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U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., grills Loretta Lynch in hearing on AG nomination

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., aggressively questioned attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch about her defense of the Obama Administration’s controversial immigration policy in her confirmation hearing Wednesday.

“I have a huge concern regarding what I think is the president’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty,” Vitter said to Lynch in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “and I have a huge concern that you think it is within the law.”

Democratic President Barack Obama announced in November that he would issue an executive order, without congressional approval, suspending immigration enforcement action against millions of undocumented immigrants — primarily parents and other relatives of U.S. residents brought to the country illegally as children. Vitter and other Republicans have strongly criticized the order for what they call amnesty as imperial overreach.

Lynch, the U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island in New York City and also for neighboring Long Island, said the legal opinions adduced by the administration in support of the executive order were “reasonable.”

Obama has nominated Lynch to replace the departing Eric Holder. A vote for her in the committee will send her nomination to the full Senate, and its approval is required for her confirmation. Republicans hold a majority on both the committee and in the Senate.

Vitter has said he will vote against confirmation.

Vitter also questioned Lynch about the application of mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases, arguing that the way Lynch and other federal prosecutors handle the cases “is taking all meaning out of the word ‘mandatory’–replacing your and your colleagues’ judgment for the judgment of the people who wrote the law.”

 

 

Al Jazeera questions Louisiana plant

The head of a company building a $1.85 billion plant near Vacherie is a Chinese Communist Party leader who is under fire for environmental problems with a chemical plant in that country, Al Jazeera reported.

In what represents the first major direct investment by a Chinese company in Louisiana, Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a subsidiary of Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd., wants to build and operate a methanol manufacturing complex on the Mississippi River in St. James Parish.

The plant will create 400 new jobs with an average salary of $85,000 plus benefits, according to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s July 17 announcement of the project. Another 2,365 indirect jobs will be created, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimated.

StJamesAnnounce.071814007.JPGLouisiana offered the company a package of tax exemptions and credits along with grants of $9.5 million to offset infrastructure costs and $1.75 million to be paid over 10 years to partially defray the costs of necessary riverfront access and development.

The head of Shandong Yuhuang is Wang Jinshu, whose $870 million fortune ranked 214 on the 2013 Forbes China Rich List. He also is the Communist Party Secretary for the northeastern village of Yuhuang in the People’s Republic of China and a delegate to the National People’s Congress.

Al Jeezera quoted a June 2013 report from state-run newspaper People’s Daily, stating that Wang’s umbrella company, Shandong Yuhuang, in Heze, China, misreported energy efficiency measures and had “created unlivable environmental conditions for villagers in the area, with rising cancer rates, undrinkable water and polluted air.”

In mid-December, Chinese environmental regulators fined the plant after reports of strong odors led to findings that hazardous pollutants were released, according to Al Jeezera, the worldwide news organization based in Qatar.

The environmental violations began as Chinese President Xi Jinping intensified an anti-corruption campaign targeting Communist Party officials.

Jindal said in prepared statement Tuesday night: “Every manufacturing project in our state must meet strict state and federal environment standards before receiving a permit to construct and operate their facility. This project will result in thousands of new jobs and will continue moving our economy forward.”

Construction on the Louisiana plant – situated on an 1,100-site between a high school, two churches and an assisted living facility for seniors – will begin in 2016. The plan is for the first phase of the methanol project beginning operations by 2018.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is scheduled to deliver its environmental impact decision on March 6.

 

State revenues continue to decline

For the second time since November, the Jindal administration is going to have find another hundred million dollars or so to balance this year’s state government budget.

The Revenue Estimating Conference decided Monday that the state should again reduce expected collections from taxes and other sources by another $126 million. That means state government has about $300 million less to spend since November and again must reduce spending for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Economists for both the Legislature and the Jindal administration predicted revenues from severance taxes and royalties would be far less than what was predicted.

Greg Albrecht, the Legislature’s economist, priced oil at $69.30 per barrel, which is down nearly $12 per barrel since November, and $23 less than last May when this year’s budget was drafted.

