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Sharon Hewitt challenges Crowe in Senate

State Sen. A.G. Crowe of Slidell picked up an opponent Thursday when Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell engineer, announced Thursday night that she would challenge her fellow Republican in the election later this year.

“As an engineer, I am a problem solver. It’s time to stop the political games and get to work,” Hewitt said in prepared statement prior to making her announcement at an event in Slidell. “Throughout my life, I’ve earned leadership roles where my passion, organizational skill, collaboration with stakeholders and ability to inspire others has helped solve problems. I will use my skills and abilities to help the people of this district.”

Hewitt was the deepwater asset manager for Shell U.S. in the central Gulf of Mexico, managing a $250 million dollar budget and more than160 employees. She installed the first submersible pump used in the Gulf producing operations.

Hewitt left her job to take care of her children full-time. She serves on the executive committees of many community organizations and is the vice-chairman of the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee, the Chairman of the St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 16 Board and on the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee and Education Committee.

She and her husband, Stan, have been married for 32 years and are parents to two grown sons. They are members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

 

 

Marc Morial to deliver commencement at LSU Law Center

Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League, will deliver the 2015 LSU Law Center Commencement address on Friday, May 29, at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center, according to The Associated Press.

LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack M. Weiss says Morial plays an important role on the national scene while retaining deep ties to the state. Weiss also notes Morial’s special connection to the law center as the son of Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, the school’s first black graduate.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and African American Studies, Marc Morial also holds a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., as well as numerous honorary degrees, including Xavier University and Howard University.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m.

State swimming pools closed for season because of budget cuts

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne announced Thursday that because of budgetary constraints swimming pools at Chemin-A-Haut, Lake Bistineau, Lake D’Arbonne and North Toledo Bend state parks will not open for summer 2015.

“My office has been hit, repeatedly and disproportionately, with midyear budget cuts, and unfortunately the majority of these cuts fall on state parks,” Dardenne said. “Louisiana families and visitors alike will unfortunately be feeling the impact of these cuts.”

The wave pools, water playgrounds and beach swimming will still be available.

The Bayou Segnette State Park wave pool in Westwego opens Memorial Day weekend, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, with a fee of $10 per adult and $8 per child under 4 feet tall.

Water playgrounds at Bogue Chitto in Franklinton, Chicot in Ville Platte, Fontainebleau in Mandeville, Lake Bruin in St. Joseph, Lake Fausse Pointe near St. Martinville, Palmetto Island near Abbeville, Poverty Point Reservoir in Delhi, St. Bernard in Braithwaite and Tickfaw in Springfield are open daily, April 1 through Sept. 30, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

State parks with designated beach swimming areas include Bogue Chitto, Cypremort Point east of Franklin, Fontainebleau, Grand Isle, Jimmie Davis in Chatham, Lake Bruin, Lake Claiborne in Homer, Poverty Point Reservoir and South Toledo Bend near Anacoco.

All beach areas are open daily but do not have lifeguard supervision.

For more information on Louisiana State Parks, visit LaStateParks.com or www.Facebook.com/LA.State.Parks.

 

Time highlights Bobby Jindal’s ‘unusual’ op-ed output

Is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ‘America’s Next Top Columnist’?

Time.com has reviewed Jindal’s widely-published guest editorials and concluded the two-term governor has “amassed a clip file of guest editorials that would be the envy of any freelance opinion writer.”

According to Time’s analysis, Jindal has been published 47 times in general interest outlets (like the Washington Post, CNN and Politico) and more conservative-leaning media (including the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and National Review). Nearly all (41 of the 47) have been published since 2012 —  the start of Jindal’s second gubernatorial term. Jindal, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits, is currently considering a run for president in 2016.

“If this whole president thing doesn’t work out, Bobby Jindal should consider another career path: columnist,” Time writes.

Read the full dive into Jindal’s columns here via Time.com.

Leaders push fee proposal that doesn’t rely on students directly paying

It has been dubbed a “student fee,” but it’s unlikely college and university students will directly see increased costs from the Jindal administration’s latest plan to pump more money into higher education in the coming year.

As The Advocate reported Wednesday, higher education leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration have been working together to fine-tune the “student fee” plan and how it might work in practice.

The biggest result from that is that both sides now agree students won’t face out-of-pocket costs for the new fee — a dollar figure for which hasn’t been set and would likely vary by campus or program.

“We are all on the same page and working with higher education on this proposal,” Jindal assistant chief of staff Stafford Palmieri told The Advocate. “We’re committed to working with higher education and the Legislature to enact solutions in the budget, and it’s important that these are tax neutral.”

It will still be a “tax credit” — something needed for Jindal to maintain that tax, or revenue, “neutral” position — meaning no tax increases without a decrease to technically offset it.

As Palmieri explains the process, colleges and universities will apply for the credit against students’ or their parents’ tax liabilities, and everything will take place behind-the-scenes. For students, that means the transaction, under the administration’s proposal, would be entirely handled by the government and likely would never show up on their bills.

For those students who have no tax liability in Louisiana, a fund would be established for corporations and other donors to contribute to in exchange for the tax credit.

“We know that higher education leaders are looking at the possibility of using fee increases and that’s why we have presented them with options like tax credits to reduce those costs for families,” Palmieri said. “We will continue to work with higher ed leaders on these options so we can help mitigate reductions.”

Any such fee increase would require legislative approval, as would the tax credit.

