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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.

Graves to EWE: My kids are cuter than your wife

It started with a comment about whose kids are cuter.
Then 6th Congressional District candidate Garret Graves upped the ante and took a swipe at opponent Edwin Edwards’ wife.
The forum wasn’t a town hall meeting or a candidate debate, but Twitter.
Graves, a former coastal adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Edwards, a four-time governor, are running against each other for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy. Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is trying to oust U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
Graves has an ad out that features his three children. Edwards has four grown children and a baby son with his wife, Trina. Eli Edwards turns 1 Friday. reporter Julia O’Donoghue unwittingly ignited a twitter war when she tweeted: “One thing is for sure. Our #LA06 candidates have really cute kids. @garretgraves @EdwinWEdwards” late last week.
Graves quickly tweeted back that his kids are cuter than Trina. He ended his tweet with the hashtag #tilDecember – either a reference to the congressional race’s election date or to the Edwardses’ May-December union. Graves later clarified he was referring to the possible December runoff.
Here’s what followed:


Jindal adds another event to New Hampshire trip

Gov. Bobby Jindal has added another event to his September New Hampshire trip.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (AP photo)

Gov. Bobby Jindal (AP photo)

Jindal, considered a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will speak at the Hillsborough County Republican committee’s gala, according to a report from

WMUR says that the event  ” will be one of the biggest Republican events all year.”

News broke earlier this month that Jindal was slated to participate in the Seacoast Republican Women’s chilifest on Sept. 6. The gala is that evening.

Jindal also visited New Hampshire, a major player in presidential primaries due to timing and media coverage, in March.

Officials concerned that beetle may attack La. ash trees


A picture of the beetle from the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Association of Onondaga County.

Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain is on the lookout for beetles that pack a punch.

Strain’s focus is on the Emerald Ash Borer beetles, which have been found in Arkansas. Now the search is on to discover if the pest has migrated south to Louisiana.

The beetle can be fatal to ash trees. Ash trees can be found along the Atchafalaya Basin and the Mississippi River Delta as well as in urban areas.

The beetle is so deadly that the federal government launched a campaign against it:
“Not only is ash one of the predominant trees planted in the Conservation Reserve Program, it is also a tree that is common in urban areas and has aesthetic appeal. If the trees start dying, it could be costly for residents or city officials to have them removed,” Strain said.

The beetles usually move into new areas through infested firewood. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry will launch a campaign in October warning against picking up a bundle of firewood and traveling more than 10 miles before burning it.
The Emerald Ash Borer beetle can be found in 24 states. It is native to Asia.

SU faculty propose fiscal plan that targets Mason

Southern University’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee has scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon to outline a proposal to address the university’s financial struggles, largely through striking back against System President Ron Mason, who has proposed a merging of his job and the Baton Rouge campus chancellor job.

Southern University System President Ron Mason [Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS]

Southern University System President Ron Mason [Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS]

The faculty proposal, to be released Thursday, will include three points.

Here’s how the Faculty Senate Executive Committee breaks down each point in an email from Faculty Senate President Thomas Miller, , scathingly targeting Mason’s system office — including recommendations to fire “non-essential” staff he has hired and removing some powers from his office:

  • Cost Savings and Operational Efficiency - The removal from office of System President Ronald Mason and of all individuals he has hired whose function is deemed non-essential to the operations of the SU System.  Furthermore, the Faculty Senate demands that there be a review of all contracts entered into by the SU System with outside parties, and that all contracts deemed non-essential to the good governance of the System be terminated.  Spending at the System level, on high priced salaries, redundant and unnecessary offices, and unnecessary contractual expenses, has gone nearly unfettered.
  • Solving the Problem - Remove the SU System from interference in the operations of the SUBR campus and return the System to its designated function as per SUS bylaws; namely, that it should advise and coordinate operations among the SU campuses.  This would return to SUBR authority over the governance of campus operations thereby allowing for the campus administration to be held accountable for the fiscal and academic well being of SUBR.  Mason arrogated to himself authority over these areas from July 2011.  (The result has been catastrophic, beginning with the ‘registration fiasco’ of fall 2011, which, in itself, resulted in an estimated loss in enrollment of between 300 and 500 students.)  The SU Board formally granted Mason authority over these areas only retroactively (October, 2012).
  • Reallocation of Resources - Return to the campuses the areas of Enrollment Management (Enrollment, Registrar, Financial Aid and Retention), Information Technology, Business and Finance, and Human Resources.  These area have been under System governance since July 2011, during which time they have been not only mismanaged but starved for resources in terms of personnel, funding and support.   The growth and good health of the institution depends directly upon the success of their operations.

The Faculty Senate unanimously took a vote of no confidence in Mason at its meeting last month, according to Miller.

“The SUBR Faculty Senate recognizes that Southern in Baton Rouge holds great value for all Louisianians,” the news release states. “It also feels strongly that its problems are fixable and that there is great reason for optimism.  We are equally strong in our belief that the first step toward putting SUBR back on the path to fiscal solvency and academic excellence it to return to the campus the authority, as well as the responsibility, over its own day to day operations.”

Meanwhile, Mason will again present plans for the administrative merger during the Southern University System’s Board of Supervisors meeting on Friday.

