Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Deadline Set for Turnover to Office of Debt Recovery

of more than $4 million Owed to Taxpayers

State Treasurer John Kennedy announced Monday that 36 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have until August 31, 2013 to fulfill their obligations under the law or be turned over to the Office of Debt Recovery for the collection of approximately $4.452 million owed to taxpayers.

“The Legislature and the Governor made it very clear with the passage of House Bill 629 and the establishment of the Office of Debt Recovery that the days of owing the state money and hiding are over,” Kennedy said. “We now have an agency in state government with teeth whose sole mission is to ensure every penny owed to the taxpayers is recovered.”

Treasurer Kennedy announced that the Department of the Treasury will issue final demand letters this week to 36 entities that have failed to comply with the provisions of Executive Order BJ 2008-30, established by Governor Kathleen Blanco and continued by Governor Bobby Jindal, which requires transparency and accountability from NGOs that have received direct taxpayer support in past appropriation bills.

“Over the last several years, our Audit & Compliance Division has repeatedly sent certified letters, sent e-mails and even made personal call attempts to these particular entities demanding the required ‘progress reports’ and the supporting documentation required under the law with little or no response,” Kennedy said.  “While most NGOs have worked in good faith with our office and have been in compliance, these 36 organizations have become the most flagrant violators of these important requirements.”

Under the regulations, NGOs receiving taxpayer money directly via HB 1 must provide progress reports and corresponding documentation to the Treasury in order to maintain their appropriations. Examples of the required paperwork include a comprehensive budget, detailed description of the public purpose, and detailed cost information outlining the use of the appropriated funds.  Entities failing to comply with the provisions are required to return the full appropriation to the State Treasury.

Should these 36 entities ultimately decide to continue their non-compliance, they will be among the first items on the agenda for the new Office of Debt Recovery.  Treasurer Kennedy has long advocated the establishment of such an office and made it a top priority during Governor Jindal’s Streamlining Commission in 2009.  Now that HB 629 has made that a reality, state agencies will be required to refer unpaid receivables to a centralized unit for collection.

“I’m hoping all agencies across state government will aggressively utilize this new mechanism to maximize revenues,” Kennedy said. “Every dollar that is brought in by this new process is one less dollar we have to raise in taxes or cut in important priorities, such as funding education or aiding the disabled.”

List of 36 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Out of Compliance with Executive Order BJ 2008-30

12th   Ward Save Our Community Organization, Inc. $520,000
Algiers   Enterprise Community Council, Inc. $25,000
BASIC   of Louisiana $85,000
Booker   T. Community Outreach Program $25,000
Boys   & Girls Club of Natchitoches $75,000
Children   of the Village Foundation, Inc. $10,000
Community   Awareness Revitalization & Enhancement Corp. $130,000
Community   Services of Richland, Inc. $30,000
Daughters   of Promise $25,000
Desire   Community Housing Corp. $100,000
Emmit   Spurlock Memorial Foundation $10,000
Fourth   District Missionary Baptist Association of Louisiana, Inc. $75,000
Gordon   Plaza Elderly & Handicapped Apartments, Inc. $30,000
Just   Willing Foundation $75,000
Kids   Coupes, Inc. $140,000
Lady   Flame, Inc. $2,000
Life   Economic Development Corporation $100,000
Lower   Ninth Ward Neighborhood Council, Inc. $15,000
Martin   L. King Jr. Neighborhood Association in Shreveport $100,000
McKinley   High School Alumni Association $125,000
Muttshack   Animal Rescue Foundation, Inc. $15,000
National   Empowerment Coalition, Inc. $150,000
Neighbors   for a Better Baker $10,000
Novice   House, Inc. $50,000
Purple   Circle Social Club $50,000
Rapides   Primary Health Care Center, Inc. $550,000
Serenity   67 $150,000
Southside   Economic Development District, Inc. $50,000
Succor,   Inc. $550,000
Tab-N-Action   (Boy Scouts of Ouachita Parish) $30,000
The   Colomb Foundation, Inc. $300,000
The   Olive Branch Ministries $20,000
Treme   Community Education Program, Inc. $325,000
Twelfth   Ward Save Our Community $100,000
Wilbert   Tross, Sr. Community Development & Counseling Center $350,000
Young   Emerging Leaders of LA $55,000

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The Louisiana Board of Regents in May estimated there was a $1.7 billion backlog in repairing and renovating campus facilities in colleges and universities across the state.

