All posts by Mark Ballard

AP reports schism on Export-Import Bank

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is making a campaign issue out of a congressional fight over a little-known banking agency targeted for elimination by conservative Republicans, according to The Associated Press.

The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies. Landrieu said it promotes trade, creates jobs and helps small businesses.

Her re-election campaign has been hammering her Republican opponent in the Nov. 4 election, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, to state a position on whether to renew the bank’s charter, which expires in September.

“Congress must reauthorize the Bank as soon as possible so that it can continue to help Louisiana businesses continue to export goods and services to world markets and import jobs,” Landrieu said.

Cassidy is hedging on the issue, raising questions about the worth of the Export-Import Bank without saying outright that he opposes its charter renewal. He said the bank costs taxpayers $200 million a year and largely benefits big, already profitable corporations.

“The Inspector General said that the bank has not been careful in making sure that the jobs it helps to generate are created in the United States and not overseas. All of this calls into question whether the Export-Import Bank is worth the cost to taxpayers. Very serious reforms are required before considering re-authorization,” Cassidy said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The bank provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to foreign customers that buy U.S. goods. Dispute over its reauthorization puts Cassidy in a tough spot, choosing sides between business-backed establishment Republicans who support the bank and tea party groups who call it a form of corporate welfare.

The long-shot Republican candidate in Louisiana’s Senate race, tea party favorite Rob Maness, opposes the bank’s renewal, describing it as a drain on the economy that is at odds with “free market solutions.”

Landrieu held a conference call with leaders of Louisiana-based companies that use the bank and say failure to reauthorize it would damage their workforce and cut their income. She’s released lists of businesses in the state that rely on the bank.

Her campaign, meanwhile, notes that Cassidy once supported the bank, voting for its reauthorization in 2012 without raising any concerns and holding a small business export conference in 2011 with representatives of the bank.

“Congressman Cassidy had no issue supporting the Export-Import Bank, but now that he’s running for higher office, he has decided the interests of Washington politicians are more important than those of Louisiana’s working families,” Fabien Levy, spokesman for the Landrieu campaign, said in a statement.

Cassidy suggested the Export-Import Bank assistance was skewed.

He said small businesses received less than 3 percent of the financing from the banking agency, while the rest of the money went to 10 large, profitable corporations, including one that paid no federal taxes in a recent year.

Jindal and Edwards attract national attention

The confluence of Bobby Jindal’s drive for the presidency and the reemergence of Edwin Edwards as a candidate, this time for Congress, has once again thrust Louisiana into the path of visiting journalists.

Earlier this week, Time magazine described Jindal, who is known for the speed of his unaccented speech, has having a “thick Cajun drawl.”

Most local reporters now tape Jindal because he speaks so quickly, and is prone to veering off on tangents in mid-sentence.

The New York Magazine, on the other hand, more accurately described Edwards as having a Cajun accent and is prone to funny and insightful quips: “Sociopathy?” he said. “If I’m deluded, I’m deluded. That’s me. I’m comfortable with it.”

Get prepared for more Louisiana through the eyes the rest of the country.

Edwards will have CNN crew follow him around this weekend.

Jindal spends most weekends – and many days – campaigning in other states. He’s giving the opening speech Friday at Western Conservative Summit, in Denver.

La candidates attract international attention

Vance McAllister is not the only congressional candidate from Louisiana attracting international attention.

U.S. Rep. McAllister, R-Swartz, who was caught by security cameras  snogging a married aide, got coverage  in the British tabloid Daily Mail when he announced his intention last week to seek reelection to northeast Louisiana’s 5th congressional district. ( See: )

British comedian Russell Brand has now taken note of state Rep. Lenar Whitney’s introductory commercial in her bid for the Baton Rouge-based 6th congressional district. Whitney, of Houma, called global warming a delusion in her first campaign spot. “It is perhaps the greatest deception in the history of mankind,” Whitney said.

Brand, who to American audiences perhaps is best known as being briefly married to pop singer Katy “I Kissed a Girl” Perry, created shtick going line-by-line through Whitney’s commercial, refuting her facts and ridiculing her logic. ( See: )

The economy of Whitney’s fast-sinking Terrebonne Parish district relies on the drilling and production of fossil fuels. She makes the point in her commercial that the burning of oil built the foundation of an American middle-class that now has access to luxuries such as electric lights and automobiles. She said there is no credible science backing global warming.

