Politics Column for Sunday, March 3, 2013

UNO to honor N.O. native Larroquette

The University of Louisiana system board on Tuesday granted the University of New Orleans’s request to grant Emmy Award winning actor and New Orleans native John Larroquette an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at its spring graduation.

Larroquette, 65, won four Emmys for his portrayal as lawyer Dan Fielding on the NBC sitcom “Night Court.” He later won critical acclaim for his role as John Hemmingway on “The John Larroquette Show.”

Knapp: Higher ed budget cuts hurt La.

Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp didn’t paint the rosiest picture of the state Legislature at a higher education conference six days ago.

Knapp said year-after-year budget cuts to higher education has been “the biggest hindrance” to the state’s economic development. “The Legislature is not set up to make tough decisions. We have an environment where it’s impossible to add new revenues and the Legislature is historically unwilling to give up tuition authority,” he said.

On the Legislature’s attitude toward LSU, Knapp said: “There is no path to funding LSU as a flagship like its peers around the country. The hard decisions aren’t being made.”

News conference free, but not tour

Oak Alley Plantation seemed to indicate Thursday in a tweet that the public would need to buy tickets to attend Gov. Bobby Jindal’s news conference at the historic home.

Jindal visited the plantation to make an economic development announcement.

“Bobby will be here for a private announcement. Public is welcome, but they must purchase ticket to grounds,” Oak Alley tweeted hours before the event.

The governor’s communications director, Kyle Plotkin, said the tweet stemmed from a misunderstanding among the plantation’s staff.

He said the news conference was open for free to the public, but anyone wanting to tour the plantation afterward needed to buy a ticket.

Nungesser mulling run for Lt. Gov.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is eying another run for lieutenant governor come 2015.

If Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne makes a governor’s race bid, “then I’m definitely going to make a run for it,” Nungesser said last week.

Nungesser was in Baton Rouge for a $1,000 per person luncheon fundraiser as he continues to retire a debt left over from the 2011 campaign. Nungesser’s 2012 campaign report showed he still owed himself $245,000.

Nungesser said he’s trying to pay off the debt and “get a good jump” on the next election early.

“I learned a lot last time,” said Nungesser, who said in 2011 he got in the race late and was dealing with problems back home including the BP oil spill aftermath.

He promised a “hands-on” campaign next time around.

Ortego wants focus on education, health

State Rep. Stephen Ortego called Jindal’s tax swap plan, which eliminates individual and corporate income tax, “a dangerous distraction more than anything” in a Press Club of Baton Rouge talk last week.

He said the state needs to focus on education and health care, “which is what people in Louisiana are really longing for.”

Not a year ago, Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret was bragging about Louisiana being ranked as second in the nation by the Tax Foundation for tax friendliness to new business and 10th lowest for mature firms, said Ortego, D-Carencro.

“Now all of a sudden it has become a problem,” Ortego told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

La. insurance panels to study ‘Obamacare’

The Legislature’s insurance committees have scheduled a March 13 special hearing on the federal health care revamp, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Legislators will gather information about the possible expansion of the Medicaid program to provide health care services to more Louisiana residents and the operation of a health insurance exchange program to offer affordable health insurance coverage.

Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected the idea of Medicaid expansion, which some have estimated could give health coverage policies to about 420,000 uninsured people in the state. Jindal also rejected setting up an insurance exchange, another key piece of the federal law, through which consumers could compare and shop for their own insurance policies offered for sale by private companies.

“Despite much speculation to the contrary over the last several years, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the law of the land,” Senate Insurance Committee chairman Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, said in calling the meeting.

“We want to hear from all of those involved on all sides of the issue to help us determine what is the right thing to do for Louisiana and our citizens when it comes to deciding how to implement the health care reforms in our state. There is too much at stake not to do otherwise,” he said.

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in House Committee Room 5 at the State Capitol.

Governor names Woodley to panel

Gov. Bobby Jindal has named newly hired University of Louisiana system President Sandra Woodley to the Board of Control for Southern Regional Education. The board organizes education leaders in member states to work toward advancing education and improving the social and economic conditions in the southeast region of the country.

Erwin to address Press Club of BR

Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, will be the guest speaker for Monday’s lunch meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Erwin will discuss tax reform, a topic for the Legislature for the first time in a number of years. CABL has been monitoring and analyzing proposals from the governor and legislators, as well as other state think-tank groups.

The Press Club meets 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, but only members of the Press Club and the news media are allowed to ask questions.

Brazile headlines N.O. political forum

Democratic strategist and New Orleans native Donna Brazile will serve as the featured speaker of the Institute of Politics event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Loyola University in the Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall on the second floor of the Communications/Music Complex on the school’s main campus.

The event, “Stirring the Political Pot with CNN’s Donna Brazile” is free and open to the public.

Call Tommy Screen at (504) 864-7082 for more information.

Appellate candidates to appear at event

The Livingston Parish Republican Women will host the candidates for the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and the elected officials from the area to talk about their legislative agenda for the 2013 session at their monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting begins at 11:30 a.m. at Wholly Grounds, 27988 Walker S. Road, which is on La. 447, just north of Interstate 12 in Walker.

There is a charge for lunch. Reservations are required and may be made by contacting Terri Day at (225) 931-9206 or email terriday@eatel.net.

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