Bill offers protection to public employees

State Rep. John Schroder wants to protect public employees from reprisals for providing requested information to a legislator or legislative committee.

The Republican legislator from Covington filed a bill that would put the protection in state law along with penalties for violators. The measure is up for consideration in the legislative session that opens March 10.

As Schroder filed the bill, state Civil Service issued a memorandum on classified employees’ rights to address legislators and support or opposed “issues of public interest.”

With the 2014 Legislature fast approaching, Civil Service said “questions have arisen” — thus the reminder of what’s OK and what’s not in the legislative arena and on public interest issues.

“Classified employees are prohibited from engaging in efforts to support or oppose a candidate, party, or faction in an election,” the memo states. “These constitutional restrictions do not prohibit a classified employee from expressing themselves either privately or publicly on issues that may be pending before the legislature or other public body.”

However, the Lobbying Act does prohibit any state employee classified or unclassified “in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer” from communicating with a legislator in an attempt to influence the passage or defeat of legislation.

After the general guidance there’s response to specific questions. Among them: “Can I place a sign in my yard supporting or opposing the creation of a new city?”

The answer: Yes, you can.

“The creation of a new city is an issue and not the support or opposition of a party, candidate, or faction seeking an elected office.”

La. political insiders riveted by Nagin trial

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin stands accused of taking bribes and using his political office for personal gain.

Across the state, political insiders are riveted by the trial and wondering just what Nagin had to say when he took the stand last week. Nagin is fighting 21 charges revolving around expensive private plane trips, granite deliveries, pricey dinners and meetings with contractors.

Nagin rose to prominence when he led the city during and after Hurricane Katrina. Now he is fighting allegations that he abused his position.

Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco said just one question came to mind when she recently scanned the latest courtroom report: Where did he find the time?

Like Nagin, Blanco’s life was transformed by the 2005 storm. She was governor when the hurricane hit. She said she didn’t get any semblance of a personal life back until she left office in 2008.

“I’m surprised that he had so much time to devote to personal business,” Blanco said.

Dardenne campaign fund tops $1 million

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne announced Friday that he has $1.2 million on hand for a possible gubernatorial run.

“Of the nearly 1,300 donations we received, more than 90 percent came from Louisiana. I’m humbled by your faith in & support of me,” Dardenne tweeted.

The campaign finance report filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics details cash raised and money spent in 2013. Dardenne, a Republican, collected $751,960.52 in contributions and spent $218,697.02. He had more than $700,000 in the bank before he started raising money in 2013.

Gov. Bobby Jindal cannot seek re-election in 2015 because of prohibitions against a third consecutive term. His removal from the race opens the field for candidates.

Dardenne said he intends to run for governor in 2015. Also in the race are U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite. State Treasurer John Kennedy — a Republican who lives in Madisonville — is another possible candidate.

The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a third-party Super PAC supporting Vitter, raised $1.5 million last year. Kennedy has a $3 million campaign war chest. Edwards has not detailed his numbers from 2013. He had $37,315.34 in his campaign bank account at the start of last year.

Legislation affects everyone differently

How issues in the Legislature are received in the public varies.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said he once met with teachers and asked about the impact of a $69 million increase for public schools last year, half of which was used to boost teacher pay.

Officials said at the time, while the increases would vary, the stipends would generally total $577.

But one teacher told Claitor hers amounted to $18.

“I had another teacher in the same meeting come and tell me that a reasonable amount made it her way,” he said.

Kleckley asks for review of state’s tax structure

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, wants an independent study to review Louisiana’s tax structure.

The review would include tax exemptions, deductions, credits and rebates. The panel would not be covering new ground. Legislators serving on the Revenue Study Commission pored over hundreds of tax exemptions for months in 2012 without recommending that any specific ones be stripped from Louisiana’s books.

The tax breaks divert several billion dollars a year from the state operating budget. They also make the state’s tax code difficult to navigate.

Kleckley said Friday that the new study group would build upon the Revenue Study Commission’s work. Tackling the study would be LSU economics professor Jim Richardson and two Tulane University faculty members.

“This gives us an independent group,” Kleckley said.

He said the study would cost $200,000 and would produce ideas in time for the 2015 legislative session. The Legislature and the Murphy Institute would share in the cost of the study. Expenses would include experts, research associates, doctoral students, materials, supplies and operating costs.

Ted Haik appointed to state energy board

Former legislator Ted Haik is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest appointment to the State Mineral and Energy Board.

Haik is a lawyer from New Iberia. He served as a state representative from 1976 to 1996.

Haik was appointed as the first chairman of the Louisiana Property and Casualty Commission in 1996 and continues to hold the position.

The 11-member Mineral and Energy Board oversees the leasing of state property for the development and production of minerals, oil and gas.

Political events

  • Monday, 11:30 a.m.: State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, will speak at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Peterson will discuss the status of the Louisiana Democratic Party, the U.S. Senate race involving Sen. Mary Landrieu, and the agenda for Democrats in the Louisiana Legislature’s session, which opens March 10.

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 costs $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.

  • Thursday, 9 a.m.: The Superintendents’ Advisory Council, which is often cited by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is scheduled to meet in the Claiborne Building, Iowa Room. The topic is education assessments.

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