Politics Column for Dec. 16, 2012

Commissioner bids farewell to panel

The Louisiana Public Service Commission on Wednesday honored Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, who is retiring after 16 years on the panel that sets the rates customers pay each month for power in Louisiana.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Field, who accepted a plaque from his colleagues at his last monthly meeting of the five-elected regulators.

Field gave as parting gifts to each colleague a copy of a collection of writings by Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, of Belfast, Ireland.

“This fellow does what he thinks is right all the time. That’s not something we politicians do,” said PSC Chairman Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish.

Field will be replaced in January by Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, the former secretary in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cabinet.

Oscar statue visits State Capitol

A touch of Hollywood came to the State Capitol last week.

Academy Award-winning illustrator William Joyce, of Shreveport, could not make it to the State Capitol for a recent legislative committee meeting.

Joyce sent a substitute in his absence: The Oscar he received for best animated short film last year.

The golden idol sat on a table in front of legislators as they discussed tax credits that benefit projects such as Joyce’s Moonbot Studios.

Tax data keeping economist up nights

A discussion about tax data at the State Capitol on Thursday delved into what a state economist fills his head with on sleepless nights.

Rather than counting sheep, Manfred Dix, economist for the Division of Administration, said he battles insomnia by thinking of what better data he could have for his number crunching.

“The rest of us have different fantasies,” Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, quipped.

Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said he likes data as well.

“But it’s not keeping me up at night,” Albrecht said.

New counsel
not a new face

The governor’s new executive counsel at the state Department of Revenue is not new to state government.

Tim Barfield served as the state’s labor secretary and the governor’s executive counsel before leaving the Jindal administration to take a job with Amedisys Inc.

Two years later, Barfield is back, this time leading the state Department of Revenue.

His agreement to speak to business leaders Wednesday prompted the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge to donate a children’s book to a local elementary school.

The club chose “The Cat and the Hat Comes Back.”

Harris elected delegation chair

First-term state Rep. Lance Harris, of Alexandria, has been elected chairman of the Louisiana House Republican Legislative Delegation. He will serve for remainder of the 2012-16 legislative term.

Harris, elected without opposition, began serving as chairman effective immediately.

He succeeds state Rep. Anthony Ligi, of Metairie.

State Rep. Ligi
leaves office Jan. 1

State Rep. Anthony Ligi, R-Metairie, announced Friday that he is resigning his post, effective Jan. 1.

Ligi will become executive director and chief legal counsel for the Jefferson Business Council.

“I’m not going to be lobbying you, but I am going to be around quite a bit,” Ligi told fellow members of the House Appropriations Committee when he made the announcement.

No date has been set for a special election to pick Ligi’s successor.

State Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, will take Ligi’s spot on the appropriations panel, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said.

Message: Request ‘woefully inadequate’

Officials of the state Department of Education got a pointed message Friday from the chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

The agency was supposed to make a detailed presentation on its operations to the panel before lawmakers begin reviewing budget proposals for the 2013-14 financial year.

But state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, chairman of the panel, said legislative staffers told him the department’s response to the committee’s request was “woefully inadequate” and would be rescheduled for a later date.

Donahue, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he also wants to meet privately with state Superintendent of Education John White to review the issue.

Jones retires from Civil Service

State Civil Service Deputy Director Jean Jones is retiring after more than 30 years with the agency.

Jones began her career with the state’s personnel agency in 1980 where her first job was to develop a process to find and hire the best qualified people to teach vocational skills to handicapped citizens.

Since then, her work has centered on open and fair competition for state jobs and implementing programs such as “Recruiting Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” and the state’s first online job application system.

Jones has been deputy director since 2004.

“The state of Louisiana is losing extensive institutional knowledge in Jean’s retirement,” Civil Service Director Shannon Templet said.

Jones will stay on the job until March, when she will be succeeded by Byron Decoteau Jr. Decoteau is currently the chief of Civil Service’s compensation division.

Replacing Decoteau will be Chris Deer.

In another job change, Melinda Robert will become chief of Civil Service’s Accountability Division. Patrick Lowery has stepped down from that post.

Tax administrator recognized

Louisiana’s former Department of Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges is being recognized as tax administrator of the year by national magazine State Tax Notes.

Bridges served in the state job for 12 years before leaving under pressure to become executive director of the California State Board of Equalization.

In its write-up, State Tax Notes said Bridges, who served under three governors, “has been praised for transforming the department into a leader in customer service.” It goes on to list more of Bridges’ accomplishments in Louisiana, including a new integrated tax system, implementing private sector best practices into the agency and working with other agencies and taxpayer groups “to better meet the needs of taxpayers and to increase voluntary compliance.”

The article said, “Despite her stellar record and reputation in the field, Bridges’ resignation as Louisiana’s revenue secretary did not come without controversy.”

It goes on to recount the dispute over an emergency ruling she issued related to the state’s alternative fuels tax credit. Gov. Bobby Jindal reversed the ruling and she soon departed.

“Many believed, as one leader in the field told State Tax Notes, that her resignation looked like ‘standing on a principle in the face of the boss’s disagreement.’ That position was respected among her colleagues and others in the field.”

Albrecht, Richardson to speak at Press Club

Greg Albrecht and Jim Richardson will speak at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday about the state budget.

Albrecht is the chief economist with the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office. Richardson, an LSU economics professor, is a member of the Revenue Estimating Conference. Press Club meets Mondays at De La Ronde Hall, 320 Third St., in downtown Baton Rouge.

Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers.

The public is invited.

La. National Guard rep to give lecture

Brigadier General JoAnne F. Sheridan, assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana Army National Guard, will address the Pelican State Pachyderm Club at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

She plans to speak on the role of the Louisiana Guard in national defense, the role of the guard in Louisiana emergency response and the role of women in the military.

The event takes place Five Happiness Chinese Restaurant, 3511 S. Carrollton, in uptown New Orleans. The cost for members is $25 and for guests is $35. RSVP to miltonatebara@aol.com.

Compiled by the Capitol news bureau. Email cnb@theadvo
cate.com.