But even with sewer systems that backed up into classrooms, leaky roofs, outdated laboratories and even mold among the deficiencies cited by the Regents, it’s certainly good to know that Gov. Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature could scrape together $1.2 million to make improvements to athletic facilities at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux in order to make life easier for the Manning family.

Don’t get us wrong. We have nothing against the Mannings. We were not among those who got up in arms when Peyton and Eli opted to ply their trade for the University of Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively. In fact, Eli’s gravitation to Oxford was just natural, given that Dad Archie played there. But didn’t our Bert Jones embarrass Archie and the Rebels 61-17 back in 1970? And two years later, Jones somehow managed to get off two passes in the final four seconds, the second one to Brad Davis for a 10-yard touchdown and a 17-16 win (We know, set your watches back two seconds…).

No, this is not about Archie, Eli, Peyton and Cooper and their football camp at Nicholls.

This is about priorities.

Jindal somehow can’t find money to help the developmentally disabled in this state but he can find $1.2 million (with the assistance of State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, and State Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma), to make improvements to the 25 football fields on which the Manning Passing Academy teaches some 1200 football campers—campers who, we are reasonably certain, pay a hefty fee for the privilege of receiving tutelage from the quarterbacking legends.

Pardon us for not fawning all over the Mannings and praising Jindal’s efforts to keep the passing camp at Nicholls (even though Archie Manning said he had no intentions of moving the camp). So what if they were to move the camp? Where would they take it? In all likelihood, they’d simply go to another Louisiana city.

“The improvements are good for the academy (no kidding?) but it is good for Nicholls (which classroom or professor benefits from this?) and I want to thank the folks here and the people at the South Louisiana Economic Council for working to get this done,” Jindal said, apparently forgetting for the moment the pressing need for better classroom facilities at institutions of higher education all over the state.

And did it slip his mind that he has slashed the higher education budget by 80 percent since he became governor?

“This academy has a $1.8 million impact to our state,” the governor said.

Wait. What? Did anyone at that staged announcement in the John L. Guidry Stadium’s Century Club Room on July 12 have the presence of mind to challenge that statement? Did anyone asked the governor to quantify those numbers?

If not, we will. Right here. Right now.

How does Jindal and/or the South Louisiana Economic Council calculate the economic impact of this event? Campers who stay overnight pay the Mannings, not local hotels or eateries. We love the way in which political leaders, for the sake of political expedience, pluck such numbers out of thin air.

The biggest economic impact, we would guess, would be the fees charged by the Mannings for their “academy.” And that money goes into their bank accounts, not the Lafourche Parish economy. Does anyone seriously believe the Mannings stage their annual academy for free?

Based on the academy’s fee schedule (see comments by GJD), the Mannings take in something between $500,000 and $700,000 for the four-day camp.

We let our civic proud show through when Peyton won his one Super Bowl and Eli his two. Okay, we were also thrilled when Peyton lost that one special Super Bowl to the Saints. And we were a little smug when he had that great comeback season for Denver last year. But to take funding away from needed projects and lavish it on these millionaires who are promoting…football? A game?

“They don’t have to spend their summers here,” Jindal said of Daddy Archie and sons. “They don’t have to rearrange their schedules to be here. They choose to do that.”

Wow. Talk about gooneybabble. Talk about mindless spin. Talk about convoluted logic.

Spend their summers here? Try four days. Rearrange their schedules? What the hell is Jindal talking about? They specifically arrange their schedules around this annual event to rake in a small fortune—far more than the average state employee earns in a year—even more than some of Jindal’s non-classified appointive positions (readers’ collective gasps would go here). You’re damn right they choose to do that, Governor. Anyone in his right mind would choose to do that for the money they get.

Come to think of it, though, they probably spend more days at their passing academy each year than you do in Louisiana, Governor.

