria.
St. Mary’s is an intermediate care facility for people with developmental disabilities run by the Diocese of Alexandria. Their mission is to provide every person the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential, intellectually, spiritually, mentally, physically, vocationally and socially. With all the changes in state and federal funding for health care services, St. Mary’s mission to serve the most vulnerable is a noble cause.
The mom was crying and boohooing.
“At first, we were concerned that something was wrong, because when a mom calls crying, something is usually wrong,” said Tamara McNulty, St. Mary’s director of development. She learned that the mother’s son was a student in St. Mary’s ABA Learning Center. “And this mom had called to say thank you. When her son came here, he was nonverbal. One weekend when he was home for a visit, her son told her he loved her for the first time — and she called to tell us thank you. Imagine the first time a mother ever hears her son tell her he loves her.”
St. Mary’s serves clients from all over the state of Louisiana. Cahanin and the rest of TPG staff work to educate legislators and executive branch officials about the critical work St. Mary's does for the people of Louisiana. The Picard Group has represented St. Mary's for about six years.
“Even a small disruption in funding could be detrimental to the care of these men, women and children at St. Mary’s,” said Nick Cahanin, TPG’s director of state, local government affairs. “As a result of an unstable state budget, we are constantly fighting to ensure adequate funding for intermediate care facilities such as St Mary's. We have also assisted St. Mary's in raising private capital, permitting new facilities and navigating the regulatory environment.”
Only a handful of these types of facilities in the state exist and each is operated/funded differently — some might be private or run by the diocese.
“The clients of St. Mary’s aren’t in a position to make the decision to go there on their own,” said Cahanin. “St. Mary’s is a place that cares for the least among us, not just the poor, but the developmentally challenged whose families have limited choices for services and sometimes have to make difficult choices for the sake of their families.”
However, the struggle to continue serving this population is real.
“There’s been a big push by a number of organizations and the federal government to get rid of institutions,” said Christi Guillot, St. Mary’s administrator. “We started moving our beds into group home settings a number of years ago. We had to stop, mostly for financial reasons, and still have 116 people who live in dormitories.”
The current reimbursement system is structured to discourage dormitory-type settings.
“We lose money on those 116 patients — about $30 a day per patient,” Guillot said. “We’re working on a solution to move everyone into a group-home situation.”
But even the goal of a group-home solution is not secure because of a regulatory move to get rid of group home settings in favor of in-home support only, but as Guillot knows in-home support simply won’t work in every situation. Some St. Mary’s clients’ families simply don’t have the means to manage the at home situation. Other clients don’t have a place to call home beyond St. Mary’s.
If you’d like to learn more: Go to http://www.stmarysalexandria.org/. If you’d like to help (and eat some good food), Chef John Folse has partnered with St. Mary’s and will host the Greco Bowl fundraiser on June 21 at Hotel Bentley in Alexandria.
Tickets are $75, with opportunity for sponsorships. Everyone who attends gets delicious food and a ceramic bowl painted by St. Mary’s residents. $75 a person.
ALEXANDER: What's Next On Health Care?
The Picard Group’s senior director of federal affairs, Congressman Rodney Alexander, spent time in Orlando this week speaking with folks from around the country about the state of health care and what comes next in terms of a national plan.
“The GOP has announced they’ve finalized a plan, but they haven’t announced details,” Alexander said. “The bottom line is any solution will be complicated and confusing. The Democrats won’t vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans are in a peculiar position. Without a little politicking going on, they’re going to be in a bind coming up with the 218 votes necessary to create a new plan.”
Beyond politics, Alexander agrees that health care and the delivery of health care will continue to grow even more complicated because of three basic facts — there are more of us, we’re living longer and health care costs are going up.
“When you put all of that in an equation, it isn’t pretty,” Alexander said. “It’s a delicate situation right now. There’s going to be a lot of consulting going on.”
Earlier this week, Alexander met with Congressman Tom Cole (OK). In January, Cole was named Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
“There are some at the state level, including governors who like the idea of the federal government sending a block grant to states to pay for health care,” Alexander said. “That’s well and good if they send a block grant that’s large enough to pay for the needs.”
