Politics Column for Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013

capitol news bureau

Trina Edwards
Trina Edwards

State lawmakers’ pay goes up Oct. 1

Louisiana legislators’ compensation is going up Oct. 1.

Their per diem is increasing from $149 to $153.

That means they will get $4 more for each day they are in session, attend interim committee meetings or other conferences related to their position.

Under state law, the payment is tied to the reimbursement rate federal employees receive while traveling in the Baton Rouge area. That rate went up so the legislators’ per diem goes up too.

The per diem is in addition to base pay of $16,800 and a $6,000 unvouchered expense allowance. Legislative leadership’s base compensation is more. It’s all part of their taxable compensation package.

Per diem stood at $75 when legislators first tied it to the federal rate.

State treasurer joins coroner recall effort

State Treasurer John Kennedy added his signature to a recall effort aimed at St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan.

Controversy swirls around Galvan because of payroll levels, out-of-state trips, expense account issues and take-home cars. Legislators took steps earlier this year to force Galvan to cede control of revenue generated by a Coroner’s Office millage to the St. Tammany Parish government.

Kennedy, who lives in Madisonville, signed a petition that seeks to force Galvan from office. The state treasurer said Galvan should resign.

“It’s abuse to me, and I’m very surprised that it could happen in St. Tammany. As a resident, I’m embarrassed that it could happen in St. Tammany,” Kennedy said.

Trina Edwards posts about reality show

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ wife, Trina, told Facebook followers last week that their reality show is nearly ready for broadcast.

“Just finished filming season 1 ... Now on our way to our second job. New Iberia here we come!” Trina Edwards posted, without explaining what the second job is.

The reality show — called “The Governor’s Wife” — was supposed to debut last February on A&E. Edwards said the show could start airing next month.

The show will focus on Edwards, his wife and their blended family of seven children. The couple welcomed a son, Eli, in August. With two teenagers and a newborn, they have an active life.

State tax amnesty program set to start

Louisiana starts a tax amnesty program Monday.

“LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start” will run through Nov. 22.

The program gives delinquent taxpayers and non-filers a chance to settle up by paying all taxes due, with a waiver of all penalties and 50 percent of the interest owed.

Information about the program is available at www.ldrtaxamnesty.com, where beginning Monday eligible taxpayers can submit amnesty applications and make payments electronically.

New Iberia mayor’s plan gets cool reception

New Iberia Mayor Hilda Curry’s request to use campaign funds for a trip to France and Belgium got a cool reception from ethics officials last week.

Curry asked the Louisiana Board of Ethics if airfare and hotel expenses could be paid through her campaign account as she travels to meet with dignitaries of both countries. The idea is to foster twin city relationships.

The board declined to render an opinion because no appointments have been made with local officials in France or Belgium. The board told Curry to return when an itinerary is set for the proposed spring 2014 trip.

Board member Peppi Bruneau of New Orleans said he would have no problem with the travel use if she could demonstrate the spending relates to her holding public office.

“The way it looks right now it’s a trip,” Bruneau said.

Seafood board seeks executive director

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board is accepting applications until Oct. 6 for its vacant executive director position.

Ewell Smith resigned from the post Aug. 23.

The full position announcement and job description, including qualifications and application instructions, can be found on the website of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, or CRT.

A new state law transferred oversight of the seafood board to CRT which is headed by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne will select a new executive director from a list of nominees submitted by the Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Board chairman is chef John Folse.

Duplessis to head school choice group

Former state Sen. Ann Duplessis is the new president of the Louisiana Federation for Children.

It is the state branch of The American Federation for Children, which touts itself as the nation’s leading advocate for education choice.

“Ann’s leadership and experience are necessary in our efforts to help children trapped in failing schools,” Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel of the national group, said in a prepared statement.

Duplessis told a Baton Rouge gathering in April that she changed from a state senator who worked to kill some of the state’s early voucher legislation to becoming convinced that students need more options to escape failing public schools.

She is also a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Poll: Many oppose federal voucher lawsuit

Ann Duplessis’ parent group, The American Federation for Children, released a poll that says 63 percent of state residents oppose a lawsuit filed last month by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Federal officials contend the vouchers risk upsetting school desegregation orders.

The legal action is aimed at requiring that public school students in some districts win the approval of a federal court before they can get a state voucher.

The survey said that 63 percent of residents asked about the issue said they oppose the legal action and 24 percent back it.

“These results send a strong message to our leaders in Washington — the people in Louisiana deplore this attempt to take away their right to a better education,” Chavous said in a prepared statement.

The group said the poll included 800 likely voters, was done Sept. 10-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percent.

It was done by On Message Inc, which includes Timmy Teepell as one of its principals.

Teepell is a political strategist for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has repeatedly criticized the lawsuit as a bid to force low-income students to remain in troubled public schools.

Donelon to discuss health care revamp

Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon will be the guest speaker for Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Donelon will discuss the federal health care revamp and flood insurance.

The Press Club meets in the Iberville Room at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St. Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street.

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.

Senate candidate to address Pachyderms

U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness will be the guest speaker for Thursday’s meeting of the Pachyderms of Greater Baton Rouge.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, 3084 College Drive in Baton Rouge.

Maness retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2011 as a full colonel, ending 32 years of military service. He works in the utility industry as a director and resides in Madisonville.

The U. S. Senate race is slated for November 2014.

Cost for the buffet is $13. Pachyderm meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. Reservations are requested. RSVP: (225) 644-5728 or email: info@pachydermsofgbr.org.

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