WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014
The Advocate: Roemer takes issue with Jindal’s Common Core stance
Takeaway: BESE Chairman Chas Roemer and Superintendent John White are left to defend Common Core while Gov. Bobby Jindal backtracks on earlier support. Members of the House Education Committee find themselves caught in the middle, starting with a hearing on testing bills today.
The Times-Picayune: Common Core on the docket
Takeaway: After months of buildup, the battle over the Common Core education standards finally hits the Capitol today with the House Education Committee set to handle several bills limiting how student data can be shared.
Takeaway: This is just one of several bills to allow guns to be carried into places where they were not allowed before.
Takeaway: Only Arkansas and Tennessee exceed Louisiana’s combined local-state sales tax rate of 8.89 percent. And to think the governor sought to raise it last year in order to repeal the income tax.
The Times-Picayune: Economic success not seen in revenue collections
Takeaway: While Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret touts new business projects and a falling unemployment rate, legislators want to know when that good news will show up in lagging state revenue collections. The answer may lie in the tax cuts and tax breaks they and the governor passed in better times.
The Times-Picayune: Campaign reform advocacy group files complaint against Vitter super PAC
Takeaway: In a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission, two reform groups say the Fund for Louisiana’s Future did not include the required disclaimers as it sought unlimited "soft money" donations and isn't really separate from his campaign organizations for his 2015 run for Louisiana governor and his Senate re-election campaign.
The Advocate: Independent designation on ballot stalls
Takeaway: Republicans block bill to allow candidates without party affiliation to be listed as “Independent” on the ballot.
TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014
The Advocate: Jindal criticizes Common Core tests
Takeaway: Gov. Bobby Jindal did not mention Common Core when he opened the Legislature, but now he is taking an indirect shot at the new standards by criticizing the testing component as “one-size-fits-all,” which is his same complaint about Medicaid. He will be walking a fine line between conservative critics and business supporters of Common Core, with an eye to how it all plays nationally.
The Advocate: Edwards will enliven congressional race
Takeaway: Outside of the 6th District, who would be paying attention to this fall’s congressional race but for Edwin Edwards’ candidacy? His chances of winning are slim, but, with a wide Republican field, his prospects for the runoff are good. Not so good after that.
The Monroe News-Star: Strain calls budget overstated
Takeaway: As Appropriations Committee hearings continue, there could be more complaints like those from Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain about how the governor’s budget is fashioned. He says revenues from certain funds are over-estimated by the Division of Administration while other needs are going unmet. The division responds that the department is getting $1 million more than last year.
The Times-Picayune: McAllister charts own course, backs Medicaid expansion
Takeaway: Louisiana’s newest congressman files his first bill, backs Medicaid expansion and continues to talk bipartisanship. There’s also a nice picture of him and state Sen. Neil Riser.
The Advocate: State unemployment rate drops to 4.9 percent
Takeaway: As the state approaches two million jobs, the latest federal employment report shows a reversal in the recent trend of the state’s unemployment catching up with the nation’s jobless rate.
The Times-Picayune: New Orleans runoffs mark change in political order
Takeaway: The defeat of two veteran City Council members, both backed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and a thumping defeat of a proposed tax for the Audubon Nature Institute presage challenges for the mayor’s second term and the rise of a potential successor.
MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2014
The Times-Picayune: Council runoffs bode ill for Mayor Landrieu’s second term
Takeaway: The mayor invested heavily in two City Council candidates who both got smashed in runoff elections, which presages tougher times for his second-term agenda. Congressman Cedric Richmond, a major backer of Councilwoman-elect Nadine Ramsey, was the big winner, as was At-Large Councilman-elect Jason Williams, a potential top mayoral candidate for 2018. Also, Sheriff Marlin Gusman survived the worse publicity for problems at the Parish Prison by blaming them on his predecessor and opponent Charlie Foti.
WVUE-TV: Waiting for Edwin
Takeaway: The excitement builds for the most anticipated meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday when Edwin Edwards reveals what we all know he is going to do.
The Shreveport Times: Jindalcare making progress
Takeaway: On his refusal to expand Medicaid, it would be a major policy and political win for the governor if Jindalcare, the public hospital system he privatized, works as well as Obamacare. The early returns are encouraging on reduced wait times and expanded services, but the ultimate cost remains to counted.
The Advocate: Jindal does stand-up in New Hampshire
Takeaway: Bobby Jindal in New Hampshire does what he would never do in Louisiana: joke about his own ethnicity and repeat an Edwin Edwards one-liner. Even funnier was his sly admission of ambition. Saying he hasn’t decided on running for president in 2016, he added, “I’ve made that clear, and I will come here again and again to the state of New Hampshire to make that clear.”
The Lafayette Advertiser: Legislators concerned about one-time money in budget
Takeaway: Executive budgets are meant to be changed by the Legislature, but it’s a relatively new exercise for Louisiana lawmakers. Getting one-time money out of the operating budget will be a challenge, with taxes off the table and further cuts nearly untenable.
The Washington Post: Do-nothing Congress gets something done
Takeaway: Here’s a heart-warming account of Congress coming together to pass vital flood-control insurance legislation. However, it nonetheless highlights Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy vying to take the most credit.
The Shreveport Times: Pot legalization advocate booked in extortion of legislator
Takeaway: This is raw meat for opponents of marijuana decriminalization—as if to say, referring to this idiot, “This is what pot does to your brain.”
The Monroe News-Star: Dardenne sues MoveOn.org over billboard
Takeaway: You’ve got to hand it to this liberal-leaning group. Their legal wrangling with the lieutenant governor is drawing more attention to their pro-Medicaid expansion message than their wordy billboard ever did.
FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2014
The Times-Picayune: President expected to sign flood insurance bill
Takeaway: Long-awaited passage of this bill is a major relief for south Louisiana homeowners and a shared victory for Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy. House GOP leaders gave the challenger a major boost by giving him the lead on the House bill, which neutralizes what could have been a decisive issue for the incumbent.
Takeaway: From the story: “Lawyers said the documents disprove claims by industry groups that the companies didn’t break the law, didn’t know they were breaking the laws and that state regulators never tried to enforce the laws.”
The Monroe News-Star: BESE approves $3.5 billion funding formula
Takeaway: Over the objections of school superintendents and school boards, BESE did not include a 2.75 percent growth factor in its MFP resolution headed to the Legislature, where the fight will be renewed. This could be the last shoe falling after Democrats wrangled a $69 million increase last year.
The Times-Picayune: Former legislators sentenced
Takeaway: Former Rep. Girod Jackson got off very easy with three months of jail time for income tax fraud, instead of the 18 months in the sentencing recommendation. It helps to get before the right judge.
Takeaway: Saturday’s election will settle a brawl between City Council candidates and, along with another council runoff, could have a major bearing on Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s second term and even the next mayor’s race—just four short years away.
Takeaway: An unusual new coalition—leftist groups, prominent business leaders, a right-wing think tank and the American Civil Liberties Union—is trying to get the Legislature to end Louisiana’s distinction as the world leader in incarceration. Similar initiatives in recent years have been watered down, but prospects this year are more promising.
The Shreveport Times: “60 Minutes” hot on Tabasco
Takeaway: “60 Minutes” comes to Louisiana to report on something other than its spicy politics.
The Times-Picayune: Overheard in the Legislature: quotes of the week
Takeaway: After 21 years of LaPolitics Weekly’s “They Said It” feature, the mainstream press is getting in on the action with the darnedest things legislators say.
THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2014
Politico: New Jindal PAC to focus on Congress
Takeaway: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s out-of-state activities are increasing with the formation of his new PAC. Having bashed Washington a lot recently, he has formed Stand Up to Washington to help elect more conservatives to Congress. As vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he will continue assisting in its campaigns, while he also sets up his new think tank, America Next, to solve national problems. One more reason not to expect him to be too involved in the Legislature this session.
Takeaway: Drumming up support for his legislative agenda, retired Gen. Russel Honoré is working outside the Capitol to grow his “green army.” In his latest attack, Honoré takes aim at an Atlanta company that is getting tax breaks to drill in Lake Peigneur.
The Lafayette Advertiser: Oil supporters on tour against trial lawyers
Takeaway: Unbowed by this week’s setback in court for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, a group connected to it is on tour in south Louisiana to build grassroots support for the oil industry’s offensive against trial lawyers.
The Advocate: Bill to shake up higher ed boards approved by committee
Takeaway: Now that Gov. Jindal has appointed all of the members of the higher education boards, the Legislature will consider a constitutional amendment to set qualifications for members for the next governor to observe.
Takeaway: What’s a few tax liens? Supporters of Shreveport Councilman Sam Jenkins don’t want his few scrapes with the IRS to deter him from running for mayor. So he is thinking about changing his mind. Again.
The Advocate: Bill to enhance authority of principals passes committee
Takeaway: A bill to give high-achieving principals more leeway in running their schools is splitting the education community. Still, it managed to pass a Senate committee Wednesday. LABI and CABL are all for it, but the teacher unions and some principals question its need.
The Times-Picayune: Timing of flood insurance vote still up in air
Takeaway: The compromise has been struck, but because of uncertainties on the Senate calendar, a final vote for flood insurance relief might not come until the week of March 24.
Takeaway: Hardly a pressing issue, but it did lead some TV newscasts.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2014
The Shreveport Times: Concerns about medical school funding
Takeaway: The Jindal administration says the medical school in Shreveport is fully funded in next year’s budget, but the takeover by the private Biomedical Research Foundation and a still uncompleted agreement to pay for physician services has Rep. Roy Burrell concerned about a potential $50 million shortfall. Adding to the unease are plans for medical training in Baton Rouge.
The Advocate: State budget far from balanced
The Times-Picayune: Budget hearings commence
Takeaway: Senators learn that the current state budget has $84 million to make up before the fiscal year ends June 30, with Medicaid over-runs and unrealized revenue sources to blame. The commissioner of administration says not to worry, though, because rebates from drug manufacturers will save the day.
KATC-TV: LOGA fighting back
Takeaway: After its setback in district court this week in its effort to stop the massive lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association plans to appeal. Meanwhile, the oil industry group is launching a public awareness campaign— “Give ‘Em the Boot”—to focus on the abuses of lawsuits against oil companies.
The Alexandria Town Talk: Most lawmakers like Jindal agenda
Takeaway: Lawmakers would like to have heard more details on the governor’s agenda from his opening address, but mostly, Republicans particularly, have few qualms with it. The most contentious issue will be Jindal’s call for “a fair and predictable legal environment,” which means a renewed tort reform fight between the business community and trial lawyers.
Takeaway: With 240 vehicular deaths in the state last year, legislators want to pass tougher penalties in cases involving alcohol. Sen. Bob Kostelka will push a bill to make it a crime of violence for a driver with over 2 percent blood alcohol who causes a death in an accident.
Takeaway: Legislation backed by the governor would direct tougher prosecution toward those engaged in the sex trafficking business, said to be the second largest criminal enterprise in the world today.
The Times-Picayune: Legislators take to social media
Takeaway: Never at a loss for words, more and more legislators are tweeting their views as the session begins.