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Political Horizons: Louisiana languishes as the pageant of partisan sniping continues

Gov. John Bel Edwards wanted to trim a tax break the wealthy enjoy to fully fund TOPS, but Louisiana House Republicans denied him. No, it’s not politics, GOP House leaders insist; it’s a matter of timing. House Speaker Taylor Barras said the concept likely will come up next year when the Legislature tackles revamping the way… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: A rare dissent on corporate exemptions by Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana politicians

After 40 some-odd years on autopilot, members of an obscure board that routinely rubber-stamps the nation’s most generous corporate subsidies found Robert Adley’s grabbing the wheel something of a shock. Big manufacturers fill out the request for an industrial tax exemption, make an investment and, if the form is filled out correctly, then yeah, sure, approve it.… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Tensions high in Louisiana House

“Nerves are raw” was how House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Harris explained the confrontation during the first hours of the second special session. Legislators had ended one session and began anew 30 minutes later because the Louisiana House, freed six months ago from the generations-old headlock that governors had on its independence, failed to get the job… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Hopping down Louisiana's legislative rabbit trails

The big issue that loomed over the legislative session, which ends at 6 p.m. Monday, is a state budget that Gov. John Bel Edwards last week called a “big mess.” Louisiana is $600 million short of having enough money to pay the expected bills for the fiscal year that starts in 26 days. Legislators get another go… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Behind the failed promises of development incentives

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, right, holds a model of a Bell Jet Ranger X helicopter presented to him by Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison, left, in August 2014 during a press conference at the Lafayette Regional Airport. Bell Helicopters is abandoning the Lafayette option for Montréal.

Louisiana Economic Development has long been the favorite son among state government agencies. For at least the past decade, legislators have patted LED secretaries on the head, praised them and opened their wallets wide. But that may be changing. One hint might be Sen. Eric LaFleur’s appraisal of how politicians view economic development: Everyone slapping… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Claitor tries to end last-minute chaos

Senator Dan Claitor

Legislators are quietly going about changing their procedures in hopes of stopping the madness that afflicts the last minutes of, seemingly, every legislative session. “Where people fly in the clouds without instruments, they sometimes to run into a mountain,” said state Sen. Dan Claitor, who drafted a resolution that would require those last-minute agreements on legislation —… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Henry budget plan shredded by lawmakers

For months, Louisiana House Republicans have been promising an intelligent state budget. That plan finally was unveiled Monday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry. Swiftly approved by committee members, many of whom had not read the amendments, it has been criticized ever since. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, referred to Plan Henry as “a scheme.”… Continue reading →

Our Views: Minimum wage bill hits a roadblock

Gov. John Bel Edwards testifies in the Senate Labor Committee in support of minimum wage increase and equal pay bills while Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, listens. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Increasing the minimum wage in Louisiana is a primary goal for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. He repeated it like a mantra on the campaign trail. He gave it a featured spot in his Jan. 11 inauguration address. It was the issue that brought him to testify before a legislative committee — the first governor in years… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Not much give in competing visions of the budget

Say Washington and the first thought is, the place where nothing gets done. But even during the partisan gridlock a few years ago — with the nation days from financial default — there’s also the image of Democratic President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, then the head of the GOP majority, smoking cigarettes and sipping… Continue reading →

Mark Ballard: What's Louisiana’s right-wing House waiting for to act?

Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, left, speaks with Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, ahead of Gov. John Bel Edwards' budget cut presentation to the committee, Tuesday, April 12. Edwards is proposing to close a $750 million budget shortfall with cuts to the TOPS free college tuition program, safety net hospitals for the poor and public schools.  (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

For years the Louisiana House’s right-wingers have yapped at the wheels of the way things have been done in this state for generations. On Jan. 11, the House’s GOP majority finally caught that truck by asserting its independence and refusing to let the Democratic governor choose the chamber’s leadership. Now what? Well, when confronted with… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Barras tries to cool overheated temperature in state House

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, speaks with legislators on the floor of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

A coup was in the air when a handful of Republican representatives marched into House Speaker Taylor Barras’ office on March 14, the beginning of the regular session of the Louisiana Legislature. Four days earlier, the special session aimed at filling a deficit of more than $2 billion had ended with members bickering to the brink —… Continue reading →

Mark Ballard: Closed-door meeting hints at Gov. John Bel Edwards’ capital outlay plans

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gov. John Bel Edwards makes his address Wednesday morning at the 52nd Annual Louisiana Governor's Prayer Breakfast at the River Center.

At a meeting behind closed doors Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards surveyed the list of spending requests. Twenty-two legislators from Baton Rouge and its suburbs came as supplicants, seeking the leader’s support for roads, bridges, playgrounds and other stuff. Edwards ticked down the list, stopping to point out the requests of representatives and senators who had… Continue reading →

Will state find balance with GOP’s Henry?

Richard Lipsey pushed back from his lunch at a forum last week, took the audience mic and asked panelist Cameron Henry, who probably is the most influential leader in the Louisiana House, just why fellow Republicans refuse to cut Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards any slack. “Every single day I get an email from the Republican Party,”… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: New governor faces grim budget prospects

Senate President John Alario came out of the meeting last week shaking his head. After hearing the tax collection and royalty numbers presented from different points of view, the Revenue Estimating Conference, which he chairs, officially determined the state needs to come up with almost $500 million, or cut spending, to rebalance this year’s budget. The… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: In turnaround, Edwards seen as frontrunner in final week of race

When Roger Villere, head of the Louisiana Republican Party, attached Nick Saban to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, his goal probably was to give voters an image that would color how they processed the state’s second-highest official crossing party lines to endorse the Democrat in the Louisiana governor’s race. His allusion is much wider than he… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: A fiscal thundercould over the campaigns

As political theater goes, last week was pretty remarkable. Not often does a major elected official take the stage and go beyond talking about supporting the man, not the party, then actually do it. The best reaction probably was from The Hayride, a blog that backs the GOP, which called Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne a “liar”… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: John Bel Edwards’ rise may not be enough in November

Regardless of how the election turns out, the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat John Bel Edwards exceeded all expectations, particularly in a state headed in a Republican trajectory. The numbers were optimistic, but as late as Friday no political professional — outside the Edwards camp — was willing to go on record saying they thought a Democrat would… Continue reading →

Mark Ballard: U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle both close to energy sector in Louisiana governor’s race

Like the rusted oil drums and toxic ponds from drilling activities years ago, the legacy lawsuit controversy, long thought to have been settled, is emerging again in this year’s contest for governor. Oil and gas, which has a $74 billion impact on the state’s economy, has split between two Republican candidates: U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: Candidates running for governor promise break from Bobby Jindal’ s leadership style

The findings of a lot of the polls this gubernatorial campaign season are scattered all over the place. But the one issue on which all the pollsters seem to agree, regardless of their political leanings, is that Gov. Bobby Jindal is enormously unpopular in Louisiana. On the presidential campaign trail, Jindal dismisses such findings with… Continue reading →

Political Horizons; Mudslinging season about to start now that the race for Louisiana governor has been officially set

Louisiana’s gubernatorial campaign is at that stage in the movie when we know the shark is out there, but we still haven’t seen it on the screen. The opposition research is complete and ready to be leaked. As one Republican candidate’s adviser said, all that’s needed is “for someone to throw the first punch,” and then… Continue reading →

Political Horizons: 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 →