Health care vouchers for veterans is another possibility.
“Veterans may be given a health care voucher that could be used wherever they go for health care services, which could be good for rural hospitals — if the voucher is enough to cover the expense,” Alexander said.
Further complicating matters is the President’s announcement that a health care plan would be available by the end of March.
“It took seven years to create what we have. Creating something quickly is going to be challenging,” Alexander said.
Factor in the increases in spending in transportation and defense, along with the proposed tax cuts and funding health care would seem to become even trickier.
“When you’re talking about a trillion dollars here and several hundred million there, without an offset — the 218 votes are going to be hard to come by. The discretionary part of the budget is getting smaller and smaller,” Alexander said. “It’s going to be an interesting summer.”
NOT YOUR TYPICAL CPA
The Picard Group’s Director of Administration and Finance, Steve Cosminski, is not your typical CPA.
Upon closer inspection, Cosminski, a productivity fanatic, doesn’t appear to be your typical anything. Yes, he’s a wiz at finance, budgeting/forecasting, tracking key performance indicators, monitoring implementation of strategic business plans — all aspects of his job at TPG.
However, he also races a car he built and calls it “God’s Chariot.”
“It’s a 1989 BMW with a 1999 BMW M3 engine and drivetrain that I found in a junkyard in Indiana on eBay,” Cosminski explained. “Nothing on it is stock and it has parts from Mazda, Porsche, older BMWs, newer BMWs, etc. I learned a dozen or more new skills while building it. I’m a YouTube-trained mechanic.”
The Pennsylvania native races the Frankensteinian car in autocross events all around Louisiana.
“Of everyone in the firm, Steve took the oddest path to employment here,” said Tyron Picard, principal. “He started as a replacement babysitter for our family when he was in college.”
From there, Cosminski became bookkeeper for the medical equipment business owned by Mike Michot (TPG’s Senior Director of State Affairs). After becoming a CPA and earning his MBA, Cosminski became Director of Administration and Finance for TPG.
“With three offices and 15 employees, Steve is the constant steady hand in our firm’s administration,” Picard said. “Steve’s skill set makes it possible for the lobbyists and consultants to be more effective at what they do for clients.”
Anyone who knows Cosminski agrees that he has shattered the shy-and-introverted-accountant stereotype. He’s passionate about Louisiana food (with strong opinions on the best burger and gumbo around), culture and lifestyle.
“What have I learned since I got here? Never turn down good food,” he said, adding that he’s also learned something less quantifiable that has to do with community. “It’s unbelievable how tightknit this community is. Everyone always asks me, ‘Who’s your mama?’"
He loves that his job with TPG offers constant opportunity to touch new aspects of the business.
“And that’s partly due to all the things Tyron is involved with. He and this job are always bringing me new opportunities. Process improvement is a part of my job description,” Cosminski said. “My dad always said, ‘The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.’ I love trying to do things more efficiently and having complete autonomy over how I operate.”
Although an “adopted Cajun,” Picard said Cosminski remains a Philadelphia boy at heart.
“When Yuengling Beer, a Philly staple, first came to Lafayette last year, you would have thought we were getting running water for the first time,” Picard said. “Steve was so excited.”
Steve Cosminski’s Productivity Tips
Cosminski believes a productive morning leads to a productive day, which leads to a productive week, which leads to a productive life. He’s developed daily rituals to increase personal productivity that include:
1. Making sure he’s awake at least an hour before he’s looking at a screen of any sort — phone, computer, iPad, etc.
2. Keeping a bottle of water by his bed and chugging it as soon as he wakes up. (He says it’s improves his day considerably.)
3. Exercising in the morning — even if it’s only for two minutes just to get his blood pumping.
4. Making his bed. “It’s an easy win to start the day,” he said.
5. Journaling each morning. “This one is difficult for me, but I’m starting to see that it’s most important. I use the 5-minute journal approach. I identify three things I’m grateful for, what will make today great and some daily affirmation. It’s almost like a prayer.”
