All posts by Mark Ballard

Bobby Jindal’s sense of humor

BY TYLER BRIDGES

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was known for displaying a wicked sense of humor – before he became governor. But he flashed it Monday, privately, in an unexpected place.

 Jindal was in the State Capitol, waiting to enter the House chamber to address legislators and kick off the 2015 legislative session. Standing by to escort him were several lawmakers, including state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans.Bobby Jindal

 Just then, Arnold got a text from Arnold Baker, a friend from when the two men worked for then-New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. Baker was passing along the news that Jindal had appointed him to a prized position on the New Orleans Dock Board.

 Baker, who founded Baker Ready Mix Concrete and who chaired the National Black Economic Chamber of Commerce, edged out Entergy New Orleans President Charles Rice and attorney James Carter, who formerly served on the city council.

 Arnold had sent a letter to Jindal recommending Baker and upon getting Baker’s text reminded the governor of this and thanked him as well. Then Arnold’s phone rang. He told Jindal that it was Baker but that he didn’t dare answer it at that moment.

 Go ahead, the governor said, and then grabbed the cell phone from Arnold. Meanwhile, the Senate president’s voice, from the chamber, could be heard beginning to introduce the governor.

 Jindal congratulated Baker and then in an exaggerated tone of voice told him that the only reason he got the appointment was entirely because of Arnold’s support. Everyone around Jindal cracked up, including Baker, who thought it was actually Arnold impersonating the governor. Jindal said goodbye and walked through the double doors that lead into the House chamber.

 “Jindal definitely caught me by surprise,” Baker said several days later. “He played me. No one told me he was getting on the line.”

 Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter @TegBridges.

 

 

Inventory tax repeal to be first bill heard in committee

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. State Sen. Neil Riser, right, R-Columbia, accepts congratulations Wednesday from bill opponent state Rep. Roy Burrell, left, D-Shreveport, after Riser's  Senate Bill 303 advanced out of the Louisiana House Committee on the Administration by a 9-5 vote.  The bill would call for a tougher legal hurdle, in order  to restrict the right to keep and bear arms in Louisiana. 'To me, this is the most honorable bill I h’ve handled,'  Riser said.    At right is committee member Rep. Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice.

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. Republican State Sen. Neil Riser, right, chairs the Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee. He is shaking hands with state Rep. Roy Burrell.

By TYLER BRIDGES

A bill that would repeal the Louisiana’s business inventory tax is the first and only tax measure that the state Senate tax-writing committee will hear on Monday.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who chairs the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, said he was acceding to a request by the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, to hear the measure, Senate Bill 85. It would have to be approved by the state Legislature and the state’s voters as a constitutional amendment.

Eliminating the inventory tax would save the state treasury $452 million because businesses actually receive far more in refunds than they pay in tax liability.

But under a complicated mechanism, the money paid by businesses actually goes to local governments so they would be out $452 million. Adley’s bill will undoubtedly produce great angst among local government officials.

In choosing to repeal the inventory tax, Adley decided not to push – at least for now – an alternative bill sought by Gov. Bobby Jindal that would eliminate the tax refunds that businesses receive for paying the tax. They add up to $376 million per year.

“I know there are some legislators who want to repeal the inventory tax all together. I think that’s a discussion that needs to be had,” Jindal told reporters during a press briefing Thursday.

 

 

 

New traffic patterns and security confuses opening day at the Legislature

Heavy rain and confusion over new security procedures around the State Capitol, which were rolled out for the first time Monday morning.

Map of changes around State Capitol access

New traffic patterns mystified state workers who had followed the same routines for years.

Louisiana legislators officially gavelled in the 2015 session, with Senate President John Alario introducing the opening prayer by saying this annual meeting of the Louisiana Legislature would need lots of prayer.

State lawmakers are facing a $1.6 billion deficit and hope to balance the budget without significantly deeper cuts to higher education and health care.

Otherwise, today was light, paper-shuffling day and both chambers adjourned as expected around 3 p.m.

A handful of committees are expected to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, but the real committee work won’t get going until next week.

The Legislature blocked much of the access with security bollards and routed traffic to new entrances in heavily guarded parking areas.