Sales tax collections have come in higher than expected, but not enough to cover the losses from a dramatic decrease in the price of oil, according to the economists’ reports.

That calculates out to another decrease in expected revenue collections of about $126 million. The deficit got almost immediate help with the addition of $22.5 million into the state general fund, which was ordered to be transferred in 2012 from a transportation fund that didn’t have the money until now.

That means the state will have to find $103.5 million to balance the budget.

Going into next fiscal year, 2016, which begins July 1, expected revenue collections should drop $203 million. Next year’s revenues already are expected to be short $1.4 billion.

 

U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., and other right-wingers pick name for their new ultra-conservative assemblage: House Freedom Caucus

What U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden, and other hard-right House Republicans set in motion a few weeks ago now has a name: the House Freedom Caucus, a group dedicated to advancing a strongly conservative agenda.

Although the organizing has been widely reported, the announcement Monday of the group’s name and mission makes it more formal.

Fleming is one of the group’s founders, and he included the caucus’ mission statement in a news release:

The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.

Fleming said earlier he expected the caucus will number 30 to 40 House Republicans.

The long-established Republican Study Committee, another caucus with a conservative agenda, includes about 170 of the 247 Republicans making up the House majority, but Fleming said it has become too diverse and differs little from the majority as a whole. He is an RSC member.

Fleming is considered one of the most conservative House Republicans and has differed from the party’s House leadership on several issues, including immigration, on which he advocates a more confrontational stance in terms of Obama Administration policies.

Fleming, 63, was elected to his fourth two-year term in the House in November. He has said he intends to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 if the incumbent, David Vitter, is successful in his bid to be elected governor this year and leaves Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Carson to keynote LABI meeting this week

Dr. Ben Carson, fresh off of addressing Iowa conservatives over the weekend, will be in Baton Rouge this week to speak to Louisiana’s largest lobbying arm for the business community.

Carson, a former neurosurgeon who has generated a lot of buzz about a possible bid for president in 2016, will keynote the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza.

Carson is slated to speak at the LABI event at noon. He’ll sign copies of his books 10:30-11:30 a.m.

On Saturday, Carson spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit, an event that drew conservative Iowa voters and national media attention.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also eyeing a run for president, missed out on the Iowa event because he was holding a prayer rally on LSU’s campus Saturday.

Reports from the Freedom Summit indicate Carson was warmly received by the Iowa event’s attendees.

 

Bobby Jindal talks 2016, same-sex marriage and prayer on ABC’s ‘This Week’

bobby jindal this week

Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC’s This Week Sunday, Jan. 25.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal thinks the Republican party has come a long way since he made headlines in 2012 calling the GOP the “stupid party,” but Republican leaders still have to “earn the right” to lead the nation, he said over the weekend.

“I think the GOP needs to earn the right to be a governing party. We can’t just be the party of ‘no.’ We have to be a party of solutions,” Jindal said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week.

Jindal, who has said he’s a couple of months away from announcing whether he will run for president in 2016, appeared on the Sunday morning program just a day after holding a mass prayer rally on LSU’s campus. The rally kept him from attending the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative event that drew at least nine other potential contenders for the GOP nomination and a lot of national media attention.

Early in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Jindal whether it’s appropriate for a president to lead a spiritual revival and said he was struck by Jindal’s remark to the evangelical Christian crowd that “on the last page, our God wins.”

Later this week, Jindal is scheduled to speak to a group of Catholic business leaders in Florida.

“I think we are a diverse country. Obviously, a majority of our people are Christians, but we don’t discriminate against anybody, that’s one of the great things about America we believe in religious liberty,” Jindal said. “Thousands of people came together to worship and pray across racial lines, across political lines. I thought it was a great, great event.”

As court rulings continue to come down in favor of same-sex marriage across the country, Jindal said he would support efforts in Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow states to continue to not recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

“I am proud that in Louisiana, we define marriage as between a man and a woman,” Jindal said. “If the Supreme Court were to throw out our law, our constitutional amendment — I hope they wouldn’t do that — if they were to do that, I certainly will support (U.S. Sen.) Ted Cruz and others that are talking about making a constitutional amendment to allow states to continue to define marriage.”

