All posts by Mark Ballard

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.

state constitution directs how some of the money from tobacco settlement would be used if sold

Lt Gov Jay Dardenne says the Jindal administration needs to remember that if it sells the remainder of the tobacco settlement, the state constitution requires 20 percent goes to coastal restoration.

Dardenne said he had heard no mention of the constitutional amendment, which was approved by voters in 2006, during discussions about the possibility of selling the multi-billion dollar fund created from the settlement of a lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers in the late 1990s.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a prepared statement that she would back sending 20 percent of proceeds to funds that restore the coast.

No money for presidential primary

Gov Bobby Jindal, who is considering a run for president, didn’t fund a presidential preference primary for Louisiana and Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Wednesday he won’t hold one. 

“I want to have a presidential preference primary as long as you pay for it,” Schedler told the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee during the panel’s department-by-department tour of Jindal’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“He hasn’t funded elections past December,” Schedler said about Jindal.  A presidential preference primary would be held in the Spring 2016 and would cost about $3.5 million.

Jindal leaves office in January and says he is praying about running for president in 2016. Recent polls show Jindal is unpopular with a majority of the state’s voters.

Democratic State Rep Katrina Jackson, of Monroe, said the action would take Louisiana out of the national dialogue. “We become a nonfactor with this budget the way it is,” she said.

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 or


Insurance commissioner picks up opponent

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon on Monday picked up a challenger to his reelection campaign later this year.

Matt Parker, who owns a car repair business in West Monroe, announced his candidacy in an emailed press release.

“The present Insurance Commissioner has received over one million dollars in campaign contributions from the insurance industry,” Parker said, “and we, the consumers, pay for it every time we pay our insurance premiums.”

Donelon, 70, had served for a quarter century as a state representative and Jefferson Parish president. He lost bids to be lieutenant governor and to go to Congress. He joined the Insurance Department in 2001 and became commissioner in 2006.

Parker has never run for office before.

He grew up in Monroe and ernt to Neville High School. He has been married 37 years to Nora Gaar Parker.  They have three children and three grandchildren.

Parker was featured recently on CNN, in an expose on the practices of the insurance industry and automotive repairs.

“These kinds of practices by the insurance industry are not isolated to automotive repairs but can be found in every area that the insurance industry touches,” Parker said. “Stopping these practices is the fight I am ready to fight for the good people of Louisiana.”

The election is set for Oct. 24.

In the most recent round of campaign finance reports, Donelon said he had more than $442,000 in his campaign account, while Parker showed a balance of just under $14,000.

Buddy Amoroso and Darrell Ourso go to Louisiana House runoff

Buddy Amoroso and Darrell Ourso will face each other in runoff to decide who will represent southeast Baton Rouge in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

With all 4,243 votes counted in Saturday’s low turnout special election, Amoroso received 1,512 votes or 35.6 percent of the total cast. Ourso followed with 1,477 votes that pitted four candidates to replace former state Rep. Hunter Greene, who is now a family court judge.

The runoff election is set for March 28, a Saturday. Early voting is March 14 to March 21.

Edwin Edwards seeks real estate license

Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards won approval Thursday from the Louisiana Real Estate Commission to apply for a real estate broker’s license.

The vote was 7-2.

The decision came after Edwards, 87, appeared before the commission to explain why it should allow him to prepare and sit for the licensing test. As a convicted felon, Edwards needed the permission of a majority of the 11-member commission to proceed.

The license is necessary to sell real estate in the state. The commission was brought about with major changes in license requirements during Edwards’ first term as governor in the early 1970s.

After serving four terms as governor of Louisiana, Edwards was found guilty on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud and other federal charges. He served a term in federal prison from 2002 to 2011.

In December, Edwards lost in runoff for the Baton Rouge-based 6th U.S. Congressional District. On election night Edwards said he would not seek public office again.


Gov Bobby Jindal will fully fund TOPS

Though the Jindal administration is looking at cutting governments 15 to 20 percent, cutting healthcare budgets and slashing state support for colleges and universities, TOPS will not be touched.

The popular merit-based scholarship, Taylor Opportunity Program for Students will be fully funded, the state Division of Administration said in a press statement Friday. TOPS pays tuition and some fees qualified students to the state’s public universities and colleges.

“The Governor is a strong defender of TOPS and has fought attempts to cap the program in the past,” the statement said.

The administration has increased funding by 142 percent, more than doubling the $117 million investment in 2008.

“In the upcoming budget, we will continue to fully fund the program, increasing our investment by nearly 14 percent, or $34 million,” the statement read.