Politics Column for Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013

2013 Legislator Report Card
2013 Legislator Report Card

Capitol news bureau

Former Jindal official gets attention in Fla.

A former Jindal aide’s “Texas-sized backyard BBQ” is making headlines in Florida.

“The Tampa Bay Times” reported last week that Melissa Sellers, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former communications director, celebrated her 31st birthday with a bash at a lobbyist’s home in Tallahassee, Fla.

Sellers now works for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The paper reported: “It was held at the home of Daniel and Monica Russell ... Daniel happens to lobby for Northrop Grumman Corp., the Falls Church, Virginia-based military contractor that has been negotiating a tax incentive deal with local governments and the state of Florida that could reach nearly $19 million over the next five to 10 years. It would be the largest jobs-creating tax incentives deal since Scott became governor. The office that is handling those negotiations is the Department of Economic Opportunity, where Monica Russell is the spokeswoman.”

Sellers, who grew up in the Houston area, told the newspaper that she is friends with Monica Russell.

Gov. Jindal revisits 2012 controversy

During a Florida speech Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal touched on two issues that sparked controversy here in 2012.

Jindal said that, when he was pushing to expand access to vouchers, a teacher union official said parents “don’t have a clue” when making decisions about their children’s education.

The comment referred to a remark by Michael Walker-Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

He was quoted as saying that some parents in poverty may not have the time or information to make a decision on their child’s schooling.

Jindal said at the time that Walker-Jones should resign.

The LAE official said then that the governor’s statements were a distraction from key issues.

Jindal also repeated his view that, in the past, the state often rewarded public school teachers “for how long they have been breathing” instead of their impact on student achievement.

He made that comment initially as part of his push to toughen rules for teachers to earn and retain tenure, which the Legislature passed.

Sixty legislators get A grade from LAE

Forty-two of 105 Louisiana House members and 18 of 39 state senators received A grades from the Louisiana Association of Educators.

The 2013 Legislator report card, released Friday, graded legislators on how well their votes lined up with the positions of one of the state’s largest labor organizations.

The report card, which is attached to this story at theadvocate.com, looked at issues such as testing of disabilities, repealing sunset of supplemental pay for nationally certified teachers, supporting more per pupil funding for public school students.

In addition to votes in the chamber and committee, the legislators were graded on their access and “behind-the-scenes advocacy.”

Law pushes appointees to hold La. licenses

Soon a new law goes into effect that requires state government appointees making $100,000 or more to provide proof they have a valid Louisiana driver’s license and vehicle registration.

The law goes into effect Sept. 15.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, pushed for the change after news accounts of Jindal administration appointees, such as education policy adviser Stafford Palmieri, keeping out-of-state licenses and car registrations as they worked here.

Under the law, the Louisiana license and car registration would be a qualification for employment. Any person who does not meet the requirement or who no longer meets it would be removed from their unclassified job within 30 days of learning of the lapse.

Riser, Morris make no tax pledge for election

Two Republicans running for Louisiana’s 5th congressional seat signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to back the raising of taxes.

State Sen. Neil Riser, of Columbia, and state Rep. Jay Morris, of Monroe, according to a news release by the Washington, D.C.-based group run by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, will be resigning the U.S. Congress Sept. 26th and will become Secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

The special election to fill the rest of his term is set for Oct. 19th and 14 candidates have signed up to run.

In addition to Riser and Morris, the Republican candidates are state Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill; Monroe businessman Vance McAllister; and Calhoun resident Phillip “Blake” Weatherly.

The Democrats include state Rep. Marcus Hunter, of Monroe; state Rep. Robert Johnson, of Marksville; Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo; and former state Rep. R. Weldon Russell III, of Amite.

Baton Rouge underwriter S.B.A. Zaitoon and Delhi resident Henry Herford Jr. are running as Libertarians.

New Orleans real estate agent Eliot Barron is a member of the Green Party.

Fairbanks oil and gas landman Tom Gibbs and Lettsworth resident Peter Williams have no party affiliation.

The 5th District is one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation. It covers all or part of 24 parishes across northeastern Louisiana, through much of central Louisiana, across the northern Baton Rouge metro area — though not East Baton Rouge Parish itself — along the state line with Mississippi through the Florida Parishes to Washington Parish.

The Americans for Tax Reform “is working hard to make sure they all have an opportunity to sign the Pledge.”

Political handicappers in Washington, The Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report say a Republican likely will win the seat.

Jindal has 5 nominees to Ethics Board

The names of five New Orleans area lawyers have been forwarded to Gov. Bobby Jindal for potential appointment to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Nominees submitted by the state’s private college presidents include Elizabeth Alston, of Covington; Lori Walters, of New Orleans; Matthew Putfark, of Mandeville; Richard Traina, of Covington; and William Larzelere, of Metairie.

Larzelere is the oldest nominee at age 70 and Putfark the youngest at age 40. Larzelere has practice law the longest, 42 years. Walters is the only black nominee.

Under state law, Jindal must select someone from the list provided by the leaders of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

New Orleans lawyer Scott Schneider resigned from the 11-member board in July. Schneider, the board’s vice chairman, was one of three Jindal appointees who must be lawyers.

Association president MaryAnn Coleman said the nominating committee contacted nine other attorneys living in the 1st Congressional District in its search. “They either declined for possible conflicts of interest concerns or were ineligible,” Coleman said.

Candidate Dietzel to speak at GOP forum

Paul Dietzel, who is a candidate for 6th Congressional District, is slated to address the Livingston Parish Republican Women on Wednesday. A representative from Mighty Moms also will address the group’s monthly meeting.

The meeting begins 11:30 a.m. at Big Mike’s, 123 Aspen Square, Denham Springs, just north of I-12 off of Range Ave.

There is a charge for lunch. Reservations are recommended and may be made by contacting Terri Day at (225) 931-9206 or by email at terriday@eatel.net.

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