It’s one thing to turn your back on those in need in order to help your wealthy friends, Guv, but don’t blow smoke up our togas while you’re doing it.

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“I believe that all elected officials should—as I have always endeavored to do—act with the interests of our citizens in mind.”

—State Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond), vice chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and former director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, defending his work as attorney for insurance companies seeking to deny or reduce workers’ compensation claims and his admitted practice of routinely consulting with his successor OWC Director Wes Hataway on pending matters before OWC that directly affect his clients.

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When Chris Broadwater the state legislator says he has never received compensation from a private source for the performance of his legislative duties, he is technically correct.

Broadwater the attorney, however, does represent insurance companies before a state agency he once ran and over which he still exercises control as Vice Chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Taking that gray area of state ethics and moving into even murkier waters is the fact that Broadwater regularly consults with Wes Hataway, the current director of the Louisiana Office of Worker’s Compensation, the appointive position he himself once held before his election to the House of Representatives in 2011, on matters pending before the current director, Wes Hataway.

Broadwater (R-Hammond) resigned as Director of the Office of Workers’ Comp (OWC) in February 2011 to join a private law firm preparatory to running for state representative that same year and was succeeded by Hataway.

An ally of Gov. Bobby Jindal, Broadwater was immediately assigned to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee where he was promptly named vice chairman.

Documents filed with the State Board of Ethics in December 2012 and April of this year indicate that Broadwater represents three companies, Qmedtrix at $275 an hour, the Louisiana Home Builders Association, and LUBA Worker’s Comp, both at $135 an hour, in defending worker’s compensation claims before the OWC.

Moreover, an application for supervisory writs filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles in March of this year in the case of Christus Health Southwest Louisiana, dba Christus St. Patrick Hospital, v. Great American Insurance Co. of New York, revealed meetings between Broadwater, Qmedtrix and Hataway to discuss the disposition of numerous cases involving Qmedtrix, namely efforts to get the cases stayed and transferred to another judge.

That writ application concerns procedures and conversations that took place involving numerous pending workers’ compensation cases about which we will be writing in subsequent postings.

For the purposes of this post, however, we will be limiting the discussion to the activities of Broadwater as they pertain to his relationship with the current Director of OWC (the position he once held) and his serving as vice chairman of the legislative committee that oversees the functions of OWC.

Broadwater, when confronted with the reports of the meetings, admitted to meeting with Hataway in late November 2012 at which time the transfers were discussed, the court filing says.

“In what may be the pinnacle of irony, Mr. Broadwater actually disclosed this ex parte meeting on his state ethics disclosure form,” the writ application says.

It (the writ application) quoted Broadwater’s own comment from that disclosure form: “Met with Director of OWC discussing process of resolving disputes over medical billing.”

The document said Broadwater admitted to meeting with Hataway “three or four times in person” (always with a Qmedtrix attorney present) and speaking with him 10 or 15 times on the phone. “This ex parte contact (Latin legal term meaning for the benefit of one party) with the OWC director at the request of Qmedtrix” cost Qmedtrix $275 per hour for Mr. Broadwater’s services, it said. “This rate must have seemed reasonable to Qmedtrix especially once they learned Chris Broadwater was not only a longtime friend (20 years) of Director Hataway, but was actually Director Hataway’s boss when Chris Broadwater was OWC Director,” the writ application added.

Not only did Broadwater admit discussing with Hataway the pending appointment of his former law partner to succeed Judge Shelly Dick once Judge Dick was confirmed as U.S. District Court Judge, but he related in detail how Hataway sought his advice on whether or not Hataway had the power as director to issue a stay of pending cases without involving the judges to whom the cases were assigned. Broadwater was of the opinion that Hataway did have such authority.

At the time Broadwater was hired by Qmedtrix, he “was well aware that Qmedtrix was involved in numerous workers’ compensation claims pending in the various OWC districts challenging its payment recommendations to the hospitals and ambulatory surgery center,” the writ application says.

“There is absolutely no question that Chris Broadwater was well aware that his client Qmedtrix was heavily involved in the ‘usual and customary’ litigation in front of the OWC at the time these ex parte discussions took place,” the court document said.

