Politics Column for Sunday, May 5, 2013

State GOP pulls out stops over budget deal

After word leaked out of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on an alternative to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed state budget, the state GOP picked up the phone.

Legislators are considering balancing the budget with a combination of scaled back tax exemptions and spending cuts.

The Republican Party of Louisiana made “robo calls” warning that Democrats are embracing a $500 million Obama-style tax increase.

The call only refers to Democratic legislators even though the negotiations are a bipartisan effort that drew the support of House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, last week.

Louisiana Republican Party executive director Jason Doré said the party will use recorded messages and live calls to educate legislators and voters.

“News reports indicate that a deal is being negotiated to push a tax increase through the Legislature at record speed, possibly even Monday without affording the public any chance to read the bill or comment on its negative impact,” he said.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Dan Juneau warned that he also considers the reduction of tax breaks to be a tax increase.

Mills lists reasons
to OK Medicaid bill

State Sen. Fred Mills broke ranks with his Republican colleagues last week voting to advance a private insurance market-based expansion of Medicaid to the full Senate.

Mills, a banker and pharmacist from St. Martinville, listened as Jindal administration health officials declared the expansion too expensive for Louisiana taxpayers.

Then, Mills proceeded to note that the state’s TOPS college scholarship program started out at $93 million annually and now sits at $184 million. “We aren’t quitting on TOPS. We are not giving up,” because of rising costs, Mills said.

He noted a film tax credit that cost the state $16.5 million in 2006 and in 2012 its hit $228 million and an investment tax credit zoomed from $192 million annually to $390 million.

“But we can’t find a way to take care of health care because it’s going to cost too much,” Mills concluded.

Edwards makes trip to State Capitol

Ex-state legislators returned to the State Capitol en masse last week for what’s become an annual get-together.

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards was among them and got a standing ovation when he visited the state Senate. Edwards urged legislators to pass a balanced budget and do what they could to help the poor.

The four-term Democratic governor ended up posing for pictures with some of them, including Republican activists former state Rep. Woody Jenkins and former state Sen. Dan Richey.

“Never more than now do we need leadership for the good of the state,” Edwards told legislators. “It is my hope you can take care of the needs of the sick, the poor and the indigent.”

The four-term former governor also cracked a joke while prodding legislators to exercise their independence from the executive branch.

“Legislators ought to be independent,” he said. “I subscribed to that philosophy for all but 16 years of my life.”

State Rep. Kevin Pearson was trying to explain the vote on a motion to “indefinitely postpone” his legislation rewriting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cash balance retirement plan.

Pearson, R-Slidell, struggled for a little with a parliamentary explanation of “yes” and “no” votes.

Then, he got to the point: “A yes vote is to kill forever. A no is to not kill forever.”

Burns: Fiscal Hawks making their mark

State Rep. Tim Burns posed this question last week on his blog. “Are the ‘Fiscal Hawks’ Today’s ‘Young Turks’?”

Burns, R-Mandeville, said the Young Turks were a group of Louisiana legislators who in the late 1960s and early 1970s urged spending cuts, reducing the number of state employees and reducing the amount of state debt. “The also instituted a number of procedural reforms which substantially improved the independence and decorum of the legislature,” Burns wrote.

Fast forward to the “fiscal hawks” of today, who are legislators whose “focus is also on sound budget practices and, in particular, the use of ‘one-time’ money — also known as nonrecurring revenue — to offset recurring expenses in order to balance the state budget,” Burns wrote.

Burns wrote that the fiscal hawks and House Democrats formed a coalition last week to block an effort to circumvent their objection to one-time money use and, in turn, provide greater leverage in the budget approval process.

“While it is still a bit early to determine whether the Budget Hawks will live on in Louisiana political lore, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with in the 2013 legislative session, particularly with the support of the House Democrats,” Burns opined.

Mills named state senator of the year

Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, has been named 2012 State Senator of the Year by the Louisiana Assembly on School Based Health Care.

The assembly is a nonprofit professional membership organization comprising 65 school-based health clinics throughout Louisiana.

Mills was honored for his efforts to get state funding for the health clinics. The clinics provide access to primary and preventive care services to students who would otherwise not get treatment.

Compiled by
the Capitol news bureau

Red-light camera lobbyist set to retire

Tom Ed McHugh, executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association, has spent years arguing against efforts to make red light traffic cameras illegal.

McHugh, former mayor-president of Baton Rouge, successfully argued against one more such plan last week when a Louisiana House committee killed a proposal that would require local voters to approve the cameras.

“I will be back next year,” vowed state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans and sponsor of the measure, which is House Bill 217.

McHugh will not.

He said he plans to retire effective Dec. 31.

3 appointed to state Commerce Board

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office at week’s end announced three appointments to the 24-member state Board of Commerce and Industry.

The new members are Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux; Baton Rouge lawyer Jerry N. Jones, and Baton Rouge architect Thomas Holden.

The Board of Commerce and Industry serves to provide benefits and incentives to encourage businesses to locate or expand new or existing operations in Louisiana..

State VA official to address Press Club

David LaCerte, deputy secretary and executive counsel of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, will be the speaker for Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

LaCerte will discuss proposed legislation at the state and federal levels regarding veterans and the impacts of a possible troop reduction at Fort Polk.

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.

State Senate to hold Military Family Day

The Louisiana Senate will hold its 9th annual Military Family Day on Tuesday to honor the state’s fallen heroes and their families.

The ceremonies will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate chamber and honor nine soldiers who have died in the service of their country. A balloon release will follow on the steps of the State Capitol.

Since 2005, the Senate has honored 180 Louisiana soldiers in similar ceremonies.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, a veteran of the Vietnam War and U.S. Marine Corps., will read resolutions honoring each soldier. The resolution along with a state flag will be given to the soldier’s family.

Honored will be Louisiana National Guard Sgt. Michael Norbert Perry Jr., U.S. Navy Air Crewman Joseph “JP” Fitzmorris, U.S. Martin Lance Corporal Esrom “Izzy” Joseph, Louisiana Army National Guard Sgt. Kevin Weiner, U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael J. Guillory, Louisiana Army National Guard Specialist Ryan Michael Delrie, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry Dolan Bunn, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr.

Dardenne embarks on state tourism tour

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne leaves this week on a four-day, statewide tour celebrating National Tourism Week.

Dardenne will participate in tourism events beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday with a rally at New Orleans’ Royal Sonesta and ending at 1:30 p.m. in Raceland for a Bayou Lafourche Area CVB news conference.

The tour is to create awareness about the tourism industry and its $10.7 billion impact on the state’s economy.

Dardenne will travel in a mini-coach and update his Twitter and Facebook with his experiences from the road through @JayDardenne and www.facebook.com/Jay Dardenne.

Compiled by the Capitol news bureau. Contact address is cnb@theadvocate.com