Capitol Buzz

Last week, State Treasurer John Kennedy did something decidedly out of political character. He praised Gov. Bobby Jindal, applauding him for undertaking an overseas business mission.

“The new reality is we must sell ourselves in the global marketplace, and we have a good story to tell. This requires us to be aggressive, and I commend the governor for his efforts overseas to grow much-needed jobs in Louisiana.”

Jindal and Kennedy have a lot in common. Both men are Republicans. Both are statewide elected officials. Both are Rhodes Scholars who studied at Oxford University in England. Both were cabinet secretaries before running for political office.

Despite their similarities, their friendship always has been strained. Kennedy is quick to offer unwelcome advice to the young governor.

Kennedy presented a 16-point plan in 2010 that he contended could protect higher education and health care from deep budget cuts by saving the state $2.6 billion. The Jindal administration responded by launching a webpage debunking many of the points.

Two years later, Kennedy accused the governor of using scare tactics to fight the Louisiana House’s changes to the $25 billion state spending plan. The governor’s top aide, Paul Rainwater, responded by characterizing Kennedy’s ideas as half-baked.

Now Kennedy could not be more proud that Jindal flew across the world for a job creation trip to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. The governor returned Saturday.

Republicans prepare for upcoming session

Look for tort reform, Common Core and budget cuts to play into the Republican agenda for upcoming legislative session.

Louisiana House Republicans met Thursday and Friday at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center. High level conversations were held in preparation for the long, regular session that starts in March.

“We heard from different speakers from industry. It was more of a unity thing,” said state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napeoleonville.

The lineup included state Education Superintendent John White; Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; and Gifford Briggs, vice president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

“We heard from members of industry and business. We talked amongst ourselves,” state Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mande-ville. One idea to make Louisiana more business friendly was further tort reform.

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, said another big issue is Common Core, the set of more rigorous educational standards that apply to reading, writing and math. Critics contend they standards reflect meddling by the federal government.

State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, has been doing a session countdown on Facebook, listing the number of days left before legislators can overturn Common Core.

Parents’ group shows Common Core support

About half a dozen parents unfurled a banner at the January meeting of Louisiana’s top school board with what they said included about 5,000 signatures of parents and others who support plans for more rigorous reading, writing and math courses, which is called Common Core.

Yvette Armstrong, a New Orleans mother of six boys, told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that Hurricane Katrina damaged the state’s education system.

“When I heard about Common Core state standards, I had hope for the first time in a long time,” Armstrong said after the presentation. She is a member of Stand for Children, which backs Common Core.

Backers said the new standards will improve student achievement.

Opponents call the changes an intrusion on local school issues by federal officials.

Common Core has been endorsed by BESE and 44 other states.

Former official: More health care needed

The U.S. has the finest doctors, hospitals and medical researchers but its health care delivery system is one of the worst in the world, according to David Hood, a former state health chief.

Hood said too many people are lacking health care coverage. An expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage, which Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes in Louisiana, would help, he said.

“All these other rich countries in the world have coverage at 100 percent, 99 percent, 98 percent. We are the only ones that have 15 percent to 18 percent uninsured. I think we have a long way to go,” Hood said.

Hood noted that Jindal was on a trip to Asia to see if he could get industries to invest in Louisiana. “While he’s around there I hope he talks to them about their health care plans. Japan and South Korea have about 100 percent in terms of coverage and they spend much less than we do,” Hood said.

Fred Cerise a finalist in Dallas hospital search

Former LSU System Vice President Fred Cerise is one of three finalists for chief executive officer of Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Parkland is a mammoth public county hospital which serves the poor. It has a close relationship with Texas medical education programs.

Cerise headed LSU’s charity hospital system, with ten hospitals and related clinics, before its dismantling by the Jindal administration and private takeovers. The administration installed Dr. Frank Opelka to implement the privatization plan which Cerise did not favor.

Prior to that, Cerise was the state’s health secretary.

Cerise is currently associate dean for clinical affairs at LSU Health Science Center’s School of Medicine in New Orleans.

Cerise traveled to Dallas last week for a round of interviews.

BESE members say communication lacking

How members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education learned of a state investigation of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system sparked a wide-ranging discussion on the panel about how they are kept abreast.

The state Department of Education disclosed Jan. 9 that it was seeking records from the district amid “discrepancies among student graduation records.”

Bernard Taylor, superintendent for the district, said he is confident his school system will be cleared.

However, some BESE members said last week they were left in the dark about the state probe, and that new rules are needed to ensure that they are made aware of important department investigations.

Lottie Beebe, a BESE member who lives in Breaux Bridge, said two of her colleages left the board last year, which she said she learned by reading a newspaper.

“We need better communications,” Beebe said.

Some board members said any policy needs to be written in such a way that BESE members are not barraged with notices of low-level department inquiries.

State Superintendent of Education John White said the department will come up with a proposal to address the concerns.

Secretary of State: Election proposals ‘light’

Secretary of State Tom Schedler is proposing 19 changes to the state’s election laws for consideration by the 2014 Legislature which convenes March 10.

But Schedler said don’t look for any of changes recommended in “omnibus” election bill to stir any kind of controversy.

“I find it to be light. It truly is noncontroversial,” Schedler said.

He said that’s by design because he didn’t want to do “anything to taint us” when it comes to voting rights.

