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David Vitter, Garret Graves say they wouldn’t impeach Obama

By Andrea Gallo, Advocate City Hall Bureau

U.S. Sen. David Vitter and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said Monday morning that they would not move to impeach President Barack Obama because it would leave Vice President Joe Biden running the country.

Their statements were in response to constituents who asked why Vitter had not taken action to remove Obama from office. Vitter and Graves both said the path forward shows impeachment would require a lot of time and trouble for slim to no payoffs.

“What does it look like to have Joe Biden as president instead of Barack Obama?” Vitter said. “I’ll tell you what it looks like, it looks exactly the same. So what do we do the next time, impeach Joe Biden? Okay let’s impeach Joe Biden. What do you think the next presidential election looks like? Do you think that hurts Hillary [Clinton]? Because I don’t. I think that elects Hillary. I think that elects Hillary for 8 years.”

Graves said the better solution is to adjust the balance of power so Obama — or any president — cannot “run over” Congress. He said Obama has “gone outside of the bounds” of many laws throughout his presidency.

“We would have Joe Biden as the president of the United States, which I will tell you probably concerns me more than anything else,” Graves said.

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.

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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.


VA clinic in Lake Charles delayed – again

Washington — A long-delayed new Veterans Affairs medical clinic in Lake Charles will be delayed even longer due to a snafu in awarding the construction contract, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs announced Friday.

The announcement drew harsh reactions from U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, whose Southwest Louisiana district includes Lake Charles, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La. They said they will press to schedule a conference call next week with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to discuss the latest delay.

The VA said the project would be delayed for “at least several additional months.” The most recent previous estimate for completion of the project was spring 2016.

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U.S. Senate approves mental-health proposal backed by Bill Cassidy, R-La.

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan proposal to increase access to mental-health treatment that was co-sponsored by Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

The unanimous agreement on the Cassidy-Murphy amendment came during a marathon Thursday might-Friday morning session as the Senate considered a Republican federal budget plan, which passed shortly before dawn Friday. The legislation is not binding, but it sets guidelines and could figure into future spending decisions.

To read a news release on the amendment from Cassidy’s Senate office, click here.

Letter: LSU board member alarmed by budget threat

LSU Board of Supervisors member Stanley Jacobs, of New Orleans, has penned a letter to the editor expressing alarm over the threat of deep cuts to state funding for higher education in the coming year.

“As a 15 year member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, who understands the significance of these draconian cuts, I feel like I’m standing on the Titanic and that the LSU that I graduated from and love so much is about to go under academically,” Jacobs writes.

Jacobs, who has served on the board under three different governors, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, urges Jindal and the state Legislature to identify a steady stream of funding for higher ed.

Read the full letter here.


Jay Dardenne hits the road to make governor’s bid “official”

It’s no secret Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is running for governor this fall.

Now, Republican Dardenne’s getting ready to launch his “official” announcement tour.

It’s scheduled for April 6 through April 9 and hits seven major metropolitan areas, starting with Dardenne’s home-base of  Baton Rouge at Westdale Middle School and concluding in Shreveport at Artspace. In between, he’ll have stops in Lafayette, Alexandria, Lake Charles, New Orleans, and Monroe.

“Jay is officially announcing his campaign for Governor to tackle some of Louisiana’s biggest problems. We need to see you at one of our stops,”  Dardenne’s campaign manager Jay Vicknair wrote in an email to supporters.

” By attending one of these events, you’ll get to hear part of Jay’s platform before it hits the press and your friends are reading about it in the newspapers,” Vicknair promises.

Also in the governor’s race are Republicans U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards.



U.S. Senate approves measures by David Vitter, R-La., on Obamacare and ALS

The U.S. Senate approved early Friday a proposal by David Vitter, R-La., to rewrite the rules on Affordable Care Act enrollment for members of Congress, the president, the vice president , Cabinet officers and other political appointees, sending them to buy coverage on the individual market.

The Senate also gave unanimous approval to a Vitter measure that liberalizes federal rules on providing speech-generating devices and other communications technology to patients afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other diseases. The Vitter measure is named for Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints football player with ALS.

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U.S. Senate OKs plan by David Vitter, R-La., to shield states from federal fallout if they reject Common Core

Washington – The U.S. Senate agreed Thursday to a proposal by David Vitter, R-La., to shield states from any negative effects of  federal policy due to rejecting or abandoning the use of the Common Core educational standards.

The 54-46 party-line vote attached an amendment to the overall federal budget proposal backed by the Senate’s Republican majority. A vote on the full proposal was expected late Thursday or early Friday.

The budget plan does not have the force of law, nor does it require Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature, but it constitutes a significant statement of policy and can factor into spending decisions.

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by education officials from the states and by private consultants to allow comparison of students’ performance. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted them, with Louisiana students taking tests this year for the first time under the program.

But Common Core has emerged as a contentious political issue, particularly among conservatives, many of who regard the program as federal intrusion into local schools. That’s in part because the federal government has tied adoption of Common Core to distribution of Race to the Top funds for schools and to the issuance of waivers from requirements of the No Child Left Behind education-reform law. Vitter’s amendment would ban such linkages and similar incentives.

Vitter, a candidate for governor this year, supported Common Core until changing his mind last year. That’s also true of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who cannot run for re-election but is considering a White House bid in 2016.

Jindal filed suit against the federal government last year, arguing that the federal promotion of Common Core is unconstitutional. The suit is pending.

Jindal has sought to get rid of Common Core in Louisiana, but so far has not overcome resistance by educational officials and legislators. He plans to keep trying.


Former Rep. Herbert Dixon gets state job

Former state Rep. Herbert Dixon of Alexandria is taking a new job with the Jindal administration’s labor agency.

Dixon is a new Louisiana Workforce Commission Outreach Director.

An agency announcement issued Thursday said  Dixon will work with local Workforce Investment Boards and community partners in the Delta region to help connect those living in the poorer parts of the state with quality jobs.

Citing health reasons, Dixon resigned late last year after serving seven years in the House representing a central Louisiana district.  He had been chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Previously, Dixon- a Democrat and member of the Legislature’s Black Caucus,  served 15 years on the Rapides Parish School Board.

“Herbert’s knowledge of the area, his relationships with many people in the Delta, and his passion for helping to lift people out of poverty through employment gives us a unique opportunity to lift up an area that needs it the most,”  LWC executive director Curt Eysink said in a news release.