6. At work, he has friendly, face-to-face conversations at least every two hours.
7. Keeping a section of his desk completely clear at all times.
8. Before leaving work in the afternoon, he identifies and jots down two or three things to do the next day.
9. Constantly assessing at what time he does his best work to evaluate when to do certain tasks going forward.
10. At night, he puts out his clothes for the next day to limit the choices he has to make the next morning.
BELTWAY BRIEFINGS: Making The Rounds
The Picard Group traveled to Washington D.C. this week not only to celebrate Washington Mardi Gras but also to meet with Congressional leaders. Several TPG clients made the trip with staff. The Louisiana contingency made time to celebrate the spirit of Louisiana and meet with key Congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Cameron Parish Police Jury met with Congressional members to discuss liquefied natural gas plant updates, Southwest Coastal study, FEMA and flood risk issues.
The Lafayette Airport Commission updated key Congressional members on the new terminal under construction at the Lafayette Regional Airport and the upcoming FAA extension. Two rendering images of terminal options are now available for a public vote.
Chamber SWLA informed Congressional members on the highly anticipated LegisGator luncheon in August. This week, they shared their legislative priorities for 2017 which include the infrastructure package bridge reconstruction in Lake Charles.
Resource Environmental Solutions executives met with members of Congress from Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina and West Virginia, as well as representatives from the Trump Administration to discuss the ongoing wetland, stream and habitat mitigation projects they are currently undertaking on 60,000 acres across nine states in the US.
Dr. Joseph Savoie, President, University of Louisiana Lafayette, met with Congressional members to discuss ongoing research initiatives at the university, as well as higher education funding. Additionally, Dr. Savoie discussed the university’s 2017 legislative priorities with Congressional members and their staffs.
IT'S MARDI GRAS TIME!
The Mystick Krewe of Louisianians is gearing up for another season with its Washington Mardi Gras festivities slated for Feb. 9-11. The Picard Group’s Founder and Principal, Tyron Picard, is preparing for his 28th Washington Mardi Gras experience.
“The Washington Hilton becomes a large house party,” Picard said. “The ability to interact and make new acquaintances is great for Louisiana commerce. It would take you eight to nine months to see the people you see in a weekend in one hotel. It’s also a great way for Louisiana to host people from across the country.”
Picard says he is grateful for the tradition in our delegation of no partisanship during the weekend.
“There’s really nothing like it in the District,” Picard said. “When you think about scale and magnitude, you essentially have three very different and distinct parties with over 2,000 people on three consecutive nights — it’s amazing, particularly because it’s not the same people every night.”
Opening night is called Louisiana Alive — complete with Second Lines, food prepared by Louisiana restaurants and an array of Louisiana music and overall color.
The second evening is a formal black tie dinner dance with a presentation of more than 60 princesses and Louisiana festival queens.
The final night is the ball itself, with a complete presentation of all the princesses and queens with more than 300 masked krewe members throwing beads.
Picard, one of five senior lieutenants who manage the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians, says that experience has taught him how to manage the three days and nights of parties and he has advice for first-timers.
“It requires discipline and for those who don’t have discipline, they learn from bad experience,” he said. “It’s a matter of pace to get to the finish line on Sunday. After 32 years, that’s become a matter of institutional knowledge and knowing how to pace yourself. Gatorade and Pedialyte certainly help during the daylight hours.”
Picard encourages anyone who attends to find periods of downtime, particularly for the first timers. He says that he finds him and many of experienced Washington Mardi Gras-goers manage best by turning in before midnight on the first two nights.
Picard says that through the years that the parties, while becoming more extravagant especially during the last 17 years (at least one king brought the entire LSU band to perform), the parties have actually become tamer, thanks to cell phones and cameras! The weekend is not all partying.
According to a tradition that goes back to the ‘80s and Picard’s cousin, Father Pat Primeaux, many of the attendees stop their revelry for mass S
aturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“When it started, you’d have people partying and having a good time, and at 3:45, they’d close the bar and have mass,” Picard said. “Then at 4:30, the bar would open again. That has grown.”
Each of the lieutenants has an area of responsibility. Ted Jones, of Baton Rouge, manages krewe finances. Scott Crawford, also of Baton Rouge, manages seating for all the different events. Mark Ackel, of Lafayette, manages all the queens and princesses. Wayne Smith, who lives in Washington, D.C, manages all relationships with the Hilton Hotel and serves as liaison to the Congressional delegation, and Picard manages the krewe which has more than 400 members.
