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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.

Bobby Jindal’s campaign theme song? ‘Eye of the Tiger’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal hasn’t announced a run for the 2016 presidential nomination, but he recently told ABC News, if he does run, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” has a shot at becoming his campaign theme song.

“It’s about an underdog taking on big challenges,” Jindal reportedly told ABC News in an interview at CPAC last week. “I think we need a candidate who’s going to fight for us, fight for our principles, and have fun doing it.”

[Of note: Newt Gingrich was sued over his use of the song at campaign rallies in 2012, and, in fact, recently included the Rocky III theme on its list of songs that politicians should avoid.]

Others who answered, including former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Dr. Ben Carson, had a bit less obvious — and less litigious — picks. Carson went with The Star Spangled Banner, and Santorum named a song written for his 2012 run for president.

bobby jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (AP photo)

Jindal’s potential campaign hasn’t gained a ton of traction, despite lots of travel and attempts to grab headlines in recent weeks.

Jindal spent part of last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but came in 12th in the event’s annual straw poll. This weekend, he courted conservative donors at the winter meeting of the Club for Growth in Palm Beach, Florida.

In a new column, conservative commentator, radio host and Louisiana native Erick Erickson, who has been a supporter of Jindal, argues that the term-limited governor’s recent tactics could hurt any presidential aspirations he might harbor.

“I think Jindal has a path forward, but the one he has chosen degrades all his accomplishments and leaves him looking less than the bright light he is,” Erickson writes.

Jindal will be hitting up the Republican National Committee’s donor retreat in Boca Raton, Florida, later this month, according to The Washington Post. He has additional appearances lined up in Iowa, New Hampshire, Georgia and Tennessee in the coming weeks.

LSU President releases video update on budget situation

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander has released a video message to reassure the university’s supporters, following the release of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget recommendation that threatens to cut higher education funding by more than $500 million if state lawmakers don’t approve a plan that would reduce some tax credits.

“We will weather this storm together,” he says in the nearly 2-minute message, filmed in his campus office.

In the video, Alexander assures LSU fans that he’s working with state leaders to bring the proposed cuts down to zero and that the system is embracing creative solutions to lessen the impact of potential cuts.

“Our university is strong. We are nationally competitive,” he said. “We provide solutions to the state’s most pressing problems.”

Other higher ed updates

Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo, speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, sent a similar message. Read about his appearance here.

As The Advocate reported Monday, leaders concerned about the impact that deep and repeated cuts are having on the states colleges and universities are floating more admittedly “radical” ideas for the state long-term.

In a statement Monday, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, an Amite Democrat who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, responded to the report that at least two members of the state Board of Regents have asked for more information on privatizing colleges.

“There will be no middle class in Louisiana if Bobby Jindal’s self-created fiscal crisis leads to the wholesale slaughter of our beloved public colleges and universities as well as the dreams of our children,” said Edwards, who is running for governor this year. “I will not allow our higher education system to be sacrificed on the altar of Bobby Jindal’s personal political ambition.”

Bobby Jindal comes in 12th in CPAC straw poll

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal received a warm reception when he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, but CPAC attendees appear to have their sights set on other potential 2016 presidential contenders.

bobby jindal 2016

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (AP photo)

Jindal earned less than 1 percent of the 3,007 votes cast in CPAC’s straw poll this year, coming in 12th place. He came in behind not just marquee Republicans like U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (who finished first, second and third, respectively), but Jindal also got fewer votes than Donald Trump and barely edged out former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — neither of which have been considered serious contenders for the GOP’s nomination next year.

Jindal also performed worse than he did in 2014’s CPAC straw poll, in which he took 2 percent of the vote and landed in 10th place.

Jindal hasn’t formally said whether he will run for president next year but has been making steady strides in that direction. An analysis conducted by The Advocate found he spent half of 2014 outside Louisiana, frequently making appearances that could be seen as laying the foundation for a presidential run.

On Saturday, Jindal courted support from the anti-tax Club for Growth at its winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

bobby jindal cpac straw poll

‘Hercules’ actor says he likes Bobby Jindal in 2016 presidential slate

Actor Kevin Sorbo, best known as “Hercules,” is at the Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. this week, and The Hill asked him who he supports for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.