The money for the tax credit is directly tied to a proposal to raise Louisiana’s cigarette tax to the Southern average, which is 83 cents. Louisiana’s cigarette tax is 36 cents. By the administration’s calculations, the proposed increase would generate about $100 million for the state budget. It also would require legislative approval.

The state budget is months from being finalized, so any or all of the ideas could evolve — including the revenue source. The legislative session begins April 13, and lawmakers have to finish their work in Baton Rouge by June 11

With the state facing a $1.6 billion funding shortfall in the coming year, Jindal’s budget recommendation calls for a $211 million hit to higher education funding in the coming year, but it relies heavily on the state scaling back refundable tax credits. If that plan falls through, the actual cut to higher education would balloon to over half a billion dollars across colleges and universities. The state’s facing a $1.6 billion funding shortfall.

During last week’s budget presentation, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols explained the so-called “excellence fee” as an alternate source of funding for higher education that, if approved, the administration “would expect that there could be a tax credit” to offset. Several lawmakers raised concern over the initial out-of-pocket costs such a proposal would require and some questioned whether the plan was banking on people not filing for the credit.

Palmieri on Wednesday said the plan has been “refined” — still the same concept but a slightly altered process.

“Students and parents are technically applying for it,” Palmieri said. “It’s their liability.”

She added, “It’s been refined how the credit would actually get from the parent or student’s liability to the institutions.”

Zombie movie to film inside state Capitol this week

The independent action-horror flick “Navy SEALS vs. Zombies” will be filming inside the Louisiana Capitol this week.

According to an email to Capitol staff, the shooting will take place Thursday and Friday from the committee level (or ground) floor through the fourth floor — home to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office.

“Expect to see actors carrying weapons and gory props,” the email cautions. “We have been assured that no firearms will be discharged.”

The zombie movie also filmed in and around the Capitol last weekend. Production crews have been set up at the old insurance building parking garage for several days.

Details have been sparse about the movie, so far, but based on a tweet from director Stanton Barrett, track athlete Lolo Jones and actor and former NBA player Rick Fox will at least make appearances.

No legislative hearings are scheduled at the Capitol the rest of this week.

Bobby Jindal to headline ‘Obamacare at 5′ event in DC

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak at an event in Washington, D.C. on the future of the federal Affordable Care Act later this month.

The Washington Examiner will sponsor “Obamacare at Five” on March 17 — just a few days before the five-year anniversary of the passage of the federal health care law that’s frequently called “Obamacare.”

Jindal has been a frequent critic of the health care law.

The lunchtime policy forum will feature a debate over the future of health care in the U.S. According to the event invite, Jindal will make remarks and there will be a panel discussion among conservative policy experts.

Jindal feud with state Education leadership flairs up in meeting: ‘I wish I could grow money on trees’

The feud between the Louisiana Department of Education leadership and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration boiled over to Wednesday’s meeting of the Workforce Investment Council meeting.

During a discussion on programs and the governor’s proposed budget for the coming year, assistant superintendent Dave ‘Lefty’ Lefkowith noted deep cuts that the Jindal administration has recommended for the Education Department’s executive budget — heavily implying that the cuts are a response to the political battle between Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White.

“Let’s just be adults about this,” Lefkowith said.

Stafford Palmieri, Jindal’s assistant chief of staff, denied that the cuts are politically motivated.

“All of the departments are taking cuts like that this year,” she shot back. “That’s just the reality of a $1.6 billion shortfall.”

“I wish I could grow money on trees, but I can’t,” she added, drawing laughter in the room, which had grown quiet in the back-and-forth.

White has said Jindal’s proposed budget would force him to lay off about 100 of the Department of Education’s roughly 300 employees. He has complained that the number shot up from 45 layoffs without warning just before the budget proposal’s release.

Jindal and White have been engaged in a battle for months over Common Core education standards and testing. The fight has spawned court fights and frequent dueling news conferences.

LSU student group plans forum on budget cuts

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, state Rep. Pat Smith and  chief economist for the state Legislature Greg Albrecht will participate in a forum on the state budget March 18.

The event is being organized by Geaux Vote LSU, a student group that encourages involvement in the political process.

“We are hosting this event to bring students into the budget cuts conversation, because we hold a stake in this,” co-organizers Valencia Richardson said in a news release. “This forum will bring politicians and community leaders together, so that students can show that they care and get some real answers on what massive budget cuts could mean for their future. Students have questions. We do care and our opinions matter. This is a way to show that.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget proposal released last week would slash funding for higher education by about $211 million. That plan relies heavily on the state scaling back refundable tax credits, meaning if state lawmakers don’t pass that measure, then the actual cut could balloon to over half a billion dollars across all colleges and universities — more than 70 percent of the state’s spending on higher education in the coming year.

Alexander has been one of the most outspoken higher ed leaders against the cuts. The state Legislature will spend the next several months hashing out a final spending plan for the budget that begins July 1.

The forum is slated for 5-7 p.m. March 18 in the Holliday Forum of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.

Mary Landrieu to speak at SUNO commencement

Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu will be the keynote speaker at Southern University – New Orleans’ spring commencement exercises.

Landrieu, a Democrat, served nearly two decades in the Senate before losing her re-election bid in December to Republican Bill Cassidy.

In the news release announcing Landrieu’s appearance, SUNO noted the then-senator’s efforts to help the school in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This year is the 10th anniversary of Katrina.

SUNO’s graduation will be held at 4 p.m. May 9 in Kiefer Lakefront Arena.