Brand pointed out that the emissions from oil and gas creates the carbon that is causing global warming and that free market capitalism has produced wealth for only small segment of society.

Whitney is one of eight Republican candidates in the Nov. 4 election to replace Baton Rouge Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Smith wants BESE meet on Common Core testing

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s newest  appointee to  Louisiana’s top school board said Tuesday morning that the panel needs to hold a special meeting to come up with replacement exams for Common Core.

Jindal last week ordered state test plans scrapped that are supposed to accompany the new academic standards.

Jane Smith, who lives in Bossier City, said the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education needs to take action.

“I don’t want to just sit here,” Smith said.

La presidential preference primary date moves up

Louisiana could be changing the date of its presidential preference primary so it can get a little more attention from candidates.
The Louisiana Legislature has sent legislation to Gov . Bobby Jindal that would move the balloting to the first Saturday in March – two weeks before current law.
State Democratic and Republican parties agree with the change.
The primary change date is included in House Bill 431.

Bureau of Government Research suggests House vet SB469

On the eve of Louisiana House consideration of a bill that specifically targets lawsuits filed against 97 oil and gas companies by a New Orleans-area levee board, an influential policy research group wrote legislators articulating their concern about the impact of the measure.

The Bureau of Government Research, based in New Orleans, wrote that the organization took no stance on the lawsuits filed by the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. SLFPA-E sought damages from the oil and gas companies that failed to fulfill their obligations under permits by not repairing environmental damages to the state’s wetlands.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and the energy industry have supported numerous efforts by the Louisiana Legislature to kill the levee board lawsuits. Senate Bill 469, which is slated for debate by the full House on Thursday, would essentially change the rules so that the SLFPA-E would have no authority to file lawsuits involving coastal lawsuits and the cases already filed could be dismissed.

The Bureau of Government Research, or BGR, wrote that the legislative response to the lawsuits could cause the public “to lose the rights and causes of action that it has arising from damage” to the wetlands that buffer the New Orleans region and the rest of coastal Louisiana.

“Regardless of one’s view of SLFPA – East’s lawsuit, the legislative solution should not cause the public to irrevocably lose rights and causes of action arising from damage to the wetlands,” BGR wrote.

Partisan fight on FERC choice


What might have seemed like a ho-hum affair — a hearing before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the nomination of two members to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — was spiced up by some partisan politics today when Republicans on the committee challenged President Barack Obama’s choice for commission chair,  Norman Bay.

And a Republican not on the committee, or even in the Senate — U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge — sought to get involved by publically releasing a list of seven detailed questions that he urged the committee to pose to Bay and fellow nominee Cheryl LaFleur, no doubt as an aid to fellow Louisianian Mary Landrieu, the Democrat who chairs the committee.

Or maybe that wasn’t his intent: Cassidy is the leading Republican challenger to Landrieu’s re-election this fall.

FERC exercises authority over a broad array of  subjects, including electricity sales and rates, hydroelectric power, natural-gas pricing and pipeline transmission.

In the event, Landrieu did not take up Cassidy’s suggestions. But she did a little politicking of her own by raising the issue of the Midla pipeline, which carries natural gas between Monroe and Baton Rouge. The pipeline’s owners are asking FERC for permission to abandon the pipeline, and Landrieu is worried about the effect of the abandonment on the availability of affordable energy in the area –  a concern Cassidy shares.

Republicans on the committee based many of their objections to Bay, now head of FERC’s enforcement division, on an op-ed this week in the Wall Street Journal that argues FERC doesn’t play fair with the targets of its investigations.

But Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington praised FERC enforcers for hitting a “home run” in their efforts to crack down on market manipulators.

 Follow Gregory Roberts of The Advocate Washington bureau on Twitter @GregRobertsDC

Landrieu testifies for deGravelles


U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., boosted the candidacy of Baton Rouge lawyer John  “Johnny” deGravelles  for a federal judgeship in an appearance today before the Senate committee that is considering the appointment.

DeGravelles would fill the vacancy created when U.S. District Court Judge James Brady, of Baton Rouge, took senior status at the end of 2013.

