Politics Column for March 17, 2013

capitol news bureau

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, following meeting between members of the National Governors Association (NGA) and President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, following meeting between members of the National Governors Association (NGA) and President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

High court accepts
added arguments

The Louisiana Supreme Court has added arguments in a constitutional challenge of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 401(k)-type retirement plan for new state employee hires to its Tuesday hearing docket.

The Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana won a lower court ruling when a state district judge agreed that the “cash balance” plan did not get the constitutionally required two-thirds vote for passage.

The Jindal administration appealed to the state’s high court.

The court also requested that all briefs in the case be filed by Monday “in light of this expedited docket setting.”

The pension plan was the only part of Jindal’s retirement system overhaul that passed in the 2012 legislative session. It is scheduled to go into effect July 1, absent an adverse court ruling.

Spires makes haste in oral explanations

Steve Spires, policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project, made quick work of his comments on the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

Spires’ points came near the end of a five-hour meeting of the Legislature’s insurance committees and some were getting restless.

“Mr. Spires can talk faster than Gov. Jindal ... You wore me out,” said state Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings.

Broome takes issue
with Greenstein

State Sen. Sharon Broome chastised state health secretary Bruce Greenstein for using the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank for information used in bolstering the administration’s case against Medicaid expansion.

“My recommendation, as we delve into this issue, is that maybe you should consider non-partisan, bi-partisan organizations,” Broome told Greenstein. She mentioned the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

“It lets me know already the subjectivity of the information,” she added.

Greenstein said the information came from the Kaiser Foundation and the Urban Institute, both of which support expansion. Then he added as Broome pressed her case that the word “bloated” in connection with the information was the Heritage Foundation’s take on the data.

In an earlier discussion, Greenstein said “left leaning groups try to overstate the uninsured problem.” Then, he said, Kaiser “continues to use high numbers.”

Economist quips about his résumé

Economist Loren Scott ran through his résumé Thursday before speaking to legislators about the governor’s tax plans.

Among Scott’s titles is professor emeritus.

“Emeritus is a Latin term that means small interior office,” Scott explained.

Audio difficulties occur in committee

Just as Gov. Bobby Jindal was preparing to brief a legislative committee on his tax plan Thursday, the audio went out for those tuning in to the session via the internet from outside the Capitol complex.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, blamed the outage on a “technical malfunction.”

The problem was fixed later in the morning after Jindal was gone by House technicians working with a third-party contractor.

“House technicians received and recorded continuous audio,” Kleckley reported. So the governor’s complete remarks and the entirety of the briefing is available on demand.”

Go to http://house.louisiana.gov/ H Video/2013/March2013.htm. Click on Ways and Means Committee of March 14.

New reps receive panel assignments

The newest members of the Louisiana House received their committee assignments last week.

State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, has been added to the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works, as well as the Education and Retirement committees.

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the Health and Welfare and Labor and Industrial Relations committees.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, also announced that state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington has been added to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Two senators have
new family members

Two legislators have new additions to their families.

State Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, and his wife, Christy, have a new baby boy named Joseph.

State Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, and his wife, Katherine, welcomed a daughter, Anna Pierce.

BESE colleagues visit six school districts

Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and various groups of BESE colleagues have visited six school districts in recent weeks.

The last group went to the Iberia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes school systems and included Roemer, who lives in Baton Rouge, and BESE member Holly Boffy of Youngsville.

The visits typically include meetings with school administrators and parents.

Setting boundary
of north Louisiana

During a joint meeting of the state House and Senate transportation committees, talk turned to Interstate 49 and then spilled into a brief discussion of south and north Louisiana.

State Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, was credited by a colleague with saying that, in his view, north Louisiana begins just outside the northern city limits of Lafayette.

Prison phone costs again on PSC agenda

After two angry public hearings, the five-member PSC voted unanimously to reduce the cost of calls from jail by 25 percent and eliminate add-on fees and charges. Until the final vote, two of the commissioners opposed the changes, which inmate families claimed was needed because they were being overcharged for phone calls to family members in prison. State and local law enforcement profit from the phone charges.

PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, who has since retired and was replaced by Scott Angelle, pushed for passage of the change.

Securus Technologies, a Texas firm with multiple jail telephone contracts including the Louisiana Department of Corrections, and City Tele Coin have asked the PSC to reverse the December reforms. The requests were put on the agenda for the commission’s March 20 meeting in Baton Rouge.

PSC head defends action on program

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta responded last week to a March 3 opinion written in Forbes.com that criticized the five elected utility regulators who in February cancelled the energy efficiency program that they had approved in December.

The program, which was pushed by environmentalists and utilities, was backed by PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, who retired in December. He was replaced by Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, who asked the panel to reconsider the decision.

