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May 15, 2018 — Issue No. 144

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

Mitch Rabalais (Mitch@LaPolitics.com)


EVERYTHING IS FINE

How Special Do You Feel?

“Don’t go jump off the I-10 bridge with this budget.”

Those were the best words of advice that Sen. Ronnie Johns could offer to a group of friends and constituents from back home last night. The group, mostly from the Lake Charles area, was in Baton Rouge yesterday for Leadership Southwest Louisiana.

“It is not the real budget,” Johns continued. “In the 18 years that I have been here, we always have a fight over how we divvy up the money that’s available to spend within the parameters of the budget. The Senate and the House have differences. So the House passes a budget and the Senate passes a budget. Then we end up in a conference committee and we kumbaya and go home and we have a balanced budget. This year is different because of the fact that we are $650 million short on revenue.”

That’s pretty much the skinny. At least on the budget. But Johns tried to drop some knowledge on the group about the special session as well.

“That’s where we’ll go in and look at some revenue,” he said. “We can probably renew half of the penny of sales tax that rolls off. We can realistically eliminate about $400 to $450 million in sales taxes that we’re collecting today and still balance the budget. In my mind, it’s an easy fix. I don’t know. We’ll have to see what the House does on their end. It has to start on the House side and then come to us.”

Ain’t that the truth. Make no mistake — the House is going to set the pace of the special session.

Speaking of the House, Rep. John Stefanski spoke to Leadership Southwest Louisiana as well.

“Right now, the number, depending on who you talk to, is either about $640 million or $500 million short of what the current budget was for last year,” the freshman lawmaker told the group. “There’s a pretty good appetite to try to close that gap. Maybe some people want to close it more than others. But there’s an appetite to close that gap. I think you will see at least some sort of additional revenue raised. The call has 32 items. That’s basically anything you could imagine, from credits to any kind of income tax, sales tax. Everything’s in the call. So I imagine you’re going to see a litany of bills with varying ranges and degrees starting to come together very, very soon.”

So how is all of this affecting the mood at the Capitol? In his parting words, Johns offered a brief glimpse into just that.

“It is so good to see all of these smiling faces,” Johns told the group. “There aren’t a whole lot of smiling faces at the Capitol.”


A Message From Harris, DeVille & Associates

Report: Louisiana’s Chemical Industry Is A State Economy Cornerstone… And Growing!

 

The chemical industry is the top provider of jobs in Louisiana’s manufacturing sector. It supports more than $79.7 billion in annual sales for businesses in the state and contributes more than $1.1 billion yearly to the Louisiana treasury, according to a new report conducted by noted economist Dr. Loren Scott. The report, released by HDA client the Louisiana Chemical Association, is entitled “The Economic Impact of the Chemical Industry on the Louisiana Economy: An Update.” The study also points out potential barriers to future expansion and production, and how the state can overcome obstacles to support the continued recovery of Louisiana’s economy.

“Chemical companies want to continue improving, expanding and investing in our state,” said Greg Bowser, president of LCA. “For our jobs, our cities and our children’s future, we should be doing everything in our power to make that happen. The chemical industry, which has undoubtedly been a catalyst for past and recent growth in Louisiana’s economy, brings thousands of well-paying opportunities and millions of dollars in investments to the local community. In fact, for every job created in the industry, an additional 8.3 jobs are created in other sectors. You can’t match that type of growth in any other industry.”

To view the entire study, click here


CALLING ALL BEER LOVERS

It’s finally here!

Stop by and grab a beer from the first batch of LaPolitics Sine Die Ale at the Lieutenant Governor's Apartment in the Pentagon Barracks this Thursday between 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

We’ll have more details soon. See you then!


ALFORD’S OPINION COLUMN

Convention Bill Dead, But Idea Lives

One day after Rep. Neil Abramson’s constitutional convention legislation failed in the state House by a 52-47 vote, an organization involved with the effort released a statement saying it would work to have a similar bill introduced in the approaching special session that convenes Tuesday, May 22. Lane Grigsby, the founder of Constitutional Coalition 2020, said momentum continues to build. “As we sit on the eve of the sixth special legislative session in only two years,” he said, “we must consider this opportunity to develop real solutions to our state’s budget woes.”

