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Gay marriage issue likely to pop up again

Louisiana was one of the last states to give up the fight and start issuing same-sex marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court decision a couple months ago that overturned this state’s constitutional definition of marriage as being between only one woman and one man. Clerks of court and state agencies, following Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lead, dragged… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Norquist’s ghost, a fee that nobody sees

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Taking a quick sandwich break Wednesday, LSU president F. King Alexander, second from right, chats with student volunteer movers, from left, Biannca Pierre, Heather Duplessis, Alix Perry and Victoria Primeaux, right, at LSU West Laville Hall. They were all helping incoming students move into their dorms.

With eyebrows arched and her mouth formed in an O, Elaine Harmon was the picture of incredulity. The New Orleans mother had just dropped off Kaleb, her son, at West Laville Hall for his first semester in college. She had just been asked how she handled the roughly $1,500 SAVE fee tacked on… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: When it comes to roads, a map is lacking

Senator Dale M. Erdey

Dale Erdey showed up last week at one of those getting-to-know-you coffees sponsored by a candidate running for governor. As a state senator representing one of Louisiana’s fastest-growing areas, he’s been “stalking” (his joke) the candidates to see what they have to say about transportation infrastructure. “What I see is that they have no definitive plan… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: On finances, Bobby Jindal counts at-bats as home runs

At least one entry in the “Boring But Important” category has to be the Herculean effort the Jindal administration has put into keeping the influential New York credit rating agencies from downgrading Louisiana’s finances. Complex analysis of high finance doesn’t get a lot of clicks, but how Moody’s Investors Services, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s Financial… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Ruling made courthouses scramble

Like many courthouse officials around Louisiana, St. James Parish Justice of the Peace Trina J. Moll had a chaotic week because of same-sex marriage. As an elected official — sworn to uphold state law, which bans gay marriage — she started last week wondering how to apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s determination that same-sex couples have… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: A budget accomplishment awash with glitches

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Treasurer John N. Kennedy waits Monday to address the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

In many ways, the state budget the Senate undoubtedly will pass Monday — with final passage likely later this week — is a remarkable feat for the Louisiana Legislature. With little to no help from a largely absent governor, the legislators came up with their own plan to bridge a $1.6 billion gap in revenues through a… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: As cuts loom, other issues lose traction at Capitol

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. Benjamin Clapper, left, executive director of Louisiana Right To Life, holds Wednesday a paper with illustrations of a dilation and evacuation abortion on a 23-week-old fetus, while testifying in favor of legislation that would ban abortions after 22 weeks gestational age, with some exceptions. State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, right, R-West Monroe, handled Senate Bill 766 for its sponsor, Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego. The House Health and Welfare committee advanced the Senate-passed SB766 to the full House.

Senate Judiciary B Committee is where socially conservative legislation goes to die, if proponents of those issues are to be believed. Take the example of Benjamin Clapper. The executive director of the Metairie-based Louisiana Right to Life advocacy group is not one for histrionics. But last week, Clapper claimed that supporters of a House-passed measure… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Undeterred, political novice returns to Legislature for milk debate

At the end of last year’s legislative session, Sierra Majors was a little depressed when she returned to her St. Landry Parish farm along the Atchafalaya River. A 30-something farmer, she had arrived wide-eyed in Baton Rouge pretty sure that her passion for nutrient-dense, farm-to-table goodness of milk straight from conscientiously raised cows would alert legislators… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Lawmakers warm to expanding Medicaid

After three years of refusing, the Louisiana Legislature seems poised to slip in the Medicaid expansion, a key component of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Everything in medicine is complex, but as simply as possible, a resolution filed minutes before the deadline would allow hospitals to raise much of what the state… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: One eve of session, revenue anxieties setting the mood

Usually, the days before the annual session of the Louisiana Legislature have the expectant atmosphere of spring break in Destin, Florida. Any other year, the common sight around the State Capitol is of laughing legislators carrying boxes from their luxury SUVs to their apartments in the historic Pentagon barracks. This time, however, the mood is more… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Might be a silver lining to Louisiana’s budget mess, Bobby Jindal’s ‘benign neglect’

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, raises a question Thursday during the House Health and Welfare Committee's discussion of House Bill 375 in April 2013.

In line at the Louisiana House Dining Hall last week, State Capitol staffers said they’ve never seen so many bills filed on how to deal with a budget crisis. Traditionally, leadership on fiscal issues is left to whoever is governor, allowing legislators time to focus on banning “droopy drawers” and creating “I’m a Cajun” driver’s licenses.… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Poll shows residents see waste in state spending

An LSU poll released last week confirmed for Louisiana legislators what they knew all along: They’re going to lose no matter what happens with the state budget. A majority of Louisiana adult residents think the state’s $1.6 billion deficit could be fixed if only state government would give up its profligate ways, according to the 2015 Louisiana… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Need cash now? La. looks at selling tobacco settlement

Please forgive putting that catchy “877-CASH-NOW” jingle in mind, but the Jindal administration is basically singing that the multibillion-dollar structured settlement with Big Tobacco is their money and they need cash now. Nobody pays dollar-for-dollar on these transactions that turn settlements paid out over years into immediate cash. But Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols… Continue reading →

Mysterious tax exemptions need to be addressed

Hidden in the state’s fine print is your right to buy a beer at a professional sporting event without paying state sales taxes. That same tax-free status applies to Mardi Gras beads, gold coins costing more than $1,000, human-tissue transplants, breast pumps for feeding babies, funeral hearses, Girl Scout Cookies, something called polyroll tubing (it’s used for… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Tax policy a tower poised to topple