GETTING TO KNOW: The HERT Coalition
Unless you are directly tied to heavy equipment rentals, you may not be aware of or even be inclined to try to understand the predicament the state has created for the folks in this industry.
Louisiana is one of only eight states in the U.S. that tax businesses on all of their inventory. In response to the tax hit, several heavy equipment retailers came together and formed The Heavy Equipment Rental Taxation (HERT) Coalition.
The HERT Coalition is made up of ten member companies who employ more than 2,594 people and operate 123 locations across Louisiana.
“Several years ago, legislators realized that the inventory tax penalized businesses on the front end,” said The Picard Group’s Nick Cahanin, director of state and local government affairs. “They recognized that the inventory tax law written into the state constitution created a competitive disadvantage for attracting and keeping businesses in our state.”
So, they developed an inventory tax credit that would offset the tax on businesses. Initially, the tax credit operated as a dollar for dollar credit.
Then things got more complicated. In 2015, heavy equipment rental companies got hit with a double whammy. For purposes of the inventory tax, heavy equipment was classified as inventory. However, for the purposes of the tax credit, heavy equipment is not classified as inventory.
“It applies to them on the taxation side but not on the credit side,” Cahanin said. “We are the only state in the U.S. where that is the case. There’s a disparity in the law.”
The new penny sales tax created in the spring of 2016 further complicated matters for the industry and pushed at least one heavy equipment rental company to take inventory across the state lines to Texas — a state that has carved out special arrangements for the heavy equipment rental industry.
With more than $40 billion dollars of industrial construction in progress throughout the state, the heavy equipment rental is not only necessary — it’s big business.
Louisiana’s messy and inequitable inventory tax laws are causing undue strain on the industry and driving businesses to other states. Louisiana revenue secretary Kimberly Robinson and members of the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy agrees.
In November 2016, the task force acknowledged the sales tax disparity. The task force released a recommendation recognizing the need to correct Louisiana’s current tax policy as it relates to business inputs.
REFLECTING ON PAST INAUGURATIONS
With festivities and confirmation hearings well under way in our nation’s capital, The Picard Group’s Washington, D.C. staff looks back on previous inaugurations and Presidential transitions as new members of Congress get their offices up and running.
Former Congressman Rodney Alexander, senior director of federal affairs, participated in three inaugurations as a congressman.
“It’s a pretty awesome thing to be there with world leaders and ex-Presidents and watch a peaceful transition of power,” Alexander said.
When pressed for the most interesting thing he witnessed during an inauguration, Alexander said, “Well, this may seem a little silly, but when I was standing 40 feet from Beyonce performing, I had no idea she was lip synching! I didn’t know she wasn’t really singing until afterwards.”
Both Alexander and Emily Bacque, director of federal affairs, have attended various inauguration events, including balls around the city. Since 1998, Bacque has lived in the middle of inaugural events. Earlier this week, parking restrictions went into place throughout her neighborhood.
“They should luck out with the weather this year. I remember just how cold it was for Obama’s first inauguration — and how crowded it was,” Bacque said. “Being at an inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. The throngs of people and having to get up so early to wait through security to get into your ticketed section leave a big impression.”
Did you know…
... in 1953, Texas-born President Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed in the reviewing stand by a cowboy who rode up on horse?
…the fireworks display at Herbert Hoover’s 1929 inauguration cost $3,000 and was reported to be the most magnificent ever seen in Washington?
… in 1933, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution changed the ceremonial Presidential Inauguration date to Jan. 20? Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second inauguration was the first held on that day?
…George Washington gave the shortest-ever inauguration speech at just 135 words in 1793?
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Cole selected for Leadership Louisiana, finally releases onion-bacon jam recipe
Dawn Cole, director of external affairs for The Picard Group, was selected for the Council For A Better Louisiana 2017 Leadership Louisiana class. The Leadership Louisiana program consists of six sessions around the state. Topics include education/workforce training, economy/strategies for growth, history/politics, news media, arts and culture, criminal justice, healthcare and poverty.
