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JRRVersTT071816

Feb. 21, 2017 — Issue 89 

Happy Tuesday, Trackers…

This special session appears to be boiling down to two votes:

— Can the House get to 70 votes on tapping the Rainy Day Fund? Senate President John Alario personally presented his resolution to the Appropriations Committee today and got it through without action. But the big vote will be on the floor, where there are still some folks opposed to a sizable withdrawal. Most of the House leadership wants to get it done, though, and the lobbying game is getting strong inside the rails.

— Will the full Senate reverse course on Speaker Taylor Barras’ bond redemption resolution? The upper chamber rejected a similar proposal last year, but this go around the resolution is a very real linchpin to negations (as first reported in LaPolitics Weekly on Friday). The Senate Finance Committee approved the proposal this morning — with at least one senator privately calling it a “hostage bill.”

It’s interesting to see the two most important measures of the session being sponsored by the two men who sit atop their respective chambers. There’s no Alario vs. Barras vibe in the Capitol, but many are enthusiastically watching to see how Alario navigates the House and how Barras steers his way through the Senate.

What if everything blows up and nothing gets accomplished? Julia O’Donoghue at The Times-Pic explored that question in a story yesterday afternoon. So what would happen? “That's not exactly clear,” she writes. “Lawmakers and the governor are not even on the same page about what the next step would be.”

Sounds like everything else in this special session…

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Our Mardi Gras Break Begins Tomorrow

Longtime readers know that we’re about to embark on our annual Mardi Gras break. It begins as soon as the gavel drops for sine die tomorrow. That means there will be no LaPolitics Weekly published on Friday. There will also be no Tracker on Fat Tuesday and no LaPolitics Report podcast on Ash Wednesday.

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Your Tuesday History: Jimmie Davis Walked On Water

The state Division of the Arts, through grants and partnerships, underwrites the Louisiana Folklife Program to help capture and conserve various cultural resources. And, thankfully, that includes political storytelling.

The program was able to record one “windie" with former Gov. Jimmie H. Davis before he passed away. In his quiet, drawling voice, Davis took aim at former Gov. Edwin Edwards in his tall tale.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

I live right next door to the (Governor's) Mansion. There's a lake there. The lake separates, you go across the lake and there is the Capitol. And my wife and I were out in the backyard one morning. Knocked down a wasp's nest, dirt daubers, killing snakes, lizards, everything else running around there. And she said, “Well, Edwards!”

Governor Edwards was coming down, going walking toward the water. She said, “I believe he's gonna walk on the water!”

I said, “No, I don't think he can walk the water!”

But I was wrong! He took off, went across there, just prancing like Edwards does, you know. Prancing! Got about halfway, down he went! Sunk. 

I ran out there, picked him up and walked him on across!

And that's the truth!

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FOUNDATION OF THE FUTURE

A message from Harris, DeVille & Associates:

HDA salutes it’s client DOW and CH2M

Providing teachers with world-class training in Louisiana is the newest way that Dow and CH2M are helping local students become the foundation of the future workforce.

Committed supporters of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, Dow and CH2M have partnered with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to bring the Smithsonian STEM Education Forum to Baton Rouge. The Forum provided 50 local teachers with a day of hands-on training that will empower them to incorporate engineering into their classrooms, benefitting hundreds of local students for years to come. The forum featured experts from SSEC, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution based in Washington, D.C., two professors from Louisiana Tech University, along with Dow and CH2M employee volunteers.

This local program builds off the two companies’ partnership with SSEC to bring teachers from Louisiana and other strategic communities to Washington, DC. Many of the Louisiana teachers who have been able to take part in that opportunity were in Baton Rouge on Feb. 18 to share what they have learned and help build a community of educators around the Forum.

This collaboration is a strong example of both companies’ efforts to connect employee engagement with sustainability. 

