Dardenne drops lawsuit against MoveOn.org over roadside billboard

Billboard criticizing Jindal to stay for at least six months

A roadside billboard that uses Louisiana’s tourism slogan to criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid will stay up at for at least another six months, a national advocacy group said Tuesday.

MoveOn.org’s announcement came a day after Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne dropped his lawsuit that sought to force the pro-Medicaid expansion group to remove the billboard along Interstate 10 in Port Allen.

The group responded to the suit’s dismissal by saying contributions from MoveOn members across Louisiana and the country will allow the billboard to remain at least through November.

“MoveOn members are determined to end the Republican Medicaid blockade so that nearly five million Americans can finally have access to affordable health care,” MoveOn Executive Director Anna Galland said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

“This billboard in Louisiana will be a constant reminder to Gov. Jindal and Republican officials in the state that we are not backing down until they stop blocking Medicaid,” she said.

Dardenne’s dropping of the suit Monday came five weeks after a federal judge in Baton Rouge refused to order MoveOn to take down the billboard.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled in early April that the state failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail MoveOn’s political speech in favor of protecting the state’s registered “Pick Your Passion” trademark.

Dardenne said Tuesday that because the judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction against MoveOn, his office chose not to seek a permanent injunction.

“We felt like the best course of action was to dismiss the lawsuit,” he said.

Dardenne had argued the slogan is registered as a trade service for Louisiana’s tourism campaign and cannot be used. He contends its use by MoveOn creates confusion and detracts from state marketing efforts.

But Dick said in her April ruling it is a strain for the state to argue that viewers of the billboard will be confused into thinking the Lieutenant Governor’s Office is criticizing the governor. She said Dardenne “underestimates the intelligence and reasonableness of people viewing the billboard.”

MoveOn’s billboard says: “Louisiana: Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal is denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

States have the option of expanding government health insurance coverage to residents whose annual income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $15,850 for an individual and about $32,500 for a family of four.

The federal government pays 100 percent of the expansion costs the first three years and no less than 90 percent in the years thereafter.

Jindal has said it would cost the state too much money in the long run and it builds on a broken Medicaid system.