Last month, the board appointed Vice Chancellor for Finance Flandus McClinton Jr. to serve as acting chancellor, in addition to his vice chancellor duties.

Mason has said he would serve in a dual president/chancellor role if the two are merged, similar to LSU, or the board could appoint someone new when his contract expires next year.

Mason has drawn attention to how much cash-strapped Southern spends on duplicated administrative roles on the university and system levels.

Southern has been plagued by financial struggles in recent years, pulling millions from reserves to prop up its general budget. Recently, the university failed to meet requirements of the 2010 GRAD Act and, therefore, can’t raise tuition this year to bring in more money.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, wins House OK of a bill for the first time

It may not go down in history as a landmark piece of legislation, but H.R. 4812 nonetheless represents a milestone for U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans: It’s the first bill he’s sponsored to pass the House of Representatives.

Called the Honor Flight Act, the measure directs the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to come up with a system for “expedited and dignified” airport security screening for military veterans taking charity flights to visit war memorials that honor their service.

The bill passed the House on a voice vote Tuesday and now moves to the Senate.

In his two terms in Congress, Richmond, 40, has served as lead sponsor on several other bills, but none of them has made it out of committee, the first stop for legislation. Richmond’s status as a member of the Democratic minority in the House makes the task of advancing legislation more difficult.

The bill takes its name from the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that flies veterans to visit memorials honoring them, such as the World War II Memorial in Washington. The organization concentrates on the most senior vets.

The bill was filed by Richmond in June and has four co-sponsors: Democrat Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, and Republicans Richard Hudson, of North Carolina, Michael McCaul, of Texas, and Steven Polazzo, of Mississippi. It was sent to the full House from the Homeland Security Committee, which includes Richmond as a member.

NCSL summit agenda features 3 from Louisiana

State legislators from across the country will travel to Minnesota next month for the National Conference of State Legislatures’ legislative summit, and at least three people from Louisiana are slated to participate in or lead sessions during the five-day event, which is meant to bring state lawmakers together for information on trends and innovations.

Various topics will include labor and economic development, the future of higher education and changes states are making to the role prisoners play in redistricting, as well as a discussion featuring Bizarre Foods America’s Andrew Zimmern on addressing chronic hunger.  The meeting agenda also notes a “bipartisan bike ride” opportunity for legislators.

Louisiana House Clerk Alfred Speer is scheduled to preside over a meeting of NCSL’s Mason’s Manual Commission on Aug. 19, and Louisiana Senate IT coordinator Gary Schaefer is slated to facilitate a discussion on “Crypto-Currencies: Changing the Way We Do Commerce” on Wednesday. That session will feature Jim Harper, global policy counsel for Bitcoin and other experts on alternative payment methods.

Ron Gubitz, of New Orleans’ ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, will speak at a lunch discussion on the President’s Arts Council partnership efforts with schools and pilot programs.

Read the full agenda here.

U.S. Senate confirms Baton Rouge lawyer John deGravelles as federal judge

The U.S. Senate Tuesday confirmed Baton Rouge lawyer John W. “Johnny” deGravelles as a federal judge in Louisiana.

A partner at the firm of deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus & Frugé, deGravelles specializes in civil litigation representing individuals and businesses. He has practiced extensively in both state and federal court. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from LSU.

He serves as an adjunct faculty member at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and Tulane University Law School’s Summer Program in Rhodes, Greece. He was honored as a Fulbright Scholar for his work on international maritime education.

deGravelles will serve on the bench for the Middle District of Louisiana, comprising the parishes of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana. The court convenes in the Russell B. Long Federal Courthouse on Florida Street in Baton Rouge.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., recommended deGravelles to President Barack Obama for nomination to the judgeship in December. deGravelles also received support from Baton Rouge-area elected officials, legal educators and lawyers.

Federal judicial nominations require confirmation by the Senate. The vote for deGravelles was unanimous

Jindal: Obamacare falling apart

A federal appeals  court ruling  provides more proof that President Barack Obama’s health care law is “falling apart at the seams,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday.

A three judge panel in Washington ruled 2-1 that the law, as written, only allows insurance subsidies in states that have set up their own exchanges.

It affects consumers who purchased their coverage through the federal insurance marketplace — or exchange— that serves 36 states and could mean more out of pocket expense.

Jindal’s office released the following statement:

“ This should come as no surprise. President Obama and his liberal allies rammed Obamacare through Congress without any care for following the Constitution and the laws of this country. Worse, the Obama administration continues to change the rules and make them up as they go in an effort to force Obamacare on the American people.”

“More federal regulations and lawless executive orders are not the way to improve health care in this country.  Obamacare needs to be fully repealed and replaced with a system that empowers patients and providers, and that gives states greater ability to decide how best to reduce health care costs.”

Graves to open campaign headquarters

Congressional candidate Garret Graves is opening his campaign headquarters, and he’s offering free lunch to the media if they show up for the ribbon cutting.

Graves, a Republican running in the 6th Congressional District, is locating near Government Street in Baton Rouge at 660 Jefferson Highway.

The grand opening is Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

One of Graves’ congressional opponents is former Gov. Edwin Edwards, whose office is a mile or so away on Jefferson Highway.