That meant CC2020, which has a membership of more than 30 community and business groups, had to appeal to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who crafted the call for the next special session. Was Edwards willing to go along with the request to include the issue in his call?

“No chance,” an administration official told LaPolitics.

But that didn’t spell death for CC2020’s mission. Its most influential supporters sound just as interested in the 2019 election cycle as they did the regular session. Plus, making another convention a campaign issue would keep with history; before voters approved our 1974 Constitution, they were sold on the matter during the previous election cycle — chiefly by Edwin Edwards in his first successful run for governor.

Getting likeminded legislators elected would be helpful for the cause as well. Because it’s highly unlikely the current Legislature will rally around the idea — although the House, so far, seems to be more open to the concept than the Senate, event thought the lower chamber fell 18 votes shy of making it happen last week.

While the Legislature has seen constitutional convention bill introduced regularly in recent terms, last week’s floor debate gave us our first honest look at the battle lines for this latest drive. Inside the rails, not a single black legislator supported HB 500 by Abramson, D-New Orleans, and the proposal only drew yea votes from five Democrats, out of 41 in the chamber.

Another more defining divide to keep an eye on pits business and industry against locals. Representatives knew officials back home were skeptical of the con-con push, but some were still surprised to see a single floor note — lobbyists and special interest use this to communicate with lawmakers — against HB 500 co-signed by the Louisiana Municipal Association, Police Jury Association, School Board Association, Sheriff's Association, Assessor's Association, Association of School Superintendents, District Attorneys’ Association and the Louisiana Conference of Mayors.

Both of those fronts — entrenched Democratic opposition and the concerns of local officials — will have to be addressed before the issue can gain further momentum. There’s also a transparency question that’s being asked, mostly by one legislator, Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, who’s skeptical of the group pushing for the convention. Morris has been spending money on social media to disseminate his message.

“When people start talking about spending a lot of money about something, it gets my attention because that usually means money somehow might be involved in what people seek,” Morris said. “I’m not accusing them exclusively of seeking money. I think everybody who wants a constitutional convention wants something out of it relating to money. Because that’s the nature of the call.”

Morris, for one, said he doesn't buy the argument that delegation need to get into the Constitution to unlock dedicated funds of money to better balance future budgets. “Out of our $12 billion state general fund, $6.5 billion is not locked up by the Constitution,” he said. “The Constitution will essentially only unlock about $4.5 billion, the bulk of which is the MFP (funding formula for public schools). So there’s really no need to have a constitutional convention to unlock funds unless you want to unlock the MFP and the Transportation Trust Fund. I haven’t heard anybody say we need to cut K-12 education and cut infrastructure. People are saying it’s all locked up, but the bulk of it is only locked up in a few things.”

Asked what CC2020 really wants, Stephen Waguespack, the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which is a member, said, “We think it’s absolutely time that people outside the Capitol — voters and constituents back home — have a say on this Constitution. The document is 46 years old. We want an independently elected convention to scrub this document. Every year we hear another excuse for taxing more and spending more and it’s time to smoke out that excuse. And I think it’s fair to say it’s ironic that some of the people pushing hardest against the convention are the ones who authored many of the tax increase bills we debate year and after year.”

No matter when another constitutional convention is called, and no matter who is behind the effort, money is going to be spent to influence the process. From the first step — the election of convention delegates — to the final act — voters approving the updated document — there’s plenty at stake.

While you may not hear more about it until next year, make no mistake. The push for another convention is real. And it’s on.


RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY

Huey’s attempt to sine die early becomes “Bloody Monday”

By late March of 1929, then-Gov. Huey P. Long had a serious problem.

The Kingfish had just called the legislature into a special session to consider a new tax on oil and gas to pay for some of his ambitious projects. Despite warnings from his floor leaders, Long pushed forward with his package of bills, which met stiff opposition from lawmakers amid intense lobbying from the Standard Oil Company.

Fed up with Long’s domineering and bullying behavior, a group of lawmakers led by Shreveport Rep. Cecil Morgan hatched a plan to bring impeachment charges against the governor. Meanwhile, a rumor circulated around the Capitol that Long had instructed one of his bodyguards to assassinate Rep. J.Y. Sanders, Jr., his nemesis in the lower chamber. Morgan had Huey’s bodyguard swear an affidavit while he prepared to bring the charges before the House when it convened that Monday.