His answer: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal! (Or maybe Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, too…)

Jindal, who has been weighing a run for president, hasn’t formally announced his intentions but says he will in the next “couple of months.”

bobby jindal kevin sorbo

Kevin Sorbo and Bobby Jindal (via Sorbo’s Facebook page)

“I think he’d be a great candidate,” Sorbo told The Hill regarding Louisiana’s term-limited governor. “I like the fact that he’s a strong-valued man and he speaks his mind, we need that. I just agree with what he said the other day that the Republican Party needs to find a spine.”

Jindal, you may remember, will make a cameo in Sorbo’s upcoming film ‘Caged.’ The movie, which was filmed in Baton Rouge, is due out this fall, according to promotional materials. Sorbo posted on Facebook last year a photo of himself and Jindal on set, noting they had filmed a scene together.

According to the Caged Facebook page, the Justice Trilogy will chronicle the fictional tale of a Louisiana family’s experience with human trafficking and a grandmother’s plot to rescue her kidnapped granddaughters. It’s based on the novels by Molly Venzke.

Bobby Jindal to headline Tennessee GOP event next month

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is slated to keynote the Tennessee Republican Party’s Leadership Series event in Memphis on March 20.

“Gov. Jindal is an exciting leader in our party and we’re proud to welcome him to Memphis,” TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney said in a statement touting the appearance this week. “A number of leading Tennessee Republicans call Shelby County home and they are eager to hear about Louisiana’s success under Gov. Jindal’s leadership and what his priorities are for our nation.”

The trip is  among several recent appearances lined-up by Jindal, who is eyeing a run for president in 2016. An analysis by The Advocate recently found the governor had spent half of 2014 outside Louisiana.

TNGOP’s announcement of Jindal’s appearance trumpets the term-limited governor as a “a top-tier potential candidate in the 2016 GOP field” and includes an image of Jindal with the presidential seal faintly photoshopped behind him.

Tickets for the Tennessee event will run attendees $100 for just a reception or $1000 per person/couple for a dinner with Jindal.

State higher education leaders respond to Bobby Jindal’s budget plan

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration today proposed cutting funding for higher education by about $211 million in the coming year but left the door open for some plans that could generate additional dollars to close the gap.

Here’s how the leaders of Louisiana’s four college and university system boards responded to the news.

Southern University System President Ronald Mason: “While the budget cuts to higher education included in the proposed budget for 2015-2016 are much less than anticipated, they are still significant. The only manageable scenario is zero cuts. We appreciate the ideas put forward to further lessen cuts to higher ed. We are hopeful and will continue working with the Governor and the Legislature to come up with solutions to ensure the survival of public universities in Louisiana, and secure the future of our state.”

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander: “These budget cuts are significant. We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to look at solutions, including his plan to offset $567 million in cuts with proposed tax credit changes of $372 million. We are also pursuing our own creative solutions for financial stability. This is the beginning of a long process where we will work with the Legislature and the Governor to ultimately restore funding for public higher education to its appropriate levels.”

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley: “We are encouraged by the administration’s willingness to identify revenue options that could alleviate budget reductions to higher education. We are in the process of digesting all of the options laid out in the Governor’s Executive Budget to examine how it addresses our collective goal of maintaining current funding levels with minimal burden on our students. This is the starting point of a long process of working with the administration and legislators, as most of the revenue proposals are contingent upon legislative action.”

Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan: “The announcement of Governor Jindal’s proposed 2016 Executive Budget is the first step in the budget development process.  The different options being proposed to minimize impacts to higher education is encouraging.  I am optimistic that collectively the administration, the legislature, and the higher education leadership will find budget solutions that work for the citizens of Louisiana.  The focus of Louisiana’s community and technical colleges remains on educating and training the people of Louisiana and meeting the state’s unprecedented workforce demands.”

Elbert Guillory takes to hip-hop airwaves to spread GOP message

Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory is marking Black History Month by hitting the airwaves to promote the Republican Party on hip-hop and R&B stations in 11 cities across the country.