More information about Dow’s commitment to building the workforce of tomorrow can be found here

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Your Go-To Guide For The 2017 Sessions

As Louisiana’s premier trade publication for elected officials, lobbyists, campaign professionals and journalists, LaPolitics Weekly has been delivering insider political news to an elite subscription base for 24 years.

Become part of the community by subscribing today!

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Kimberly Robinson On The Mic

Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson will be the next guest on the podcast for people who love Louisiana politics.

Robinson has a great story to tell — and she drops a terrific political trivia question on us: Which member of the REC was once Kimberly’s teacher? You’ll get an answer to that in tomorrow’s episode, plus a small tax preview of the regular session, some historical perspective on the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and much more.

We also open the show with the voice of Ronald Reagan, echoing from 41 years ago during a campaign stop in Shreveport.

Plus, stick around after Robinson’s interview to hear a chat with Adams & Reese partner B. Jeffrey Brooks. It was recorded during Washington Mardi Gras and includes a close look at the federal political landscape and our congressional delegation.

As usual we’ll be sending out an email with a link to the audio tomorrow, but you’ll also be able to find it at LaPolitics.com and on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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Political Chatter

— Senate President John Alario has called a special election to fill the District 2 seat vacated by former Sen. Troy Brown. The general election is set for April 29, with qualifying slated for March 15-17. If a runoff is needed, it will be held on May 27.

— NEW CANDIDATES: In Senate District 2, St. John the Baptist Parish School Board President Albert A. Burl III and freshman state Rep. Edmond Jordan have both confirmed that they are considering running. Burl, in particular, is starting to make noise about what he describes as a quickly-called election. “It’s not fair to those candidates who need to get out there, raise money and increase their name recognition,” he said in an interview Monday.

— In LaPolitics Weekly on Friday, subscribers also learned of three other potential candidates: Rep. Ed Price; Terence Williams, the director of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association; and Patrick Mulhearn, executive director of Celtic Studios.

— RAINY DAY PRESS RELEASE: “District 7 State Senator Troy Carter, Chairman of the Louisiana Senate Democratic Caucus, announced that caucus members have agreed to stand firm on what they consider to be a minimum amount of budget stabilization fund dollars that should be used to address the current budget shortfall. The caucus, while generally supporting the use of the entire $119 million from the fund that is legally available to hand budget deficits during times of declining revenue collections, will not agree to use anything less than $99 million from the rainy day fund as approved by the Senate.”

Roy Fletcher has won a Reed Award for a television ad he wrote and produced for the Restore Our Coast PAC during last year’s state Supreme Court race.

— BLOOMBERG: “A filing due next month in a key Supreme Court case could provide the first indication of whether the Trump administration will seek to uphold or challenge longstanding campaign finance laws that restrict unlimited “soft money” contributions to political parties ( Republican Party of Louisiana v. Federal Election Commission, U.S., No. 16-865, jurisdictional statement filed 1/6/17)”… READ MORE

Luke Bolar has joined the energy and transportation team at Edelman, where he’ll also be working with the financial communications team. Bolar was most recently chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, but he likewise previously worked for Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

— Capitol Ace Melinda Deslatte says: “It’s almost Gridiron time! Who couldn’t use a few laughs after the latest special session – and all the horribleness of 2016?” Good point. Get the order form for tickets by clicking HERE!

— The Political Hall of Fame ceremony is slated for March 11… Here’s the INVITE… Here’s the PRESS RELEASE with the names of inductees…

Duke Lowrie, a candidate in House District 8, has a fundraiser last night hosted by Ronnie and Andrea Remedies in Shreveport.

— 1ST WOMAN PREZ: The Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association announced that Annie Gauthier was named president at the association’s annual gala recently. Gauthier is the first woman to serve as president of the association that has existed since 1951.

— STUCK IN DC FOR MARDI GRAS?: The Louisiana State Society has a list of recommendations. Click HERE for Washington events Thursday through Saturday. Click HERE for Mardi Gras day events.

