Washington Briefs: GOP bigwigs back Landrieu

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., last week touted outpacing her 2014 re-election opponent in fundraising and she noted the support she has from top Republican donors and power brokers such as New Orleans developer Joe Canizaro and Lockport shipyard magnate Boysie Bollinger.

Landrieu’s GOP opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, responded in a fundraising letter by calling Bollinger and Canizaro part of “an elite class that supports Mary across the political spectrum … but most of us are not in that elite class.”

Bollinger offered a prepared statement backing Landrieu earlier in the week.

“Any challenger to Sen. Landrieu will have a hard time building support as more and more prominent business leaders back her,” Bollinger stated. “People know that at the end of the day, Mary always fights for our state.”

Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, succeeded last month in securing $335 million for six new “fast response cutter” ships for the U.S. Coast Guard. The ships are built in Lockport.

Kennedy criticizes budget plan

Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy said Friday the federal budget released last week by the Obama Administration could hurt local governments’ ability to sell bonds to raise money for bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

The administration’s proposed federal budget for 2014 includes a 28 percent cap on the tax exemption claimed on municipal bonds by individuals earning more than $200,000 or couples more than $250,000.

Local governments sell bonds that often have lower interest rates but the returns are tax-exempt.

The bonds often are sold to wealthy investors who can exempt the interest from their federal income taxes.

Limiting the exemption available “would result in higher interest rates and increased borrowing costs for much-needed infrastructure projects in Louisiana and other states. It would also place an additional and unnecessary financial strain on cash-strapped public entities,” Kennedy said.

The independent, bipartisan tax reform group Bowles-Simpson also suggested limiting the tax break.

Cassidy and Vitter file bills

Cassidy and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., filed mirror versions of the “Offshore Fairness Act” to extend states’ offshore jurisdictions and to give them regulatory control over red snapper fisheries.

The legislation would extend the offshore jurisdiction for states from Louisiana to Virginia from 3 miles to 10 miles.

Texas and eastern Florida have jurisdiction for three marine leagues, or 10.36 miles, off their coasts.

The bill does the same for other Southern states.

There have been complaints about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s regulation of red snapper fisheries.

“The bill doesn’t only grant states’ rights to energy resources with additional property rights; it also gives them exclusive fishery management authority over reef fish within the new boundary,” Vitter stated.

“And given the federal government’s abysmal management of the red snapper fishery, my bill extends jurisdiction of that resource – up to 200 miles off the states’ coast.”

Fort Polk closure meeting

U.S. Army officials have scheduled a Community Listening Meeting for 5 p.m. Monday at the United Pentecostal Church in Leesville to gather information concerning the Army 2020 Force Restructure decision.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced earlier this year a reduction of approximately 5,300 soldiers and Army civilians at For Polk in Vernon Parish. The number grows to a loss of 13,000 when contractors, support personnel and dependents are factored in.

Leesville officials are organizing civic organizations, church and school groups to line the streets of Leesville along La. 467 to Third Street, then Texas Avenue to the First United Pentecostal Church.

This is the route that Department of the Army officials will take to the church for the community.

Energy proposal gets hearing

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Friday began discussing a proposal by Cassidy that would give Congress more oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cassidy’s Energy Consumers Relief Act, which has not yet been filed, would apply to any rules proposed by the EPA that are estimated to cost more than $1 billion.

If that threshold is crossed, a proposed regulation would require a cost-benefit analysis be sent to Congress and additional support from the secretary of energy.

“This bill is about letting the American people know if they may lose their jobs due to an EPA energy-related rule,” Cassidy said.

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email is jblum@theadvocate.com