My kids play Jenga. The idea is to remove blocks one by one from below and put them on top, which makes the tower taller but less stable. The loser is the player who pulls the block that collapses the structure. One of the blocks in the Louisiana budget, the inventory tax… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Passenger train between Baton Rouge and New Orleans still possible, but far off

So, sitting in traffic, inching past the only part of Interstate 10 from Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida, that narrows to a single lane, allows plenty of time for daydreaming. Will there ever be passenger railroad service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans? Actually, there’s a plan. Every morning at 7 a.m., a passenger… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: State GOP includes two philosophical camps

Last week’s tweet-a-rama — the one anointing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the chosen one in a GOP presidential primary that hasn’t officially started — triggered a series of national reports about the re-emergence of a wing of the Republican Party that is more moderate than the one that represents unwavering, evangelical social conservatism. Calling them… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Talk of Bobby Jindal trimming health care budget a little quiet, but cuts possibly devastating

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks to a crowd, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La. Gov. Jindal continued to court Christian conservatives for a possible presidential campaign with a headlining appearance at an all-day prayer rally hosted by the American Family Association. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Maybe it’s the difference in the images: fresh faces brimming with promise versus weary looks of the stress of an all-too-realistic present. Most of the conversation has focused on the Jindal administration’s plans to cut higher education. Talks about hacking a similar amount from health care budgets have received little attention, even though the cuts will… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Bad to worse for Jindal budget

Toward the end of last week, state agency heads started getting word from the Jindal administration about the budgets their agencies can expect next fiscal year. The word isn’t good. The Jindal administration is talking about cutting up to $300 million from state support to colleges and universities — that calculates to about $1 billion in… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Jindal’s dissertation sheds light on evolving views

Gov. Bobby Jindal says a career in politics was his Plan B. He was preparing to be a neurosurgeon when he won a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, so he put medical school on hold for a couple years to attend Oxford University. It was there that Jindal was challenged by legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin, an ardent Democrat described… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Genuine convert, or Republican in name only?

A klatch of politicos say that had Mary Landrieu run as a Republican, she would have won a fourth term to the U.S. Senate back in November. Pro-business, pro-energy and one of the most conservative members of the Democratic Party, Landrieu was held back by the D behind her name in a state whose voting majority has… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Praying for guidance on presidential run

With the onset of the holiday season, a lot of politicians are praying about whether to run for president in 2016. For months, Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he’d be “thinking and praying” about a presidential run. In the meantime, he also has been acting an awful lot like a candidate: raising money, criticizing… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Budget seems designed to bleed red ink

For something like six out of the last seven years, taxes, royalties and other revenues didn’t materialize as hoped back when lawmakers drafted the budget. On Friday, the state, again, had to officially reduce estimated revenue collections in the middle of the fiscal year, this time by $171 million. The midyear declaration of a new,… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: A match made in Heaven for GOP?

The morning after barely missing a spot in the December runoff, congressional candidate Zach Dasher sat down in his Ouachita Parish home to the first real breakfast he had had with his family in a couple of months. Baer, his pre-K son, bowed to bless the meal. “He said, ‘God, thanks for letting Daddy lose, so we… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Congressional district lines create confusion

Back in September, when Bill Cassidy was doing his stealth Senate candidacy, he missed a forum at the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging. His absence, however, provided the chance for a very entertaining riff by his opponent, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, on his being afraid of her — she didn’t think she was that scary… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: It’s not the houses, it’s the networks

On the campaign trail last week, the rhetoric was all location, location, location. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has received no end to the grief about her $2 million “mansion” in Washington, D.C., took a few minutes during a Bogalusa speech to jab at the lakefront “mansion” owned by her main Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Louisiana feels impact of black vote

Michelle Davis, a petite 19-year-old, stood last week at a Southern University meeting to say she signed up in one of those fevered new-voter drives. Now, she wonders, what’s next? “I never voted. Where do we start?” she asked. A Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, Davis graduated high… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Japan tries to figure out Louisiana voters

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Takashi Oshima, a correspondent for The Asahi Shimbun, is one of several Japanese reporters covering Louisiana's U.S. Senate and House races. He is photographing Cassie Felder, one of the Republican candidates running for the 6th Congressional District seat, while she makes campaign phone calls Wednesday from her Baton Rouge office.

One of Buddy Roemer’s stories is about visiting with Japanese business leaders back when he was governor in the late 1980s. A businessman interrupted the governor’s spiel on the wonders of Sportsman’s Paradise to say, very sorry, never heard of Louisiana. That may have changed. Japanese reporters have descended on Louisiana to cover this… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Residency issue not new to politics

It was after several drinks with new friends that I found myself bouncing on the bed of the vice president. This was a few decades ago and the bed was in a room at The Houstonian, the tony hotel that served as the official address for Vice President George H.W. Bush. A few days before he… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Young people work to help engage voters

It’s the legions of young people from other states who mark the difference between this campaign season and previous ones. They moved here recently for campaign jobs. Many are being paid by national parties and pressure groups. Many of them email and tweet outraged commentary about their party’s opponents. But a handful have been operating quietly,… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Football and politics: Our favorite time of year

Louisiana is entering the seasons of its two favorite contact sports: football and politics. Usually the two cross paths only before the games when politicians visit tailgates to sample grilled sausages and toss a few footballs in a signature tradition that is every bit as expected as candidates eating hot dogs and kissing babies when visiting New… Continue reading →