— Former Federal District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. has retuned to Duval, Funderburk, Sundbery, Richard & Watkins in Houma following his retirement from the bench in January. He served 22 years as federal district judge, having been originally appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

RON FAUCHEUX: “Looking at Louisiana's changed electorate

— On the Capitol steps tomorrow at noon the Louisiana Budget Project will release its new report, "Moving from Budget Cuts to State Investments: A Blueprint for a Stronger Louisiana." This report will detail LBP’s “policy recommendations for the regular session aimed at ending the cycle of midyear deficits, budget crises, and special sessions.”

— The Greater New Orleans Republicans Political Action Committee has made endorsements: House District 92, Joe Stagni; Orleans Parish Civil District Court Division B, Rachael Johnson; Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Division C, Judge Tiffany Chase; and mayor of Westwego, Johnny Shaddinger.

— In the wake of the EF-3 Tornado that struck New Orleans East in early February, Sen. Troy Carter is leading the effort to collect items for those affected by disaster. Items needed include toiletries, new undergarments, bottled water, socks and gently used or new clothes. The goods collected will be directly distributed to the community on Friday, February 24, 2017, for 10 a.m. at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Chef Menteur Highway. Sen. Wesley Bishop of District 4 of Louisiana will coordinate drop off locations. All donations must be in as soon as possible and for more information, please contact (504) 302-3682.

— Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger is partnering with local community organizations to support New Orleans East residents who were impacted by recent tornadoes. Leger will be working with groups like the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Louisiana State Bar Association and Louisiana Appleseed to offer legal assistance to New Orleans East residents.

— Civil District Court judge candidate Suzy Montero has gained the following endorsements in her campaign for the open Division B seat: Alliance for Good Government, New Orleans Coalition and Regular Democratic Organization.

Art Favre, president of Performance Contractors, will serve as the chair of LABI for 2017. He replaces John Finan, president and CEO of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, who becomes the immediate past chair. Tim Stine, CEO of Stine Lumber Company, will serve as the board’s vice chair. Sonia Perez, president of AT&T Louisiana, and Terry Baugh, chief financial officer of D&J Construction Company, will serve as secretary and treasurer respectively, rounding out the slate of 2017 LABI officers.

— The Louisiana Hospital Association is promoting rural hospitals. Here’s one video with Rep. Major ThibautWATCH

— Sen. Danny Martiny kicked off his campaign for Jefferson Parish Council’s District 4 to a standing room only crowd at Augie’s Restaurant last week.

— Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain is the newest member of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Board of Trustees.

— The Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System has launched a newly designed website to “provide a better user-friendly experience for LASERS members, employer agencies, and the general public.” The new site, www.lasersonline.org, features a “modern design, better-organized content, more functionality, and an improved search engine.”

— The American Sugar Cane League selected Charles Schudmak of Cora Texas Manufacturing Company as its new president. Other officers elected are vice president Gregory Gravois of Vacherie, secretary Randall Romero of Jeanerette and treasurer Bryan Simon of Maurice.

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Tuesday’s Ledes, And Only The Ledes

— Thousands of dollars in overtime was paid to Louisiana State Police officials to drive across the country and stay at a Las Vegas resort and casino and the Grand Canyon on their way to a law enforcement conference in California, records show… Via The Associated Press…

— The State Police superintendent on Monday reassigned the head of the agency's Internal Affairs Division and announced departmental policy changes in response to the revelation that four troopers made an expensive detour to Las Vegas - while being paid overtime - as they drove to a law enforcement conference last year in San Diego… Jim Mustian… The Advocate…

— As time winds down on the special legislative session, Southwest Louisiana House lawmakers appeared optimistic on Monday that both chambers can reach a deal in how much of rainy day fund dollars can be used to close a $304 million budget gap… Via John Guidroz, The American Press…

— Gov. John Bel Edwards and lawmakers struck a fragile compromise here Monday that would close Louisiana’s midyear budget deficit with minimal cuts by withdrawing nearly $100 million from the state’s rainy day fund… Via Greg Hilburn… USA Today Network…