Stafford retires, leaving opening on ethics board

There is a vacancy on the 11-member Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Ethics Board chairman Blake Monrose announced that retired Alexandria lawyer Grove Stafford has resigned.

“We will be taking the steps to have a new board member appointed,” Monrose said.

The steps start with Louisiana private college presidents submitting nominations from which the governor will make an appointment.

Jindal reappointed Stafford to the board in 2010. The board polices state conflict of interest, nepotism, personal financial disclosure, campaign finance and lobbyist reporting laws.

Education leader supports Course Choice

Louisiana’s Course Choice program has sparked lots of debate.

The aim is to offer public school students access to hard-to-get and other classes by using private providers, both online and in person.

Critics question the quality and costs of the classes.

Officials of several providers made presentations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Count state Superintendent of Education John White as a big supporter of the program.

After the testimonials White reminded BESE that he is not an emotional person.

“This program makes me emotional,” he said.

Southern alumnus follows chancellor’s lead

Last month when Southern University Chancellor James Llorens and his wife Glenda donated $10,000 to help launch the “Chancellor’s Centennial Scholarship Fund,” they were hoping the money would encourage other people to donate.

It seems to have worked. Early last week, Southern alumnus Irving Matthews and his wife Darlene donated $50,000 to the fund to endow four-year scholarships to two students entering Southern this fall.

The Matthews scholarship will provide full tuition scholarships for eight consecutive semesters to recipients.

“The commitment by Mr. and Mrs. Matthews strikes at the core of the mission of Southern University — access to higher education and academic support for success,” Llorens said.

Matthews is a 1970 engineering graduate and native of Lake Charles. He is the owner of Ford dealerships in Mount Dora and Stuart, Fla.

Groups to offer live polling service

JMC Enterprises of Louisiana-JMC Analytics and Polling and Basin Consulting Group are joining forces to offer live operator polling.

The new service comes in addition to the automated polling done by JMC.

JMC founder is John Couvillon. Basin is headed by former Mayor Pro-tem Mike Walker and Kenny Weber.

Landrieu helps restore funds for black colleges

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was able to secure a provision worth $224 million for the nation’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, known as HBCUs, as part of the bill federal budget bill that landed on President Barack Obama’s desk late last week. The bill restores $8 million in previously scheduled cuts.

Louisiana HBCUs are eligible to apply for the funding.

State HBCUs include Dillard, Grambling State and Xavier universities and Southern’s campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport

Jindal to speak at Chicago GOP dinner

Gov. Bobby Jindal is speaking at a Feb. 25 dinner in Chicago weeks before the GOP fights to regain control of the Illinois Governor’s Office for the first time in more than a decade. Democrats also hold super majorities in the Illinois House and Senate and control most statewide offices.

Four candidates are seeking the GOP nomination in the March 18 primary: state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and businessman Bruce Rauner.

The winner will likely face Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November general election.

LSU center to hold campaign seminar

LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs and the Manship School of Mass Communication is holding an eight-week seminar on the latest campaign strategies and tactics.

Some of the topics this year will cover “big data,” using polling to shape messaging and Louisiana politics in 2014. More information on course topics can be found at www.manship.lsu.edu/aap.

The Academy of Applied Politics will be on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Journalism Building on LSU’s campus. The academy will run March 6 through April 24.

The course is open to the public, although enrollment will be capped at 35. The tuition is $550. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 7.

Political events

  • MONDAY, 11:45 A.M.: Forum on Acadiana’s two coastal flood-control entities to state’s network of levee boards. Panel includes Chenier Plain Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority board members Ryan Bourriaque and Phillip L. “Scooter” Trosclair, along with a representative from the Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District. The Daily Advertiser, Community Room, 1100 Bertrand Drive, Lafayette.

MONDAY, NOON: Joe Traigle, a former state Revenue Secretary and Baton Rouge community activist, will address the Press Club of Baton Rouge. His topic will be “Steps Toward Great City Status.” Iberville Room, Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St. Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street. 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.

  • MONDAY, 5 P.M.: Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie, will hold a town hall meeting at the Plaquemines Parish Public Library, 8442 La. Hwy. 23, Belle Chasse.

TUESDAY, 12:30 P.M.: Pelican Institute for Public Policy forum discusses market-based approaches to addressing Louisiana’s environmental challenges. Panelists include U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; Garret Graves, chairman of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority; Iain Murray, of Competitive Enterprise Institute; and Alex Bozmoski, of Energy and Enterprise Initiative. Juban’s Restaurant, 3739 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge.

  • TUESDAY, 6 P.M.: U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, answers questions at a town hall meeting. Walker City Hall Building on 10136 Florida Boulevard, Walker.

TUESDAY, 6:25 P.M.: Patti Glazer and Dianne Hollis of Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy will address the Pelican State Pachyderm Club. The DoubleTree Hotel, 2150 Veterans Boulevard near Williams, Kenner. Cost is $25 per member and $35 per guest. miltonatebara@aol.com.

THURSDAY, 6:30 P.M.: Paul Dietzel, a candidate for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District seat, will be the speaker at the Pachyderms of Greater Baton Rouge meeting. Upstairs meeting room at LeBlanc’s Frais Marche, 14635 Airline Hwy., Gonzales. A $3 meeting room fee will be charged at the door. Reservations (225) 644-5728 or info@pachydermsofgbr.com.

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