Washington Briefs: Vitter and Fleming criticize Justice

by jordan blum

Advocate Washington bureau

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., joined Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, and others in criticizing the potential loss of federal funds for the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Young Marines Program.

The issue has grown since Republican Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington has argued the U.S. Justice Department stopped providing $15,000 in federal support for the program for young people because Whittington refuses to take a reference to God out of the program’s stated “oath of obligation” as a separation of church and state matter.

The criticism has mounted, including Gov. Bobby Jindal in an “In God We Trust” rally with the sheriff and country singer Lee Greenwood on the Fourth of July.

“It’s deplorable that the administration is discriminating against this laudable program to help Louisiana youth just because they mention God,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “The Department of Justice needs to take immediate action to fix this.”

The Justice Department is contending it is not responsible for cutting off the funding.

A spokesman for the federal Office of Justice Programs said in a prepared statement that the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement is responsible for ensuring compliance with federal grants.

“The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) never defunded the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Youth Diversion Program or Young Marines Program and does not make funding determinations for these subgrantees,” the statement read.

“The Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, the state administering agency, is responsible for ensuring its subgrantees are in compliance with grant requirements, and for determining whether the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office receives funding. OJP is coordinating with its grantee, the LCLE, to ensure all OJP funding complies with grant requirements as well as federal civil rights laws and regulations.”

12-year-old at ‘State Dinner’

Metairie student Brynna Robert, 12, is participating in a kid’s “State Dinner” on Tuesday at the White House with first lady Michelle Obama.

Robert was chosen as the Louisiana representative in a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy lunches as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ “State Dinner” includes a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House kitchen garden.

The winning recipe submitted by Robert was for a “Sweet and Spicy Stir Fry” dish. Entries had to represent each of the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and veggies making up half the plate or recipe.

“Our Kids’ State Dinner is one of my favorite events of the year, and the kid chefs who come from around the country never cease to impress and inspire me with their creativity and ingenuity,” Michelle Obama said in a prepared statement. “I’m counting down the days until the winners join me at the White House to celebrate these healthy and delicious meals that kids everywhere will love.”

A free downloadable and printable e-cookbook of the winning recipes, including nutritional analyses and photos, will be available in July at the contest site, www.epicurious.com, www.letsmove.gov, www.USDA.gov, and www.Ed.gov.

Congressmen disappointed

Reps. John Fleming, R-Minden; Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; and Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; joined a group of lawmakers in signing a letter to President Barack Obama to express “deep disappointment” in the administration’s decision to stop fighting a court ruling that makes emergency contraception available to teenagers without prescriptions.

After previously appealing the ruling of a federal district judge in New York, the U.S. Justice Department decided earlier this month to drop its opposition. The Federal Drug Administration had previously backed age limits on the availability of Plan B, over-the-counter contraception without parental approval.

But the federal judge ruled for making the drugs available for sale without age limits.

“I am deeply disappointed this Administration has given up and allowed for Plan B to be made available over the counter to young girls,” Boustany added in a prepared statement. “As a pro-life physician, I feel this action will not only pose new health risks for these young women, but it will also allow the government to further impede on the rights of concerned parents.”

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com.