Guillory, an Opelousas Republican and candidate for lieutenant governor, will be on radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as well as Memphis, Birmingham, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio. The ad is being pushed through his Free At Last Political Action Committee.

In the ad, Guillory explains that the Republican Party was founded as the anti-slavery party.

“You see, the movement to end slavery and the creation of the Republican Party were one-in-the same,” says Guillory, who is black. “Abolitionist leaders like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were committed Republicans and Frederick Douglass was one of the party’s early champions.”

In a statement Guillory said his goal is to spread the GOP’s message to more black Americans.

” We wanted to use the air waves of hip hop radio to get this message out there, hoping that it may spark an epiphany in listeners,” he said.

Listen to the ad below.

Will Jindal-White feud lap over to governor’s budget plans?

A bitter disagreement between Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Superintendent of Education John White over Common Core may show up again when Jindal’s spending plans are unveiled on Friday morning.

Jindal and White have feuded for months over Common Core, including court fights, dueling press conferences  and often barbed comments.

State aid for public schools, dollars for standardized test contracts and funding for the state Department of Education are all in play in the budget amid Louisiana’s $1.6 billion shortfall to maintain current spending.

While the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education makes a formal request to the Legislature, the panel often takes its lead from whatever the governor suggests.

State aid in the $3.6 billion  funding mechanism — it is called the Minimum Foundation Program — was virtually frozen for five years.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said earlier this month that the Jindal administration is “committed to protecting classroom funding.”

What that means is unclear.

A task force has recommended a 2.75 percent funding hike, about $70 million, subject to state budget conditions.

Others predict a recommended increase of between zero and 2.75 percent.

And Jindal aides  have long argued that, even if more more is added only because enrollment rose, that too is an increase even if spending per student remains unchanged.

White said earlier this week that he is concerned Jindal’s budget proposal will exclude dollars for standardized tests, which White said could imperil $800 million in federal aid.

Stafford Palmieri, assistant chief of staff for the governor, countered that White, like other agency heads, will be required to trim his department’s budget but will have some discretion.

How bad are relations between Jindal and his hand-picked superintendent?

Last July the Jindal administration, in the midst of rising tensions over Common Core,  told White that his agency would be subject to be more stringent contract rules.

The new reqirements meant that the state Department of Education would have to win approval from state finance officials for any contracts exceeding $2,000.

The previous cap was $20,000.

Nichols, a Jindal lieutenant, called the curbs needed.

BESE President Chas Roemer, an ally of White,  labeled the order political.

Jindal’s budget proposal starts the process.

The Legislature, which convenes on April 13, then reviews the plan to ready state aid for the financial year that begins July 1.







Legislator wants voters to decide Medicaid expansion

With health care cuts looming large, a top Democratic legislator is proposing to let Louisiana voters decide whether they want Medicaid expansion to relieve the funding pressure.

State Sen. Karen Peterson, the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, filed a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday under which the state health agency would be directed to offer health insurance to Louisiana residents with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Today, that would mean individuals earning up to $1,285 a month. For a family of four, the earning level would be up to $2,651 a month.

Similar legislation died in the 2014 legislative session.

At least 240,000 Louisiana residents could get Medicaid insurance coverage.

Peterson prefiled the bill the day before the Jindal administration is scheduled to present its state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The proposed budget contains deep spending cuts in health care and higher education because of a $1.6 billion state revenue shortfall. Health care cuts are expected to soar beyond the $700 million mark.

“Medicaid Expansion is a win for our working families, for our business climate, for our economy, for our hospitals, and for our beleagered state budget,” said Peterson, of New Orleans.

“The people of Louisiana deserve a chance to decide this critical issue themselves, in true democratic fashion.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal has vehemently opposed Medicaid expansion claiming it only extends an expensive program that’s not working to improve people health and would end up being too costly to the state.

The proposition would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, before going to Louisiana voters Oct. 24. Jindal could not veto its passage.

The Medicaid expansion is paid 100 percent  by the federal government in its first three years. In subsequent years, state costs would rise to 10 percent of costs.