TOPS contributes to growing shortfall
The state’s financial picture got murkier Thursday.
Legislators learned that the shortfall for the current fiscal year that ends June 30 has grown from $211 million to $220 million, partly because not enough money was budgeted for TOPS scholarships.
Legislators have yet to decide how to deal with the problem.
Prison sale proposal unlikely to move
The Jindal administration’s bid to hire a private company to run an Avoyelles Parish prison may be dead this session.
State Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, told the House on Friday that he is unlikely to move forward with the proposal.
House Bill 850 is sitting on the House calendar, where it has been since Burns scrapped language calling for the sale of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport. Now the legislation simply calls for privatizing the prison in a move that would cost state workers their jobs.
Under legislation sponsored by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, the prison still could be sold. That proposal is awaiting a Senate committee hearing.
Representatives ham it up on meals
Disputes in the House over the use of one-time money in the state budget prompted some ribbing Friday from a New Orleans legislator.
One-time money is funding that likely only will materialize once.
State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, provided breakfast.
“The speaker pro-tem would like you to know there are doughnuts in the back. He did use one-time money to buy them,” state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, joked Friday.
As the clock ticked toward the noon hour, Leger offered to spring for lunch as well.
“We have recurring hunger so we’re going to use one-time money for lunch,” he joked.
Legislators lament budget session pace
The House held long recesses Thursday as legislators tried to work out their differences on the $25 billion state spending plan.
State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, made a plea to House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer as legislators trickled into the chamber with no apparent urgency to restart business.
“Come on, Butch, let’s get this show on the road,” Badon said. “I’ve got a fishing trip on Saturday.”
Another legislator, state Rep. Terry Brown, said he was ready for a long day of debate after being less equipped for education package discussions that went past midnight.
“I went to Wal-Mart this morning and bought two toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste,” Brown, No Party-Colfax, told House aides.
Brown joked that he might sell one of the toothbrushes to the highest bidder if budget debate skated into double digit hours.
Arnold says chairs prank ‘not my idea’
Members of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff needed to bring folding chairs if they wanted to sit down in the Louisiana House chamber Friday morning.
The chairs that the Jindal administration commands in the corner of the chamber briefly disappeared during the second day of disagreement over the $25 billion proposed state spending plan for the fiscal year opening July 1.
The dispute is pitted the Jindal administration against some Republican legislators.
Several people pointed to state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, as the culprit in the chair caper.
“It was not my idea,” Arnold said, adding that he did not act alone.
Arnold did hustle over to the House members’ lounge to shut the door once it was pointed out that the missing chairs were visible to passersby.
House security later retrieved the chairs and returned them to the corner of the chamber.
Dixon questions budget amendments
State Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, said he had lots of questions about expansive amendments offered Friday that would give the Jindal administration budget-cutting options to avoid use of one-time funds.
Dixon asked lead sponsor state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, a series of questions about its impact.
“I’m trying to get some understanding so when I go home to celebrate Mother’s Day, I don’t want all the other mothers calling me a mother,” said Dixon.
Republicans reverse no votes on vets item
The tense day-long debate Friday in the Louisiana House over the state’s spending plan often became bitter with recriminations and accusations flung back and forth.
State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, offered an amendment that had little to do with budget policy and principals. It sought to provide $500,000 for service-related disability or other war-related impediments.
Jones is a former aide to Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco who strongly criticized the way Republican leaders were handling the budget debate.
He explained that the amendment would provide transportation for disabled veterans, particularly those returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, to medical appointments and the like.
The amendment passed, 53-40, generally along party lines with many of the House Republicans voting against it.
Later, it dawned on some of the “nay” voters they had just recorded their opposition to helping disabled military. A surge quickly became a wave of lawmakers asking the House Clerk Butch Speer to change their vote. Proceedings were delayed for a few minutes to allow Speer and his deputies to gather the names.
A total of 23 Republican representatives and one without party affiliation switched their votes from no to yes.
Democratic Party official leaves post
Renee Lapeyrolerie has left the job of executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Lapeyrolerie took a job in the private sector after last month’s changing of the guard at the top of the party. State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, beat out Claude “Buddy” Leach, of Lake Charles, who was seeking re-election as party chair.
“I had a great time but I had an opportunity to work for an engineering firm doing governmental relations work,” said Laperolerie. She said she had informed Peterson and Leach a month before the election that she would be leaving.
Lapeyrolerie’s new job is with CDM Smith, which has offices around the world.
Teachers association head at Press Club
Louisiana Association of Educators President Joyce Haynes will address the Press Club of Baton Rouge at noon Monday.
Haynes will discuss a new law that links 50 percent of annual teacher evaluations to yearly gains in student test scores. The law will go into effect statewide during the 2012-2013 school year.
The Press Club meets at De La Ronde Hall in downtown Baton Rouge, 320 Third St. 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 members of the news media are allowed to ask questions.
La. budget forum
at noon Thursday
The League of Women Voters of Baton Rouge’s monthly Lunch With the League public forum meeting is scheduled for noon Thursday in Baton Rouge on “The Louisiana Budget: Tax cuts, exemptions, and rebates; Can Louisiana taxpayers afford them this year?”
The panelists include Kevin Kane, President, The Pelican Institute; Jan Moeller, Director, Louisiana Budget Project; Amite state Rep. John Bel Edwards, chair of the Democratic Legislative Caucus; Woody Jenkins, of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party.
Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the program begins at noon in the Bayou Room of the Drusilla Restaurant, 3482 Drusilla Lane, Baton Rouge.
Reservations are recommended and tickets are $25.00 per person. Members receive a 20 percent member discount.
Tickets for the luncheon may be purchased online at www.lwvbr.org or by calling (225) 927-2255 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cash or checks are accepted at the door.
Compiled by the Capitol news bureau. Contact email is email@example.com.