Washington Briefs: French diplomat to honor Cajun historian 

The French ambassador to the U.S. is honoring one of Louisiana’s own Wednesday in Washington for significantly contributing to French culture.

William Arceneaux, a Cajun historian who headed the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, is set to receive the French insignia of Commander of the Order of Academic Palms from Ambassador François Delattre.

Arceneaux, 71, is a native of Scott who previously served as the state’s commissioner of higher education with the Louisiana Board of Regents. He then went on to serve as president of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities for two decades.

Cassidy bills progress

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, saw two of his bills successfully pass out of committee this week and be sent to the House floor.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved Cassidy’s “Energy Consumers Relief Act” that would give Congress greater oversight of new environmental rules and regulations on industry.

The bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing any energy-related regulation that is considered to have an economic impact of at least $1 billion without additional congressional and Department of Energy approval.

“This is a victory for workers and families throughout our energy sector,” Cassidy said.

While it stands a good chance of receiving House approval, the bill faces much tougher sledding in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

A Cassidy bill that would end government funding for oil paintings of government officials also won approval from the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill is the “Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting Act.”

Cassidy has noted that the government paid nearly $40,000 for a commemorative portrait of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, of New Orleans, and more than $20,000 for a portrait of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Scalise seeks evaluation change

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, had a provision added into a House-passed education overhaul that would eliminate certain mandated teacher evaluations.

Scalise’s amendment would instead give states and local education officials the authority to develop and implement their own evaluation methods.

The amendment was added to the Student Success Act that was approved Friday in the House on a 221-207 vote without a single Democrat in support. The bill essentially puts the impetus on states and school boards to measure how effectively students are learning.

The bill largely undoes the evaluation and testing methods implemented through the 11-year-old No Child Left Behind Act.

“Parents are in a much better position to hold their state and local school boards accountable for teacher performance than some unelected bureaucrat in Washington,” Scalise said in a prepared statement.

“By removing the mandate that allows the federal government to dictate teacher evaluation programs, this amendment stops Washington bureaucrats from overriding the successful education reforms that are improving school performance in states like Louisiana.”

The White House though has already issued a strongly worded veto threat of the bill and the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate is not expected to consider the bill.

A Senate sponsored education bill that is in the works also gives states greater flexibilities.

But the Senate plan still allows the education secretary to retain approval power over all of the state plans.

Landrieu files bills

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., filed a couple of bills with bipartisan support that are intended to help constituencies ranging from juveniles to songwriters.

She first filed a bill with U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to study, assess and better fund efforts to help juveniles and to root out criminal gang activity. The bill is called the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education.

“We must act to stop the heartbreaking cycle of violence that traps so many of our young people,” Landrieu stated. “Studies show that early childhood programs, summer school programs, mentoring, after-school programs and job-training programs can lead to decreased youth arrests. The Youth PROMISE Act invests in programs like these that we know to be effective, as well as efforts to bring together community members and organizations concerned with the safety and welfare of children.”

Landrieu also teamed up with Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to file the Songwriters Simplification Act.

This bill reinstates the option for American music publishers and self-published songwriters to have a simplified five-year, 20 percent-per-year schedule for deducting taxes on songwriting costs for song catalogues.

“In Louisiana, music is an integral part of our culture. Songwriters and producers are praised for their artistic and creative abilities, but they are often overlooked as business owners and employers,” Landrieu stated.

“This legislation helps songwriters to offset their expenses and attract investors into their creative enterprises.”

Jordan Blum, The Advocate’s Washington bureau chief, can be emailed at jblum@theadvocate.com.