— The Louisiana Legislature appears to have struck a tentative agreement to close the state's $304 million midyear deficit as the clock winds down on the nine-day special session. Lawmakers have until midnight Wednesday to approve a final version, but on Monday, a deal emerged that would use more from the state's rainy day fund than House Republican leaders had initially wanted but would help grease the wheels for legislation that is being pushed by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia… Via Elizabeth Crisp and Tyler Bridges… The Advocate…

— The Louisiana Legislature's leadership reached a tentative deal Monday (Feb. 20) for closing the $304 million state budget deficit. Now, it is up to House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, to gin up enough support among his rank-and-file members over the next two days to get it to pass… Via Julia O'Donoghue… NOLA.com…

— Frustrated by efforts to recall a St. Tammany Parish coroner and Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, a state legislator proposed a measure that would make it easier to kick an elected official out of office. “It's impossible for voters in the larger parishes to have a successful recall petition,” said state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, in presenting his plan to the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday… Via Mark Ballard… The Advocate…

— A revised draft of possible TOPS changes Monday no longer includes a controversial recommendation that college freshmen and sophomores get less TOPS aid than juniors and seniors. The initial proposal was unveiled Jan. 9 by the staff of the Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees colleges and universities… Via Will Sentell… The Advocate…

— Louisiana's transportation chief said Monday it is impossible to say exactly how much additional revenue the state needs to make a big impact on the state's troubled road and bridge system… Via Will Sentell… The Advocate…

— Drug testing of jobless Americans who collect unemployment benefits could grow under a Republican plan to roll back Obama-era restrictions on the practice… Via Richard Rainey… NOLA.com…

News clips provided by ON TRACK WITH MARUSAK online news clipping service. Day or night, receive breaking political and government news from across the state right in your email inbox. For more information about the exhaustive daily service, contact Jennifer Marusak at jmarusak@bellsouth.net.

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Analysis: The Legislative Guide To Winning Friends & Influencing People

As of the writing of this column, the Louisiana Legislature and the Edwards Administration still had a little more time to throw down all shields in a grand display of cooperation. (The special session, which has once again pitted the House against the Senate and governor, must adjourn by midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 23.)

By all indications, however, the special session is expected to come to a close without new friends won inside the rails of the Legislature and without that delicate touch of diplomatic influence that has been so badly needed.

The tension between the House and Senate in particular was palpable during the closing days of the special session. So was the bad blood that was brewing between some members of the House and the administration.

There were divisions and sub-divisions to behold and fractions of factions to unravel. Very little in the way of communications, in regard to policy negotiations, has changed since the tumultuous sessions of 2016.

At one point the governor, in a late night press conference, suggested the House leadership wanted to halt conversations with the Senate altogether — and was keeping its own members in the dark.

“The House Republicans, I believe, wanted to do a bilateral negotiation with me that left out Democrats in the House, but also left out the entire Senate,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Leaders in the House GOP shook off the suggestion and countered that the governor was only trying to create controversy. Not that anyone needed to create it; drama and controversy climbed into public view regularly during the special session.

During a floor debate last week over revenue and spending priorities, Democratic Rep. Sam Jones filed what he called the “Dishonest Lawmaker Amendment,” which questioned GOP budget tactics. That in turn prompted freshman Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican, to refer to Jones and the governor as “dishonest.”

Jones, an old hand at the Capitol, didn’t miss a beat. “I want to think Rep. Magee for protecting my integrity,” he said with a laugh.

It was seen on the Senate side, too, when Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur asked his committee colleagues to send Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry’s supplemental budget bill to the floor without action— a procedural move that ignores an actual committee vote. LaFleur said the committee was going to “treat Cameron Henry like we treated our president.”

The most important takeaway from all of this — and the one most feared by politicos involved in the process — was just how excruciatingly tough the regular session will be.