Gov. Long, having caught wind of the plot, called a meeting of his legislative leaders and instructed House Speaker John Fournet to adjourn sine die as soon as possible.

When the House convened on Monday evening, Fournet ignored Morgan’s attempt to rise on personal privilege, instead recognizing a pro-Long lawmaker that moved to adjourn early. Morgan protested and started shouting his prepared remarks. The speaker instructed the sergeants-at-arms to remove Morgan, but they were physically blocked by his allied colleagues.

Trying to end the proceedings quickly, Fournet called for a vote to adjourn. The voting board showed 67 “yeas” and 13 “no” votes. The speaker declared the House adjourned sine die and hurriedly left the chamber. Several members started protesting, noting that their votes had been recorded incorrectly.

As lawmakers rushed toward the dais, fights broke out. As T. Harry Williams noted in his history of Long’s career, several legislators even started hitting each other with inkwells from their desks while one representative was bloodied when he collided with a fan.

Rep. Mason Spencer, a large man with a booming voice, caught the members’ attention while the sergeants-at-arms separated the combatants. Spencer then went to the podium and conducted an oral roll call of the vote to adjourn.

It failed to gain enough votes to pass.

It was then on to the next order of business — the House of Representatives would consider charges of impeachment against Huey Long.


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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:

— Budget to move as regular session winds down

Taylor Barras Getting Pinned

— REC Staying On Bench Until June

— Add Walt Leger, A.G. Crowe, John Young & Reneé Free to SOS watchlist

Craig Greene Can Find The Green

— Con-Con Fails, Another Push Begins

— The Senate-To-House Phenomenon

— Developments in 2019 legislative races

— Field Notes

— They Said It

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

Big Company, Big Heart

Knock Knock Children’s Museum 

HDA client Dow Chemical’s Partnership with the Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge brings high quality science, technology, engineering and math education to local kids through fun, hands-on experiences like the Fish Tales Learning Zone and the Maker Shop robotics program.

Recently, Dow helped kick-off robotics month at KKCM with a Dow sponsored FIRST Robotics team day. To view the video on Dow’s efforts to serve the community, click here.


POLITICAL CHATTER

— Gov. John Bel Edwards spent the first half of today in Central Louisiana talking to clinics about revenue replacements for healthcare funding.

— It’s Infrastructure Week. Gov. Edwards: “Infrastructure is one of the highest priorities in my administration, and I am proud of the progress we’ve been able to make over the last two and a half years.”

— Congressman Garret Graves is using the occasion to talk about the Army Corps and dolphins.

— It’s also Peace Officers Memorial Day in the Pelican State. JBE: “I urge you to remember our fallen officers and honor the dedicated public servants that routinely put the public’s safety above their own.”

Melinda Deslatte for the AP (@MelindaDeslatte): “House votes 78-9 for bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks -- if Mississippi's similar ban is upheld. Bill heads back to the Senate for consideration of amendments.”

— Mad Dog again: “Senate Finance stalls a vote on Louisiana Checkbook bill. Sen. Eric LaFleur says can be considered in special session starting next week."

— Four tax raising proposals currently going through the Legislature would result in job loss and further declines in GDP, according to a new study from the Pelican Institute.

— Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle talks about his entity’s proposed revisions to the Well Control Rule in a new video.

— Sports betting just got a lot more legal. The Supreme Court has struck down a federal law yesterday that banned it in most states. According to The New York Times, sports organizations aren’t happy about it.

— LIGHT READING: Here’s the governor’s 32-item call for the special session.

— LABI President Stephen Waguespack’s latest column: “The annual death of legislation to unlock dedicated funds, simplify the tax code, and reform entitlement programs is no longer a surprise. Unfortunately, you can now add the killing of sensible bills to make government spending more transparent, government pensions more sustainable, insurance more affordable, ridesharing more available and small business licensing more attainable to that list of failed legislation.”

— Congressional Aide Michael Willis’ BAD JOKE OF THE WEEK: “Why do cows wear bells? Because their horns don't work!”