Landrieu spoke on behalf of  DeGravelles before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. She recommended him to President Obama as a nominee in December.  Appointments of federal judges must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

 Follow Gregory Roberts of The Advocate Washington bureau on Twitter @GregRobertsDC

U.S. House OKs water projects


The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve a House-Senate agreement on a water projects bill that includes several undertakings in Louisiana.

The vote for the Water Resources Reform & Redevelopment Act sends the negotiated proposal to the Senate, where it is likely to receive final congressional approval soon.

The bill mainly authorizes projects — essentially, putting them on the federal government’s “to-do” list — rather than appropriating money for them. Securing an appropriation for the projects would require a second, more challenging round of legislation.

The biggest Louisiana project in the bill is “Morganza to the Gulf,” a nearly 100-mile long series of levees and flood-control gates in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes with a $10.3 billion price tag.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress from Louisiana joined in support of the bill, with a key role in the agreement played by Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, ranking member of the Senate committee that handled the measure.

Vitter’s office issued a news release celebrating the House vote and detailing the Louisiana projects.

 Follow Gregory Roberts of The Advocate Washington bureau on Twitter @GregRobertsDC




Tuesday at the Louisiana Legislature

House convenes at 2:00 p.m.
Senate convenes at 1:00 p.m.

Appropriations. 9:00 a.m. in Committee Room 5. Agenda includes:

  • HB64 Provides that certain employees of the Eastern La. Mental Health System are eligible for membership in the Hazardous Duty Services Plan in the La. State Employees’ Retirement System.
  • HB155 Provides with respect to supplemental pay for certain officers.
  • HB995 Provides relative to teacher evaluations.
  • HB1094 Provides for supplemental appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.
  • HB1167 Provides with respect to testing for civil service entrance and promotion for certain city civil service employees.
  • HB1241 Provides for deposits of monies from certain settlement proceeds as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the Budget Stabilization Fund and the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly.
  • SB28 Provides relative to the implementation of the requirement that certain state-owned buildings be equipped with suitable accommodations for breastfeeding and lactation.
  • SB112 Provides relative to a product preference for certain meat products in Louisiana.
  • SB118 Establishes the Fiscal Administrator Revolving Loan Fund as a special fund in the state treasury and provides relative to the fund.
  • SB409 Provides for lowest available price for certain software procurement contracts.
  • SB441 Provides procedures for recovery of funds by the office of community development disaster recovery unit.
  • SB480 Provides relative to the merging of the Professional, Personal, Consulting and Social Services with the Louisiana Procurement Code.
  • SB591 Provides with respect to the Road Home Corporation, the Louisiana Land Trust or other housing assistance programs when disposing of certain properties.
  • SB613 Provides relative to participation schedules.
  • SB614 Provides for the transfer of electronic devices to certain nonprofit entities.

Civil Law & Procedure. 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 4. Agenda includes:

  • HB394 Provides relative to building restrictions.
  • HCR162 Authorizes the Louisiana State Law Institute to make recommendations for the disclosure of information to landowners whose property is subject to expropriation.
  • HCR179 Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to study the prescriptive periods established for disavowal of paternity and revocations of authentic acts of acknowledgment.
  • SB216 Provides relative to courts and vacancies in the office of a judge.
  • SB373 Provides relative to motions for summary judgments.
  • SB423 Provides relative to alternative dispute resolution in suits involving oilfield sites and exploration and production sites.
  • SB518 Provides relative to indemnification provisions of motor carrier contracts.
  • SB570 Provides relative to the prescription of nonuse for properties transferred in connection to an economic development project.
  • SB607 Provides relative to the effect of a divorce or pending divorce on the designation by an individual of the individual’s spouse or former spouse as beneficiary in certain agreements upon the death of the individual.
  • SCR104 Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to study and make recommendations regarding present Louisiana property law governing common interest ownership regimes..
  • SCR105 Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to study and make recommendations regarding Code of Civil Procedure Article 3121..
  • SCR131 Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to study and make recommendations regarding laws applicable to the rights of landlords and residential tenants..