Leadership Louisiana’s goal is to arm citizen leaders with an understanding of the complex issues that drive Louisiana. By enhancing the capacity of emerging and current Louisiana leaders to address key public issues, the program empowers civic-minded citizens to affect change in their communities and state. The Picard Group is pleased to sponsor Leadership Lafayette’s reception set for Jan. 19 at IberiaBank in downtown Lafayette.
Cole joins Tyron Picard (2001), principal at The Picard Group; Mike Michot (2000), senior director of state affairs; and Gwen Guillote (2015), senior director of healthcare policy and services, in participating in Leadership Louisiana. Picard, Michot and Guillotte successfully completed the program and credit it with broadening their understanding of the state and building stronger relationships with colleagues around Louisiana.
“Dawn is a great fit for Leadership Louisiana,” Picard said. “This opportunity will only deepen her love of this state and dedication to its people. The Picard Group is honored to have her on our staff serving our clients. We also congratulate the Council For A Better Louisiana on building a credible, long-lasting program that is an asset to our state.”
Cole joined The Picard Group in 2013. With nearly 20 years of experience in external affairs, fundraising and event planning, Cole works closely with the firm’s clients — assisting them with general needs, connecting them to elected officials, and planning/executing a wide variety of engagements.
She also assists Picard in his role as one of the official hosts (Senior Lieutenant’s) of the annual Washington DC Congressional Mardi Gras Ball, sponsored by the Mystic Krewe of Louisianians. Prior to joining The Picard Group, Cole managed a consulting firm focusing on political and charitable fundraising, which allowed her to nurture many long- standing relationships in Louisiana’s business, civic and political communities.
Before starting her own business, Cole’s nine-year tenure at Acadian Ambulance as legal and governmental affairs coordinator, set the stage for deep insight into the state and its leadership and, for Cole, a commitment to community and professional dedication.
In a tale only told in Louisiana, once upon a time, Cole ran for Crawfish Queen but came up short. She is a graduate of Teurlings Catholic High School and Louisiana State University. These days, Cole stays busy entertaining, exercising and enjoying Louisiana’s beautiful outdoors with her two children, Kate and Parker.
She is obsessed with paddle boarding, is an avid Crossfitter and her favorite author is Brené Brown. Family and friends are often at her table appreciating the bounty Cole enjoys preparing. She loves assembling cheese and charcuterie boards, accented with her current favorite — caramelized onion and bacon jam.
THE INTERSECTION OF ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING
Through a new affiliation made public just this week, Lori LeBlanc, formerly the deputy secretary and economic stimulus director for the state Department of Natural Resources, will be lending her consulting expertise to the Picard Group’s notable list of clients.
LeBlanc will help enhance the firm’s energy, environmental and infrastructure advocacy efforts while focusing on regulatory and policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.
Under the affiliation, the Picard Group will also provide state and federal lobbying services to LeBlanc’s clients on an as-needed basis.
“We are excited about the win-win this affiliation brings to both Lori’s clients, as well as to clients of The Picard Group,” said firm principal Tyron Picard.
LeBlanc currently works on advocacy and grassroots efforts for several energy and environmental clients throughout Louisiana. She has been credited for her understanding of the complexities of governmental regulations and federal policy. Her distinguished list of clients include Morganza Action Coalition, North Lafourche Levee District, Port Cameron, LLC, Gulf Economic Survival Team and Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
“The Picard Group has an impressive reputation for successfully representing clients in Baton Rouge and on Capitol Hill,” she said, adding, “This exciting new partnership between our two firms will strengthen the services we provide to all of our clients as well as provide additional opportunities to help new and existing clients advance their programs or projects and achieve regulatory success."
DID YOU KNOW?
The 2017 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature will convene at noon on Monday, April 10, and adjourn no later than 6 p.m. on June 8. Retirement bills will largely show up in the hopper first and must be prefiled by Feb. 24. Constitutional amendments must be prefiled before noon on March 31 — any other subject matter bill must be prefiled before 5 p.m.. Once the session begins, lawmakers will only be able to introduce five additional bills each, with the final filing deadline falling on March 31.