Jim Brown’s latest: “There is a disturbing article in a recent issue of Atlantic Magazine by a prominent physician at the University of Pennsylvania… His premise is that no one, in this day and age, should aspire to live longer than 75 years of age.” (Jim recently turned 78.)

— Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne spoke at the Press Club yesterday.

— What the governor’s office wants you to know: “On Friday, Democrats and Republicans alike on the Senate Finance Committee, validated what Gov. John Bel Edwards has been saying regarding the magnitude of our current budget crisis.”

Kyle Ardoin will officially be sworn in as interim Louisiana Secretary of State on Friday afternoon at the Old State Capitol.

— The Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association and Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Conference is today and tomorrow at the Baton Rouge Crowne Plaza.

Buzzfeed: “At the end of April, the GOP baseball team practiced together for the first time, both for the season and since the shooting. The game will take place this year on the anniversary of the shooting… Steve Scalise isn’t going anywhere, but was still recovering from his latest surgery. It wasn’t the same kind of practice as before, when no one ever thought twice about it: Reporters and cameras were waiting outside the field. A lot of security was, too.”

The Washington Post: “A full-page ad in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal featured a picture of two Louisiana sugar planters and the words: ‘Excluding us from loans available to other crops isn’t “modest reform,” it’s discriminatory. Don’t cut sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill. Oppose harmful amendments.’ What’s really going on here?”

— We were dropped a note about this line from Jeremy Alford's opinion column last week: "Strategist Ryan Berni of Berni Consulting said the candidate pool (for secretary of state) probably preferred a fall special election over a 2019 primary election because the race gets removed from the regular cycle, when some of the interested contenders now in elected office would otherwise have to run for re-election." Here's the clarification: While the special election, or rather the initial race to replace the incumbent, is being relocated from the 2019 ballot to the 2018 ballot, the special election does not replace the need for a general election next year.

— The Bureau of Governmental Research is hosting a “breakfast briefing” with Jefferson Parish Public School System Superintendent Cade Brumley at the Sheraton Metairie Hotel on May 31.


REMEMBERING ELAINE EDWARDS

The Longest-Serving First Lady of Louisiana

Elaine Schwartzenburg Edwards, Louisiana’s longest serving first lady and former U.S. senator, died Monday at age 89. Mrs. Edwards, a native of Avoyelles Parish, was married to former Gov. Edwin Edwards for 39 years. She was a mainstay on the campaign trail and at political events alongside her husband for the vast majority of his political career.

“She certainly set the stage for those who have been blessed to serve in the same capacity,” said First Lady Donna Edwards.

When U.S. Sen. Allen Ellender died in 1972, Edwards appointed his wife to fill the vacant seat until the November election. After giving his wife a congratulatory kiss at the press conference announcing the appointment, the governor remarked to reporters, “I’ve never kissed a senator.”

She maintained a friendly relationship with her former husband even after their 1989 divorce. She publicly supported him during his 2000 trial, visited him in prison and even made an appearance alongside his current wife Trina on their A&E reality show, The Governor’s Wife.


GAMARD’S BELTWAY BEAT

Food Stamps & Gaza

The Farm Bill is up for debate today and tomorrow in the House Rules Committee. That’s been taking up the bulk of our delegation’s attention, particularly for provisions concerning food stamp work requirements and a separate amendment that lawmakers say threatens Louisiana’s sugar industry.

In Gaza, Palestinians are still under fire after President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Louisiana congressmen have been largely supportive of the move, with a few like Congressman Mike Johnson also commenting publicly on yesterday's reports that 58 people are dead and over 2,700 others are injured from protests.

President Trump met with GOP senators today to discuss the party’s agenda. U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy were said to be in attendance.


Your Delegation Download

— U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy hosted a press conference this morning reiterating a request he made to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the U.S. Senate in session for weekends, nights and breaks in order to expedite appropriations bills and judicial nominee hearings. He’s expected to ask Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Chair nominee Aimee Kathryn Jorjani about Louisiana’s reliance on the Historic Tax Credit program, which refurbishes old buildings, in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today. He’s also scheduled to make a Skype call to West Monroe High School. A person familiar the call said the dialogue with students is not intended to be be policy-driven.