Commerce. 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 1. Agenda includes: ADDED: SB 299

  • HB528 Requires any contract to put solar panels on residential property contain certain information.
  • HB550 Makes changes to certain provisions regarding thoroughbreds and purses at certain tracks.
  • SB53 Provides relative to horse racing.
  • SB66 Provides relative to the Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors.
  • SB233 Provides relative to the Louisiana Equal Housing Opportunity Act.
  • SB299 Provides relative to civil justice funding companies.
  • SB447 Requires the State Licensing Board for Contractors to provide testing specifically for solar installers.
  • SB483 Repeals certain outdated information collection and reporting requirements of the Louisiana Deferred Presentment and Small Loan Act.
  • SB506 Provides for securing personally identifiable information to prevent identity theft.
  • SB575 Provides relative to the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board.
  • SB605 Provides relative to marine products.
  • SB637 Provides relative to the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology.
  • SCR71 Requests the Louisiana Department of Economic Development to study the feasibility of creating an official “Made in Louisiana” certification, brand, or label..

Transportation, Highways & Public Works. 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 3. Agenda includes:

  • HCR141 Urges and requests the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to establish an express lane at office of motor vehicles offices and to require public license tag agents post signage.
  • HCR151 Urges and requests the Department of Transportation and Development to decrease the speed limit on a portion of Louisiana Highway 409.
  • HR133 Urges and requests the DOTD to study autonomous vehicles.
  • SB282 Provides for combined police authority for the Port of South Louisiana, the Lafourche Basin Levee District and the Pontchartrain Levee District.
  • SB468 Provides relative to contracts for public works.
  • SB620 Provides for settlement practices involving certain claims against nonresident self-insurers and self-insurance plans.
  • SB639 Creates a prestige license plate for the Louisiana Youth Leadership Seminar Corporation.
  • SCR77 Requests DOTD and DOAF to identify and mark farm to market highways in Louisiana..
  • SCR93 Requests DOTD to take action to provide greater safety to the motoring public, to move traffic more efficiently, and to minimize traffic accidents at the intersection of Cornerview Road and LA 73 and on LA 22 between I-10 and LA 70 in Ascension Parish..

Ways and Means. 1:00 p.m. in Committee Room 6. Agenda includes:

  • HCR158 Urges and requests the Dept. of Economic Development to study the economic impact of the legislature authorizing a tax credit for certain barge line, towing, and water transportation companies.
  • SB543 Provides with respect to the state budget.

Judiciary A. 9:00 a.m. in John J. Hainkel, Jr. Room. Agenda includes:

  • HB75 Requires court order be provided to the Firefighters’ Retirement System before the system can seize or garnish benefits of a member.
  • HB153 Provides relative to expedited jury trials.
  • HB243 Authorizes the appointment of notaries public based on a pre-assessment test administered by the secretary of state.
  • HB300 Provides with respect to interim and final spousal support.
  • HB351 Provides relative to single business entities.
  • HB357 Provides relative to ex parte orders of temporary child custody.
  • HB482 Provides relative to venue for actions involving latent disease.
  • HB709 Provides relative to the duties and authority of justices of the peace.
  • HB799 Provides relative to the employment of special attorneys or counsel.
  • HB1128 Authorizes higher education employees to take paid leave on Veterans’ Day to attend certain events.
  • HB1181 Provides relative to the jurisdictional limitation of certain city courts.
  • HB1196 Authorizes retired justices of the peace to perform certain duties relative to waivers.
  • HB1206 Provides for the consolidation of the New Orleans Traffic and Municipal Courts.
  • SB164 Provides relative to discrimination.
  • SB544 Provides relative to the Second City Court of the city of New Orleans.

Judiciary B. 11:00 a.m. in Committee Room E. Agenda includes:

  • HB467 Authorizes the 24th JDC to provide for a reentry division of court.
  • HB942 Requires analysis and plans for expansions of and contracts for additional housing for individuals in the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
  • HB1101 Provides relative to court reporters.
  • HB1126 Provides with respect to correctional facilities.
  • HB1130 Provides with respect to the collection and disposition of fines, forfeitures, penalties, and costs in city court.
  • HB1230 Provides relative to funds distributed to the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
  • HB1255 Provides relative to parole for persons convicted of crimes of violence and provides for the creation and administration of the Programs to Reduce Recidivism Fund.
  • HCR135 Requests the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to establish partnerships with area universities to provide additional access to individual therapy and drug treatment for inmates at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

Source: Louisiana News Bureau