Politics

Coverage of politics from the Louisiana statehouse in Baton Rouge and beyond.

Louisiana’s budget problems have many criticizing the tax incentives for the entertainment industry, which cost the state about $250-million last year. A legislative task force has been looking into ways to curb fraud in the film program. They met last week, to discuss the thrust of bills they may file in the upcoming legislative session.

“These are various common-sense measures that we think can be taken to perhaps make it a little bit less easy to steal from these programs,” Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said, as he prepared to give the panel suggestions based on his experiences investigating problems with the programs.

“My child is crying and beating his head on the table at night, when we address homework,” Desoto Parish parent Karen Jenkins told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday.

“My grandchildren started vomitin’ at school,” Caddo Parish grandmother Pat Dyson said.

Both were trying to persuade BESE to make allowances for opting out of the upcoming PARCC testing, because they believe Common Core is doing more harm than good.


Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines.

“I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.”

The deadline for pre-filing bills for the 2016 legislative session is just 30 days away. But where does the track for a bill actually start?

Louisiana House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer says the process starts with a member’s idea, which is then brought to one of the 80 people who work in the House Legislative Service Division.

At first, it seemed as though everyone was breathing a sigh of relief, as the 2016 executive budget proposal unveiled last week did not slash higher education as deeply as expected.

“The true reduction to higher education is $211.3 million,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told the Joint Budget Committee last Friday.

But Nichols went on to admit that number is built on “ifs” and “maybes” that include capping the business inventory tax credit, as well as asking college students to pay what the administration is calling an “excellence fee”.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Monday as it heard arguments testing how far states may go to prevent political parties from drawing congressional district lines to maximize partisan advantage.

One component of the Jindal administration’s 2016 budget proposal, revealed Friday, involves holding the line on spending in the public-private hospital partnerships. The private partners in the LSU hospital deals had asked for an additional $142-million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“What we funded these hospitals for was level funding, effectively,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols detailed to the Joint Budget Committee. “And some of the hospitals are projecting growth above level funding. That’s the point of discussion that we are going to have to work through in this process.”

The Jindal administration unveils its budget proposal today for the next fiscal year. What solutions to the $1.6-billion deficit will be proposed?

“Until we see it, we don’t really know,” says Lafayette Rep. Joel Robideaux.

Even House Speaker Chuck Kleckley admits he has been kept in the dark.

“I know nothing,” Kleckley told us earlier this week. “I don’t know anything more than you know, or what I read in the press.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry will push lawmakers to lower the state’s uniquely high threshold for civil jury trials in the upcoming session. LABI president Stephen Waguespack says current law violates your constitutional right to trial by jury.

“You — as a citizen — can’t get a jury unless you’re sued above $50,000,” Waguespack explains. “If you’re sued for $35-, $40-, $45-thousand, then you better hope you’re going to get assigned to the right judge, because it’s the only choice you’re going to get here.”

We know their public personas, but what do Louisiana’s statewide elected officials do when they’re off the clock?

“Collecting sports memorabilia and Louisiana history stories have been my passions, as of late,” says Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. He loves to recount those stories he’s learned of the characters and quirks that have made the Bayou State both strange and wonderful. One of his favorite tales involves former state Senator Dudley LeBlanc of Abbeville.

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