Watch the full interview here.

Poll: 46 percent of Louisiana residents view Bobby Jindal favorably

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has seen a slight uptick in Louisianans who view him favorably, according to a new poll of likely Louisiana voters.

The poll, conducted by Jindal’s campaign pollster Wes Anderson of OnMessage Inc., found 46 percent approve of Jindal’s job performance heading into the final year of his final term, while 45 percent view him unfavorably.

Among respondents 45 and younger, Jindal’s numbers were 55 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable.

The OnMessage poll was conducted Jan. 12-14. The survey included telephone interviews with 600 likely voters, stratified by county to reflect historic voter trends. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.

A September poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling of North Carolina had put Jindal’s job approval rating at 34 percent, but subsequent polls from Rassmussen Reports and USA Today/Suffolk University both put Jindal’s favorability in Louisiana at 43 percent last fall.

Jindal, who is considering a run for president, has consistently said he doesn’t care about polls.

“I don’t care at all about poll numbers,” he said during a recent  appearance on Meet The Press. “I never have. The reality is, I was elected in Louisiana to make generational changes.”

Governor’s race

The OnMessage poll also looked at this year’s race for Louisiana governor.

Among those surveyed, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who already has thrown his hat into the race, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat who hasn’t, took the lead, with 28 percent favoring Landrieu to 27 percent for Vitter.

Tied at 11 percent were Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican who has announced he’s running for governor, and state Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican who hasn’t.

Fourteen percent of respondents were not sure who they would vote for, while Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle took 6 percent and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards got 4 percent. Both have announced they are running for governor.

bobby jindal favorably

Poll via OnMessage Inc.

 

Louisiana governor’s race heats up; pro-Dardenne PAC launched

Louisiana’s heading into what could become a bitter battle for the Governor’s Mansion this year.

A political action committee in support of Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s gubernatorial bid has already been in the mix, and now Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne appears to be going the PAC route, as well.

LaPolitics.com reports  “Now or Never — Louisiana PAC” has been set up to support Dardenne’s run, and the people behind it are affiliated with a conservative Kansas City-based firm called Axiom Strategies.

Axiom has a bit of a reputation. The Kansas City Star refers to the firm as “controversial,” and KC Star columnist Steve Kraske wrote in 2011 about Axiom founder Jeff Roe’s evolution from being “known for years as the bad boy of Missouri politics” to becoming a major player in politics across the country. (That column is posted on Axiom’s website, despite recounting some “nasty-boy stories” and tactics from the firm’s past including this bit: “Just a few years ago, stories about some of Roe’s punch-in-the-gut political tactics were a regular topic of gossip among campaign insiders. There were instances of Dumpster diving when Roe’s minions would sift through an opposing candidate’s household garbage to find something embarrassing. There were stories about Roe employees dashing out of the nighttime shadows to snap photos for use in unflattering campaign fliers. The thing was, Roe admitted it all. ‘Politics ain’t beanbag,’ he would say..”)

Because of campaign regulations, the new pro-Dardenne PAC can’t coordinate with Dardenne’s official campaign. Such PACs often lean toward focusing on efforts against other candidates — perhaps another clue as to what’s ahead in the race. (Here’s a look at a loosely-tied PAC’s figures for last year; note that most of the money went toward efforts against other candidates.)

Vitter and Dardenne will face Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in Louisiana’s “jungle primary” set for Oct. 24. There’s still time for others to also jump in the race.

A Nov. 21 runoff will be held if none of the candidates takes 50 percent of the vote in the primary. It seems likely that one will be needed, given the crowded field.

Governing magazine included Lousiana’s 2015 race in its handicapping of governor’s match-ups. Based on its analysis, the seat is a “safe” Republican seat, with Vitter in the lead.

“Even though Jindal has had a weak year or two back home, that hasn’t given Democrats much hope of seizing the governorship,” Governing writes. “Most of the action to succeed Jindal in this red state will take place on the Republican side.”