Visitors can find parking in a lot on the riverside of River Road near the Pentagon Barracks apartments.

Traffic off Interstate 110 pass by the Governor’s Mansion, then west around the Arsenal Park. But access to the east of the State Capitol is restricted and traffic now continues along the back road to North Third Street.

Map of the traffic patterns is here: 041315 State Capitol access

Drivers with parking passes for the handicapped spaces, the restricted lots in front of the Capitol on the east side, and the Garden lot on the east side of the State Capitol need to drive down North 5th Street, which is now two-way, from Spanish Town Road, then turn left at Arsenal Park (where last week such a turn was illegal).

Security measures claim first victim

Republican State Rep. Paul Hollis, of Covington, became the first victim of the new security measure at the State Capitol.

Photo by MARK LAMBERT -- Legislator crashes into new security bollards at State Capitol

Photo by MARK LAMBERT — Legislator crashes into new security bollards at State Capitol

Monday, the day 2015 session of Louisiana Legislature opened, was the first time new routes for traffic, new parking arrangements and new security protocols went into effect. State Capitol parking lots are now protected by bollards, which raise and lower to allow credentialed drivers access.

Year-round staffers have been joking for weeks about how long it would take before the new security measures caused a crumpled fender.

Hollis was the first.

Hollis told The Associated Press he was inching his Audi A8 through a parking lot exit when a brand new security system engaged, shooting two pylons through the front of his car, damaging the automobile.

Hollis says he hit his windshield and his air bag deployed. He cut his wrist in the accident, shattered the face of his watch and was shaken up, but otherwise says he’s OK.

Of the new security system, Hollis says: “It’s definitely got pros and cons.”

Meghan Parrish, a spokeswoman for the Division of Administration, could not immediately say who would pay for the damage or why the system – part of a $5 million upgrade – activated.

Monday session at a glance

At a glance

2015 regular legislative session

  • 11:30 a.m.: Joint Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee meets
  • 12 p.m.: Louisiana House of Representatives and Senate officially begin
  • 1 p.m.: Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses joint session

Watch governor’s speech

Keep up with the session

Follow the 2015 legislative session with The Advocate

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 on Twitter: #Laleg

Here’s who to follow:

  • @MarkBallardCnb
  • @elizabethcrisp
  • @WillSentell
  • @MarshaShulerCNB
  • @tegbridges

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La Legislative Session Opens

Louisiana legislators officially gaveled in the 2015 session, with Senate President John Alario introducing the opening prayer saying this meeting would need lots of prayer. Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks to the joint session of the Legislature at 1 p.m.

Otherwise, today is light, paper-shuffling day and both chambers are expected to adjourn around 3 p.m.

A handful of committees are expected to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, but the real committee work won’t get going until next week.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany backs U.S. David Vitter for governor

Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany came out early and endorsed Wednesday fellow Capital Hill Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s gubernatorial bid.

Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel also endorsed Vitter, of Metairie.

The election is in October.

Three other major candidates have announced their intentions: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge; and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge; both Republicans, and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite.

Darrell Ourso wins House District 66 runoff

Former Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Darrell Ourso won by 72 votes to represent southeast East Baton Rouge parish neighborhoods in the Louisiana Legislature.

With all 29 precincts reporting former Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Darrell Ourso has 1,958 votes to Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso’s 1,886 ballots.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler expected a low turnout.

Amoroso and Ourso, both Republicans, are vying to fill out the remaining eight months left in the term of Hunter Greene, who stepped down as state representative after being elected the family court bench. The winner will have run again at the end of the year for a full four-year term.

House District 66 stretches from Interstate 12 to Bayou Manchac, including Woodland Ridge, Old Jefferson, Santa Maria, Tiger Bend, the Country Club of Louisiana and many of the neighborhoods that would make up the city of St. George, if the residents there voted to incorporate.

The 29 precincts of House District 66 have 30,779 people eligible to vote in Saturday’s election. A total of 24,471 registered voters are white — almost 80 percent — and 49 percent, 14,982, are registered as Republicans, one of the state’s highest concentrations.

