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Jindal names assistant chief of staff, policy director

Gov. Bobby Jindal has promoted two of his policy staffers.

Stafford Palmieri will serve as assistant chief of staff, and Natalie LaBorde will serve as policy director — Palmieri’s previous position, according to a news release from Jindal’s office.

Laborde previously served as senior policy adviser to Jindal.

Palmieri, a New York native, has a degree in political science from Yale. She previously worked for the Washington, D.C.-based the Thomas B. Fordham Institute before joining Jindal’s administration as a policy adviser.

Laborde, who has political science and law degrees from LSU, previously worked in Australia on the The A21 Campaign, an international anti-human trafficking organization.

Jindal Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin previously held the assistant chief of staff position.

Anti-abortion law challenged

The constitutionality of a new state law requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital is being challenged in federal court.

Attorneys for abortion clinics in Metairie, Shreveport and Bossier City and two physicians filed a lawsuit Friday  in U.S. District Court in the Middle District to stop the law from going into effect Sept. 1.

“…if the statute is enforced on its effective date of September 1, 2014, it is not at all clear that any doctor currently providing abortions at a clinic in Louisiana will be able to continue providing those services, thereby eliminating access to legal abortion in Louisiana,” according to the filing.

“As such, the admitting privileges requirement threatens irreparable injury to the Clinic Plaintiffs, their staff, and their patients, including but not limited to, by depriving Plaintiff’s patients’ of their constitutional right to an abortion.”

The law, passed in the 2014 Legislature, was pushed by anti-abortion forces who said it was aimed at protecting the health of women who get abortions.

Similar laws passed in other states such as Texas have resulted in abortion clinic closures and women having to go further distances for services.

The three clinics that sued are among five existing in the state today. Others are located in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, state Department of Health and Hospitals medical director Dr. Jimmy Guidry and Mark Henry Dawson, president of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

EBT maintenance set

Food stamp electronic benefits transactions will be suspended for five minutes for system maintenance on Monday, the state Department of Children and Family Services announced Friday.

The shutdown will occur at 11 p.m. as  Xerox performs the job.

During the routine system maintenance, no transactions will be approved and any cardholders shopping or using an ATM at that time will receive a declined response.

DCFS contracts with Xerox to distribute benefits through EBT for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and cash benefit payments through Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP) and Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP).

The maintenance is not expected to last longer than five minutes. Clients who receive a declined transaction during the maintenance are encouraged to wait several minutes and try the transaction again, DCFS officials said.

In the event the EBT host is unavailable for longer than five minutes, DCFS reminded retailers to follow their established policies and procedures. Retailers who have questions regarding the tests can call 1-866-880-5264.

Landrieu to Cassidy: Gotcha! Well, not quite, but…it’s complicated.

It’s a good thing U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy isn’t a U.S. senator, a least not yet — even though he wants to be one.

If he were a senator, he’d be guilty of breaking a Senate rule — one that his ideological running buddies have mocked his opponent for going out of her way to observe.

Cassidy, a Baton Rouge physician, filed the papers Wednesday to officially declare his candidacy for the Senate in this fall’s election. He’s the best-financed Republican challenger to the incumbent, Democrat Mary Landrieu.

The Louisiana Democratic Party pointed out Thursday that a Cassidy campaign video posted on YouTube in November includes C-Span 2 footage of a Senate floor vote. Senate rules prohibit the political use of TV footage of official Senate proceedings.

That’s true, but the rules apply only to members of the Senate, the Secretary of the Senate said Thursday.

Landrieu knows the rules, possibly because she was dinged by a Republican complaint early this year that one of her campaign videos included footage from a news conference that was arranged with the support of her official Senate staff. When she wanted to include her testimony from a Senate committee hearing in another campaign video, she re-enacted the hearing so she could put her comments out there without committing a violation.

That led Keep Louisiana Working, a conservative political group, to cut a commercial ridiculing Landrieu for her stage-acting.

That’s the same organization that filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week over Landrieu’s violation of another rule: The one that prohibits the use of her official taxpayer-financed Senate account to pay for charter flights to political events.












Felder criticizes Edwards

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards entry into the 6th Congressional District race brought criticism Thursday from fellow candidate Cassie Felder.

“Regrettably, Mr. Edwards put his ego and his need to bask in the limelight ahead of the interests of our state and our image,” Felder said in a statement issued by her campaign.

“For far too long, Louisianans have elected self-centered politicians like Edwards to public office. This fall, the voters of the 6th District will have an opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the nation whether Louisiana has truly turned the corner when it comes to abandoning the corrupt politics of the past.”

Felder had written Edwards asking him to bow out – a request  Edwards dismissed out of hand.

“She just got to the district. She doesn’t know the people or the area,” Edwards said as he qualified Wednesday.

Felder, a Baton Rouge attorney, plans to sign up for the race at the Secretary of State’s office Friday.

Vitter gathers state higher education leaders for closed-door meeting

U.S. Sen. David Vitter is meeting with some of Louisiana’s top higher education leaders in Baton Rouge this morning, but the meeting isn’t open to the public or media.

Vitter, who is running for governor in 2015, will have a press availability to recap the “leadership forum” later today.

(Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD)

(Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD)

Per a news release from Vitter’s campaign, participants in the forum include:

- LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander

- Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan

- University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley

- Tulane University President Michael Fitts

- Xavier University President Norman Francis

- State House Education Committee Chair Steve Carter

- State Senate Education Committee Chair Jack Donahue

- Pennington Biomedical Research Center executive director Dr. William Cefalu

- Patrick F. Taylor Foundation President Phyllis Taylor

- UL System Chairmain E. Gerald Hebert

- LSU Student Government President Clay Tufts

- Council for a Better Louisiana President & CEO Barry Erwin

- Baton Rouge Area Foundation General Counsel Edmund Giering

- Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana President Robert Travis Scott

- Former state House Speaker Jim Tucker

- Entergy Chief Administrative Officer Rod West

Vitter’s campaign emailed details of the meeting — time, location and participants — to the press but wouldn’t allow media in to cover it.

Vitter has scheduled two more similarly publicized meetings in the coming weeks — one on public-private hospital partnerships and Medicaid reform in Monroe and another on infrastructure in Baton Rouge. Two others have been held in August in Shreveport/Bossier and Lafayette.

Huckabee endorses Dietzel II

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday endorsed Paul Dietzel II in Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District race.

Huckabee, a Republican, won Louisiana’s presidential preference primary when he campaigned for President in 2008.

“I’ve watched Paul work and gotten to know him,” Huckabee said in a statement.  “His vision for American renewal brings a fresh perspective to a worn out system that simply wants to maintain corruption for the coalition of the status quo. Paul will bring change to Washington, DC and get the job done in our nation’s capital.”

Dietzel II is a technology entrepreneur who was raised in Baton Rouge. He is founder  of – a software company with customers in all 50 states.

He is running for the 6th District  seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. Cassidy is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in fall elections.

Jindal heads to Arizona and New Mexico

Gov. Bobby Jindal is heading out of state again for more meetings for his conservative advocacy group, America Next.

Per Jindal’s office, the governor is heading to Phoenix today for meetings and a fundraiser for Arizona Representatives and candidates. Thursday, he’ll head to Hobbs, New Mexico for more America Next meetings and a fundraiser for Congressman Steve Pearce.

Jindal is slated to return to Baton Rouge on Thursday.

Jindal formed the national America Next policy organization last year and has used it to push an alternative to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The group has been speculated as a foundation for setting up a presidential campaign, though Jindal has said he won’t decide whether to run until after November.

Read more about the governor’s recent travels here.


Spoof match site takes aim at Landrieu

A curious website was being prominently promoted on Twitter on this week.


“Dear Louisiana, get your match for U.S. Senate right now by visiting,” read one tweet that was sponsored, which meant it showed up for those who didn’t follow related Twitter handles.

With qualifying now underway, the curious site could come off as an unbiased tool to help potential voters see where they line up, particularly to those unfamiliar with and other dating websites. The SenateMatch site doesn’t even immediately give the impression that it’s Louisiana specific.

But one click on the site reveals that it targets U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, with some stinging criticism.

The website’s disclaimer reads that it’s “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” It belongs to Citizens for Conservative Leadership, a conservative political action committee that has contributed to Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy, who is attempting to unseat Landrieu.

The website asks visitors to choose whether they would prefer to vote for a “life saving doctor” or “DC insider” — one alluding to Cassidy and the other to Landrieu. It doesn’t ask for any money, but encourages visitors to Tweet or Facebook standardized messages in support of Cassidy’s candidacy.  senatematch2

The site touts Cassidy as someone who “works to stop our federal government’s out-of-control spending and to lower taxes for small businesses and families.”

A mock analysis even includes this line: “Lives saved: Countless”

On the flip side, the site refers to Landrieu as someone who “believes taxpayer dollars are best spent on lavish extravagancies – including $47,000 charter flights.”

The kicker on that survey section of Landrieu’s page: “Lives saved: Zero”

The Washington Post and Time have recently reported on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s effort to create fake news sites that have been used to distribute negative information about Democrats.

That was a step back after the NRCC drew criticism earlier this year over websites that were later tweaked because of concerns that they were confusing to voters.

Louisiana higher ed leaders take on ‘ice bucket challenge’

Louisiana’s higher education leaders got soaked today.

After a discussion on the WISE Fund this morning with business leaders, the four heads of Louisiana’s college and university systems took the “ice bucket challenge,” and challenged even more campus leaders to participate in the popular ALS awareness campaign.

LCTCS President Monty Sullivan, ULS President Sandra Woodley, SU President Ron Mason and LSU President/Chancellor F.King Alexander participate in the "ice bucket challenge" on Tuesday, Aug. 19. (Photo: Elizabeth Crisp | The Advocate)

LCTCS President Monty Sullivan, ULS President Sandra Woodley, SU President Ron Mason and LSU President Chancellor F.King Alexander participate in the “ice bucket challenge.”  (Photo: Elizabeth Crisp | The Advocate)

Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, challenged his system’s 13 chancellors. University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodly issued the challenge to her nine presidents.

Mason challenged Southern University’s five chancellors, as well as the president of SU’s National Alumni Federation.

And LSU President and Chancellor, wearing a bright purple LSU baseball cap, extended the challenge to the rest of LSU’s chancellors.