Organizers expecting thousands for Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally

Gov. Bobby Jindal will be joined by Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, Former Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter, Our Savior’s Church Pastor Jacob Aranza, Lisa Crump with National Day of Prayer and Louisiana Family Forum Director Gene Mills, among others, at his prayer rally on Saturday.

Organizers are expecting thousands for the event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. a the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“We are looking forward to thousands of Americans from all across the country joining us to pray for our nation at this important time,” event spokesman Doug Stringer said in a statement. “There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”

The event will be streamed online via God.tv.

Opponents speak out

Meanwhile, People For the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, also plans to be on hand Saturday. The group will have several people in Baton Rouge for the event and will be reporting from it on its RightWingWatch blog.

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at the organization, said the group doesn’t have a problem with prayer but is bothered by what it sees as political motives behind the religious promotion.

“It is clearly meant to boost Bobby Jindal’s standing among conservative evangelical voters,” he said.

He said groups involved in the rally, including the American Family Association, have condemned gays and other minorities.

“He is giving them credibility that is not deserved,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery also argued that opponents could wrongly be portrayed as religious persecutors.

“That kind of rhetoric makes it hard to work on compromise,” he said.

On Thursday, the LSU Faculty Senate passed a resolution opposing the ideas of the AFA and endorsing a student-led protest that has been planned in response to the prayer rally. The resolution was sponsored by 125 faculty members.

Bobby Jindal says America’s at risk of having its own ‘no-go zones’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal thinks the United States is at risk of some day having “no-go zones” because liberals place too much value on political correctness and are unwilling to call out “radical Islam,” he said during a Thursday radio interview.

“The entire Left doesn’t want to face the fact that Islam has a problem,” Jindal said in a live interview with conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity.

bobby jindal radical islam

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Hannity is the second Fox News host that Jindal has spoken to since facing a backlash over claims he made in London this week about areas of Europe that are ruled by Islamic law where non-Muslims can’t go.

Jindal, who is considering a run for president in 2016, said he knew his speech to the conservative Henry Jackson Society on Monday wasn’t politically correct, and he expected criticism for his remarks about “radical Islam.”

His speech was made in the wake the Paris terrorist attacks, but also fell shortly after a Fox News guest made inaccurate claims about entire cities in Europe being taken over by radical Islamists and becoming so-called “no-go zones” for non-Muslims.

Jindal, speaking to Neil Cavuto on Fox News Wednesday, said he was talking about unofficial areas or neighborhoods that have become enclaves for extremists. His press office similarly sent media examples of what he said he was referring to in his speech.

He repeatedly has portrayed the issue as concern over American culture and assimilation. On Thursday, he said cultural assimilation is key to preventing “no-go zones” from forming in the United States.

“Let’s be honest about what’s happening here … they want to colonize and set up their own culture,” Jindal told Hannity on Thursday. “If someone doesn’t want to be American, then don’t come here.”

Over the course of the interview, which lasted about 12 minutes, Jindal repeatedly derided “the Left” for not speaking out against “radical Islam.”

“I think the Left has caused much of this problem with their political correctness,” Jindal said.

Jindal, whose supporters launched a super PAC Thursday to promote his potential presidential bid, also didn’t mince words when it came to criticizing his own party.

He said he thinks that Republican Party leaders and conservatives in Washington are often “too timid” in pushing the party’s values because they fear coming across as politically incorrect.

“It just frustrates voters who say, ‘We elected a conservative majority,'” he said.

He said he also believes that too many Republicans change once they get to Washington and seek approval from media and other insiders.

“You’re never gonna get that,” he said.

Jindal briefly plugged his prayer rally that will be held on LSU’s campus this weekend. He noted that he has faced criticism over it and said he expects protesters, but didn’t get into critics’ specific concerns (that the American Family Association, which is sponsoring the rally, has been classified as a “hate group” because of its positions against gays and some other minority groups).

“We’ve got to be unafraid,” Jindal said.