A political firestorm erupted in the middle of last week that kept escalating into the weekend.
It started with comments made by state Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson in which she said race had a lot to do with the state’s rejection of Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion it promised.
The comments by the New Orleans legislator on the Louisiana Senate floor brought immediate calls from state Republican Party leadership for Peterson to apologize and to resign as party chair.
“The bottom line is that it’s never appropriate to demonize and even infer someone is racist for disagreeing with the President,” state GOP chairman Roger Villere said.
Peterson responded that she has no intention of apologizing or resigning.
At week’s end, Gov. Bobby Jindal called Peterson’s statement “pathetic.”
The state Democratic Party started trying to turn the tables on Republicans — in particular, comments by U.S. Sen. David Vitter for saying people who voted for Obama are stupid.
Gene Mills, leader of the Louisiana Family Forum, recalled talking to a nervous Les Miles last week about rappelling down tall office buildings in downtown Baton Rouge. The idea was to attract attention to efforts to adopt children.
Mills said he thanked the LSU football coach, famous for his malapropisms, for lending his celebrity to the cause. “It’ll make a ginormous difference,” Mills said, which Merriam-Webster dictionary says mixes gigantic and enormous into an adjective that means extremely large.
Gov. Bobby Jindal then added that when national sports reporters poke fun at Miles for adding “ginormous” to the coach’s ever widening vocabulary, “It’s Gene Mills’ fault.”
State Sen. Elbert Guillory’s move to the state Republican Party ranks won’t impact his membership in the Legislative Black Caucus.
A member’s party affiliation “is of no moment” to his membership as a Black Caucus member, said chairwoman state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-West Monroe. “Sen. Guillory remains a full-fledged member of our caucus,” she said.
Guillory, of Opelousas, announced last week he was leaving the Democratic Party and returning to the GOP.
“The Legislative Black Caucus was not formed based on party affiliation,” Jackson said. “We were formed and will continue to advocate for the quality of life for African- Americans, the indigent and working people of the state, through legislation, education and economic development.”
Melanie Amrhein, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, retired Friday.
LOSFA is the state agency that oversees the TOPS college scholarship program. The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students pays tuition and some fees for students who meet certain academic benchmarks.
Sujuan Boutté, LOSFA’s deputy executive director, will take over for Amrhein effectively immediately until a permanent replacement is found.
In a prepared statement, Amrhein predicted a smooth transition.
“I have great confidence in the team that will be left at LOSFA to fulfill our duties, roles and objectives to financially assist students in Louisiana and provide outreach and other access services to them,” Amrhein said.
Michael Faulk, superintendent of the Central Community School System, will be the guest speaker for Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Faulk is president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and will discuss the K-12 education issues before the Louisiana Legislature and the implications for school districts, teachers and students.
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.
Leaders With Vision will host the annual “Reality Check” luncheon — a recap of the 2013 legislative session — at noon Friday.
The regular session wraps up at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Speakers will include Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp, House Clerk Butch Speer, Public Affairs Research Council president Robert Travis Scott, Southern University political scientist Albert Samuels and political columnist John Maginnis.
Lunch is served at 11:45 a.m. at Drusilla Place, 3482 Drusilla Lane in Baton Rouge. The program begins at noon. Cost is $40 per person. Prepaid reservations are required by noon Wednesday.
Payment options are on-line at http://www.LWVision.org, checks made payable to Leaders With Vision sent to P.O. Box 4244, Baton Rouge, La. 70821, or bring to LWV offices, 728 North Blvd.
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