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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 →

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 →