Politics Column for Nov. 18, 2012

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Dr. Steve Nelson

Waguespack to still
work with state

The governor’s former chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, will continue to work with state government despite leaving the Jindal administration last month.

Jones Walker announced that Waguespack will work for the firm as special counsel and director of multi-state government relations. The firm said Waguespack also will focus on developing new business and economic development opportunities.

Kennedy offers tip
on reducing paper

State Treasurer John Kennedy offered the Jindal administration a tip Thursday for reducing paper.

In a pointed reference to Senate President John Alario’s clout as a legislator, Kennedy joked that the state construction budget is crammed with projects for Alario’s Westwego-based district.

“You could save money in the future if you took all the Westwego projects and put them on a disc,” Kennedy said, offering an alternative to printing the projects on paper for state officials’ perusal.

The state Bond Commission’s director, Whit Kling, countered that one disc might not hold all of Alario’s projects.

“That would be two discs,” he said.

Ethics Board fines
Orleans clerk $1,000

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins got a $1,000 fine for failure to timely file a supplemental campaign finance report for her February 2010 election.

Atkins had been facing a $2,500 penalty for submitting the report 237 days late.

Atkins’ representative Monica Bowers blamed computer problems she experienced in filing the report, and sought a waiver of the fine. She said she would have to pay the fine.

But Ethics Board vice chairman Scott Schneider of New Orleans noted five late campaign finance report filings in the past. “There’s too many late filings here,” Schneider said, moving to require the $1,000 fine and suspend the other $1,500 based on future compliance.

Ethics administrator Kathleen Allen said Bowers wouldn’t be responsible for the fine. The candidate or campaign would have to pay the cost.

Jindal’s support
for judge opposed

The American Tort Reform Association voiced “disappointment” with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s endorsement of Republican Louisiana Supreme Court candidate Jefferson Davis “Jeff” Hughes, of Walker, a judge on the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

“The governor’s support of Judge Hughes for the Supreme Court should worry every Louisianan who’s looking for work, and it should motivate the state’s business community to redouble its efforts to enlighten the governor about the economic virtues of reasonable limits on tort liability,” Tiger Joyce, president of American Tort Reform Association, said in a prepared statement shortly after the Friday conclusion of the group’s fall legislative conference in New Orleans.

Joyce said Hughes has connections to and support of lawyers who represent landowners seeking money damages for environmental harm caused years ago by oil drilling companies, called legacy lawsuits.

Hughes faces Judge John Michael Guidry, a Baton Rouge Democrat and his college on the appellate bench, in the Dec. 8 runoff election.

ATRA is a Washington, D.C., group that promotes efforts to limit plaintiffs access to courts and damages in civil lawsuits.

The group describes its membership as including “small and large companies, as well as state and national trade, business, and professional associations.”

Former campaign staffers start PAC

Former staffers of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign last week launched a political action committee called the Pelican State Liberty PAC, a press release says.

A former Libertarian Party standard-bearer and Republican congressman from coastal Texas, Paul carried the Louisiana Republican Caucus tallies in this year’s GOP presidential contests.

“Louisiana is ripe for a true restoration of the principles of limited government, personal liberty and personal responsibility.

“Too many elected officials have drifted away from these principles in recent years and we intend to hold them accountable,” Pelican State Liberty PAC Chairman Reilly O’Neal said in a prepared statement.

“Through the joint efforts of liberty activists and the Pelican State Liberty PAC, we will work to make the protection of liberty through legislative policy — policy that protects our citizens, our economy and Louisiana’s future — a political reality,” O’Neal said.

LSU dean a finalist for post at Kansas

Another top LSU health care executive could be leaving the state for a new job.

Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, is one of three finalists for the job of executive vice chancellor of the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City.

Nelson is a pulmonary medicine specialist who has been at the medical school since 1984.

Last week, LSU System health care official Dr. Roxane Townsend announced she was leaving to become University of Arkansas Medical Sciences vice chancellor of clinical affairs and chief executive officer of its 434-bed medical center and teaching hospital effective Feb. 1.

The activity comes as Gov. Bobby Jindal moves to dismantle the LSU public hospital system as it exists today, and to transfer more of the patient load and graduate medical education programs into the private sector.

Shelton appointed
to Board of Ethics

The Louisiana House has elected Ashley Kennedy Shelton of Baton Rouge as one of its two appointees to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Shelton, state director of One Voice, won a mail ballot election over Julianne Nice of New Orleans, a self-employed consultant for nonprofit organizations. Shelton received 54 votes to Nice’s 38 votes. Thirteen representatives didn’t vote.

Shelton replaces Vanessa LaFleur of Baton Rouge, who resigned from the Ethics Board in September to take an attorney job at the state Department of Revenue.

Shelton will serve the remainder of a five-year term that began Jan. 1.

Ethics Board grants
exception to Guillot

Members of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education aren’t supposed to enter into any contracts with state government under a law the Jindal administration passed in 2008.

So BESE member Jay Guillot, of Ruston, sought guidance from the Louisiana Board of Ethics about his company participating in the Louisiana Incumbent Worker Training Program. Did the arrangement fit, within an exception in the law for agreements providing for “public assistance benefits”?

Ethics staff initially determined that the arrangement would be a violation.

But Guillot’s attorney Jimmy Faircloth pressed the case with the Ethics Board, arguing that what Guillot is doing “fits the literal and intended language of the exception.” Faircloth was Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel when the law was passed.

Board member Jean Ingrassis, of Gonzales, said what the Legislature meant by “public assistance benefits” is not clear.

“We have struggled with a number of these ambiguous code sections,” said Ingrassia. “Did you write this by the way?” Ingrassia asked Faircloth.

“Some of it,” Faircloth replied, adding “Only the part you think is clear.”

The Ethics Board decided that Guillot’s arrangement fit the exception for “public assistance benefit.”

Opinion allows Cain
to be consultant

Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain can be a part-time consultant with Louisiana Workforce LLC without running afoul of state ethics laws.

That’s according to an opinion issued Friday in response to an inquiry from Cain.

Louisiana Workforce provides parish and state Department of Corrections offenders with job opportunities through its work release programs, according to documents Cain submitted.

The company has contracts with five sheriff’s for transitional work release programs and services for local and state offenders housed in those jurisdictions.

The firm does not have a contract with the Department of Corrections.

Cain said he plays no role in assigning offenders to private prisons or transitional work programs but makes recommendations based on guidelines set forth in state law as well as in Department of Corrections’ policy.

Dardenne to speak
at BR Press Club

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne will be the guest speaker for Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Dardenne will discuss state plans for the upcoming Super Bowl, being held in New Orleans in February, as well as his other recent activities.

The Press Club meets at the 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.

LHA to celebrate
its fifth anniversary

The Louisiana Housing Alliance is hosting its fifth anniversary and awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Baton Rouge Marriott.

The anniversary theme is “From ReAction to Action: LHA Five Years and Beyond.”

“We are excited about the accomplishments we have made over the past five years.

“Our work has evolved from disaster recovery efforts to meeting the needs of all Louisianians.

“We are eager to do even more to ensure everyone in Louisiana has quality housing opportunities,” Marla Y. Newman, Executive Director of LHA, said in a prepared statement.

LHA is a nonprofit statewide coalition that works to ensure the preservation and production of quality affordable housing for low and moderate income Louisianans and those with special needs.

For more information contact Ashley C. Lewis at (225) 381-0041, alewis@lahousingalliance.org or visit http://www.lahousingalliance.org.

Compiled by The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. Contact email is cnb@theadvocate.com.