— U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s bill to protect copyright for artists’ work made prior to 1972 earned a show of support today on Capitol Hill by artists Smokey Robinson, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Dionne Warwick and Darlene Love. Kennedy: “(Sen. Chris Coon’s) comments kind of brought a tear to my eye, but it’s not the tears of a clown. That would be Senator (Thom) Tillis, who you haven’t met yet, who doesn’t know his way to Santa Fe, I assure you.”  He recently questioned Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about Medicaid work requirements: “My governor doesn’t want to do it. I believe in freedom, my governor believes in more free stuff. That’s just the way it is. I’m not criticizing him, I’m just describing him.”

— Congressman Steve Scalise will be leading with opioid crisis legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. He’ll also be whipping the Farm Bill, which his spokesperson tells us is expected to be considered in the House this week. According to POLITICO, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's joint-fundraising committee is organizing a “massive” D.C. fundraiser in June with the entire House leadership team, including the majority whip. He paid a visit to the Louisiana Capitol yesterday to give an update about his recovery from surgery and grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.

— Congressman Cedric Richmond is spearheading the Congressional Black Caucus’ 1,300-page omnibus bill that aims to boost social mobility for Black families. Richmond, per press release last week: “As a result of racism and discrimination in our country, African Americans still face a number of economic and social barriers that the federal government can and should help our community address since it was and still is complicit in building them.” He visited the state Capitol yesterday where he told the majority-GOP body, “We (the caucus) wake up fighting for not only African-Americans but fight for rural communities, urban communities, black communities, white communities, wherever poverty exists.”

— Congressman Clay Higgins is attending a service that will add names of seven fallen officers from Louisiana to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He’s is also spending the week meeting with state and local law enforcement representatives, in light of National Police Week. His bill that compiles data on where school resource officers are currently deployed was just passed on the House floor. The Captain is also pushing for SNAP work requirements and against a “poison pill amendment that would hurt Louisiana sugar farmers” in the Farm Bill, according to a spokesperson.

— Congressman Mike Johnson will speak before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee tomorrow to back a series of bills related to veteran healthcare. He recently sat on a panel to talk about an opioid withdrawal blocking agents, and testified before House Appropriations Committee in support of the Fort Polk Army Base and Barksdale Air Force Base.

— Congressman Ralph Abraham wrote on Facebook yesterday, “Once again, President Trump is keeping his promises by moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel's rightful capital, Jerusalem… The world is a safer place when Israel and the US work together.” He was one of the House Agriculture Committee members to talk about how the Farm Bill will “help lift SNAP recipients out of poverty.” Abraham, in a video: “Everyone wants to do better… This Farm Bill, with these either work or educational requirements, allows those that unfortunately maybe didn’t have the education they so desired to finally achieve that goal.”

— Congressman Garret Graves is hosting BRPD Officer Deena Weisberg at a reception in honor of National Police Week. He’s also participating in Infrastructure Week by appearing on water infrastructure panel while waiting for the Water Resources Development Act legislation to surface in House committee this month. Like his colleagues, he's expected to fight against an amendment in the Farm Bill concerning Louisiana sugar farmers while supporting SNAP work requirements.


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


#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 05/15: Beth Courtney and Ryan Hebert

— Wednesday 05/16: Tommy Screen 

— Thursday 05/17: Late LaPolitics founder John Maginnis (1948) and late Gov. Richard W. Leche (1898)

— Friday 05/18: Matt Gresham, Kirby Goidel, Ari KrupkinEd Miller and Robin Winchell

— Saturday 5/19: Brian AngelleRebekah Allen and Jim Funk

— Sunday 05/20: Sen. Ed Price, Rep. Alan Seabaugh, Rep. Raymond Crews, former Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Dem ED Stephen Handwerk and Karen Profita

— Monday 05/21: Brandon BrewerCloyce Clark and Chris Tidmore


WEDDINGS & ANNIVERSARIES

— Christine Perry and her husband Sen. Jonathan Perry are celebrating 19 years together today.

— Heather Kirkpatrick and her husband Scott toasted to 16 years last week. (May 10) 

— Lisa Sawyer and her husband Paul reached year 18 Sunday.


PITTER PATTER

 Mike Monsour and his wife, Virginia, just had their first baby, Charlotte D’Aubert. 6 lbs 13 oz, 18.75 inches and a full head of black hair. Welcome to the world, Charlotte!


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

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