That cannot be overstated. The regular session that convenes on April 10 will be more pressure-filled than anything this current Legislature has seen, with $1.5 billion in temporary taxes that need to be addressed and another budget shortfall of a few hundred million dollars.

There was only one question that mattered in the special session: Who will bend first? It’s also the key question to the entire legislative term.

During the special session the House, Senate and governor had three different sets of numbers for how much should be cut overall. They also disagreed on the amount that should be taken out of the emergency Rainy Day Fund, how much money unfilled positions would create and how much cash should be siphoned from the attorney general’s office.

At times that led to mini-wars between staffs. Accusations that numbers were wrong flew left and right — although none of the players involved were willing to say they were wrong.

“Some people are saying, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts,’” added Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne, Edward’s chief budget advisor, even slammed House Republicans during the special session for allegedly claiming they would find the money “somewhere” to erase the current fiscal year budget shortfall of $304 million.

“We don’t have a department of somewhere,” said Dardenne. “We don’t have a secretary of somewhere.”

Each time the Legislature reached a disagreement over policy, it was the same pattern. The governor would offer a high number, the House leadership would lowball it and the Senate would emerge with a compromise figure.

Another important question moving forward is whether the Senate has been negotiating on behalf of the governor or if it’s attempting to emerge as the voice of reason between the lower chamber and the administration. If it’s indeed the latter, the Senate may have the most important role to play of all during what remains of this term.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, as the session was winding down, appeared to be negotiating publicly from the Senate floor with the House, noting the pattern described above. The governor went high on what he wanted out of the Rainy Day Fund, the House went low and the Senate tried to land in the middle, hoping the House would bite.

But it was clear to anyone listening that the Senate didn’t know what to expect. “At this point we’re kind of shooting in the dark,” said Morrell.

And that kind of shooting will most certainly continue into the spring regular session. So keep your head down.

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Be amazed one more time! Watch the videos! 

A message from Harris, DeVille & Associates:

Sasol continues to advance construction on its new ethane cracker and derivatives complex, located adjacent to its existing facility at Westlake in Calcasieu Parish.  

The project’s heavy haul route improvements are 100 percent complete and the construction workforce has peaked at more than 5,000 workers on site. Site, civil and concrete work are nearing completion.  

Some additional figures as of January:

— Sasol has hired more than 370 new, full-time employees. And 307 are Louisiana residents.

— Over 235 heavy haul transports have occurred to date.

— Over 8.1 cubic yards of fill material have been placed.

— Over 18,600 piles have been installed.  

Most importantly, this was achieved with more than 14 million work hours without a lost time accident.

View Sasol’s project progress video.

View Sasol’s milestone trackers on the heavy haul route, heavy haul route mast arms and wash tower

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Birthdays

— Today: Former Congressman Charles Boustany

— Wednesday 02/22: Kenner Councilman Tom Willmott and Ken Krefft

— Thursday 02/23: Ginger Adam Corley, Jim Richardson, Denise Lee Stari and Murray Nelson

— Friday 02/24: Justice Marcus Clark

— Saturday 02/25: Rep. Clay Schexnayder, Rep. Chad Brown, Timmy Teepell and Mary Durusau

— Sunday 02/26: John Gallagher, Paul Pratt, Eric Foglesong, Dawn White Ward and Jeb Bruneau 

— Monday 02/27: Larry Murray, Crystal Morvant and Roy Burns

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Anniversaries

— The Advocate’s Smiley Anders and his wife Katherine celebrated 19 years together on Monday.

John Kay and his wife Amanda celebrated one year yesterday!

— Rep. Malinda Brumfield-White and her husband Danny toasted to 24 years last week!

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Pitter Patter

— Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Nic Hunter and his wife Becky truly got the baby this Mardi Gras season. They’re expecting!

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***BIRTHDAY? EXPECTING? ANNIVERSARY? You, your boss or your friend. Doesn’t matter. We want to know about it. Send your big news to news@LaPolitics.com!

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