Skrmetta, of Metairie, opposed the program and refused to hear public testimony before the 3-2 vote to drop the program as too expensive and not properly vetted. Skrmetta pointed out that the author of the article, William Pentland, had connections to ClearEdge Power, which sells “smart” energy solutions.

“We need an (Energy Efficiency) policy free of third party conflicts of interest and one that helps reduce the need for future electrical infrastructure, and one that truly helps helping folks save money,” Skrmetta wrote in an emailed statement.

Newspaper offers LSU salary database

The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, unveiled its revamped database that includes salary information for all LSU faculty members and interactive maps displaying the highest and lowest salaries by building, department and job title.

According to the database, the average salary for an LSU faculty member is $68,389. The finance department is the most profitable department, and the Football Operations Building houses the highest paid employees.

“The completion of this database is a huge step in our continuing effort in shifting toward digital journalism and satisfying the increasing demand for online content,” said Bryan Stewart, Daily Reveille managing editor of external media.

More information is available at http://www.lsureveille.com and anyone can access the database at http://www.lsureveille.com/salary

Panel member Stone says he’s retiring

Longtime Louisiana Community and Technical College Board of Supervisors member F. Mike Stone announced his retirement effectively immediately Wednesday during the LCTCS monthly in Baton Rouge. Stone, who was first appointed on Jan. 12, 1999, was one of the LCTCS board’s original members.

The retired teacher with the New Orleans public school system, said he was proud of the work the board has done to advance the state’s two-year schools.

“Together, we have accomplished so much over the years and those accomplishments have had a tremendous impact on our citizens.”

Economist Scott to speak at Press Club

Economist Loren Scott will be the guest speaker at Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Scott, who is president of Loren C. Scott & Associates, will discuss a new economic impact study on the Louisiana chemical industry.

The Press Club meets at De La Ronde Hall, 320 Third St. in downtown Baton Rouge. Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers. The public is invited, but only members of the Press Club and the news media are allowed to ask questions.

Acadiana Press Club features lawmakers

Five area legislators are joining the newly formed Acadiana Press Club for its first monthly lunch forum Monday at South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette.

State Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, and state Reps. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, Simone Champagne, R-Erath, Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, and Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, will discuss major issues of the upcoming legislative session, taking questions from the media and the public.

The event begins at 11:45 a.m., in the Ardoin Buildings on the campus South Louisiana Community College, 1101 Bertrand Drive, Lafayette.

RSVP for lunch to info@acadianapressclub.org

Broome to host community meeting

State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome is holding a community meeting Tuesday night at the Greenwell Springs Library.

Broome, D-Baton Rouge, is highlighting the legislative issues for the upcoming general session, which begins April 8, that might be important to the residents of north Baton Rouge.

Broome says she plans to bring representatives from agencies, such as the Department of Revenue and the state Department of Insurance Consumer Advocacy, and the Baton Rouge Community College Continuing Education Division to answer questions, according to a press release.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will finish by 8 p.m. at 11300 Greenwell Springs Road, Baton Rouge.

School system head to address group

James Meza, the superintendent of Jefferson Parish school system, is scheduled Tuesday evening to address the Pelican State Pachyderm Club in New Orleans.

Meza will discuss the state of the Jefferson Parish school system.

The meeting begins at 6:15 p.m. at the Five Happiness Chinese Restaurant, 3511 South Carrollton Ave., near the Interstate 10 interchange.

Meza speaks at 7 p.m.

The cost is $25 for members and $35 for guests. RSVP is miltonatebara@aol.com

Dardenne to appear
for GOP roundtable

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne will be the featured speaker for the Thursday’s meeting of the Ascension GOP Roundtable, sponsored by Ascension Republican Women.

The Roundtable is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Cashio’s 360 Catering & Venue, 13521 Hwy. 44 in Gonzales.

Dardenne’s topic will be “Whole Lotta History Goin’ On,” a Louisiana history presentation, accompanied by music and focusing on our 200 years of statehood.

Cost for the lunch is $20 with a reservation and $22.00 at the door. The Roundtable is open to the public and guests are welcome. For reservations, phone (225) 644-5728 or email arwrus@aol.com.

GOP women to hear
issues on La. taxes

Capital City Republican Women at 6 p.m. Thursday will hear from state Reps. John M. Schroder, R-Covington, and Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, at BREC facility in Independence Park, next to the tennis courts, 7506 Independence Blvd., Baton Rouge.

The topic will be eliminating state income taxes and the state’s budget.

For information, email hollico1@aol.com.

Compiled by the Capitol news bureau. Contact email is cnb@theadvocate.com.