Amoroso, 57, is a property manager who lives the Lake Sherwood Acres neighborhood and serves on the Baton Rouge Metro Council. He’s one of the founders of the anti-tax advocacy group Tax Busters and a former member of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport Commission.

Ourso, 50, is a financial advisor who lives in the Evergreen Acres neighborhood and served on the Baton Rouge Metro Council from 1999 to 2008. He is an executive board member of the Istrouma Area Council that oversees Boy Scout troops in the area. He also is on the board of commissioners for the St. George Fire Protection District.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCNB. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com.politicsblog/

John Bel Edwards nominated as La Democratic Party’s sole candidate

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, as the Louisiana Democratic Party votes Saturday to endorse him as their candidate for governor.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, as the Louisiana Democratic Party votes Saturday to endorse him as their candidate for governor.

The Democratic State Central Committee nominated Saturday State Rep John Bel Edwards as the party’s sole candidate for governor.

The vote was without dissent and followed by applause.

“Louisiana has lost its way,” said Edwards, of Amite, adding that the Jindal administration failed to strategically invest in the state.

Edwards told the Democrats that he supports a minimum wage, equal pay for women and increased financial support for higher education. But the bulk of the campaign will focus on Gov. Bobby Jindal,  who is term-limited and flirting with run for president.

“Bobby Jindal is more unpopular in Louisiana than President Barack Obama,” Edwards said.

He pointed out that his three Republican opponents – Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle,  of Breaux Bridge; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne,  of Baton Rouge; and U.S. Sen. David Vitter,  of Metairie – have all supported, or at least not opposed, Jindal’s policies. Those policies, he said, cut $700 million from the state’s colleges and universities, which required higher education to increase tuition and fees on students, as well as led to the closing of the emergency room that served mid-city Baton Rouge.

“As the only veteran in the race, I appeal to a diverse base of voters in our state because I am authentic,” Edwards said.  The 48-year-old lawyer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1988. He is the son of longtime Tangipahoa Parish sheriff Frank M. Edwards Jr. and brother of the current sheriff, Daniel H. Edwards. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008 and leads the chamber’s Democratic Party caucus.

Edwards walked through a standing ovation shaking hands and hugging delegates, including state Rep. Patricia Smith, the Baton Rouge Democrat whose district includes the State Capitol and who officially nominated him.

“You don’t outsource your fiscal policy to Grover Norquist,” Edwards said referring to Jindal passing the various contingencies to raise revenues and fill a $1.6 billion deficit past the prominent anti-tax crusader from Washington, D.C.

If he wins, an Edwards administration would look hard at the tax credits, deductions and exemptions offered businesses that strip of billions of dollars of revenues from state coffers.

“We have to grow the economy,” Edwards said in an interview after his speech. Louisiana has offered so many incentives that when new jobs are created, the state has given away the new revenues.

“You can’t have so many incentive exemptions, to where you can’t increase net new revenues to the point to pay your obligations,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union, endorsed Edwards earlier this month.

Though more than a half million voters are registered Democrats than have affiliated with the Republican Party, all the state officials elected statewide, both U.S. Senators, five of the six congressmen, and the majorities of both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature belong to the GOP. The gubernatorial election is scheduled for Oct. 24.

The action Saturday by party leaders will help keep other major candidates from jumping into the governor’s race. Edwards said the vote would allow the party, whose registered voters outnumber Republicans, to coalesce behind one candidate.

And the seven-month race will help voters better understand that he is in the mainstream of Louisiana thoughts and practices, Edwards said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been rumored to be interested in running statewide.

“He told me personally, on more than one occasion, that he wasn’t going  to run,” Edwards said.

Since the defeat of his sister, Mary Landrieu,  in the U.S. Senate campaign last fall, Mayor Landrieu,  Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish; and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, whose congressional district stretches up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge; are considered the state’s leading Democrats still in office.

 

David Vitter to speak at Southern University

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who is running for governor, is scheduled to speak April 1 at Southern University.

He was invited by the Southern College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and will speak in the atrium of Higgins Hall on the Baton Rouge campus Dean William Arp said in a press release. Vitter will speak at 11 a.m.

Arp said the university is not using its fund to pay for Vitter’s visit.