Broadwater even admitted as much when he was asked in deposition if he understood when he spoke with Hataway that Qmedtrix “was heavily involved in litigation in Louisiana workers’ compensation courts at the time.”

“Sure,” responded Broadwater to that question.

In addition to Qmedtrix, Broadwater also represented LUBA, the writ application says, “and, in fact, helped (former law partner) Amanda Clark secure LUBA as her client as well.

Broadwater, in a two-page letter to LouisianaVoice, said he approaches his duties as an attorney and as a legislator “with humbleness and with the highest sense of honor and ethical behavior. I believe that all elected officials should…act with the interests of our citizens in mind,” he said.

He said his representation of clients is governed by state statute which “prohibits me from receiving compensation from a source other than the legislature for performing my public duties, from receiving finder’s fees, from being paid by a private source for services related to the legislature or which draws substantially upon official data not a part of the public domain.”

He said he has provided legal counsel to clients before agencies, other than the legislature “and have disclosed such representation as required by law. At no time have I been offered, nor have I ever accepted payment from a private source for the performance of my legislative duties,” he said.

“My service as vice chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in no manner alters my duties or the constraints placed upon me under the Code of Governmental Ethics.

“If one assumed your interpretation to be correct—that service on a committee to which matters of the law related to one’s private employment are considered—it would likewise be improper for attorneys to serve on the Civil Law Committee, attorneys to serve on the Judiciary Committee, attorneys to serve on the Criminal Justice Committee, pharmacists to serve on the Health and Welfare Committee, business owners to serve on the Commerce Committee, farmers to serve on the Agriculture Committee, insurance agents to serve on the Insurance Committee, accountants to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, or attorneys to serve in the legislature in general as the legislature passes laws that inevitably will be later interpreted and applied in our private legal practice. I do not believe that such an outcome is required by the law, nor do I believe it would be wise policy to prohibit individuals to participate in government and share their area of expertise as policy is developed.

“I believe that my colleagues and I take our oath seriously and, should an issue arise that directly relates to an issue with which we are personally involved, we appropriately recuse ourselves from any such vote.”

While that was certainly better than a “no comment,” it still does not address the issue of his meeting with the OWC director to discuss pending cases that might affect his clients or to give advice to his successor on these cases.

Nor does it explain the likelihood that he would be hired to represent the three companies to fight for denials or reductions in workers’ comp medical payments were it not for his connections as both a legislator and as a former director of the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation.

Just another sad example of how things are done in the administration that gave us the “gold standard” of governmental ethics.

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When the chips are down, you can generally count on your legislators, in the apparent belief that they represent a composite embodiment of a modern day Solomon, to make the absurd proposal to split the baby when it comes to doing the right thing.

While politics is still the art of compromise, they take it to the extreme and then never seem to understand why their action, instead of pleasing constituents, should only serve to generate pervasive anger as the appropriate response.

Case in point: Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Ed Murray of New Orleans. His bill would have helped close the gender pay gap for both public and private workers.

That certainly seems fair. If a computer is repaired, does it matter who fixed it? If a story appears in the paper, does it make any difference if it’s written by a man or woman? If a female bricklayer lays the same number of bricks in an hour as the man beside her, shouldn’t she receive the same pay considerations? The same should apply to truck drivers, sales personnel, engineers, architects, and attorneys. A woman who performs the same job as a man certainly should receive the same pay, after all. Who could argue with that?

Apparently Sen. Patrick “Page” Cortez (R-Lafayette). For some unknown reason, Cortez decided to split the baby by offering an amendment to make Murray’s bill apply only to the public sector and not the private.

Why? What possible reason could there be for the legislature to sanction discrimination against private sector female employees?

Why is such blatant discrimination against women in the private sector allowed by our legislature? All hell should’ve broken loose on behalf of private sector female employees as it almost certainly would have—and justifiably so—if Cortez’s amendment had, for example, made the equal pay bill applicable only to whites to the exclusion of African Americans.

Gov. Bobby Jindal loves to travel across the country with his message of how wonderful things are in Louisiana since he became governor. But you never hear a peep out of him about how Louisiana is tied for the second widest disparity in pay between men and women, according to figures released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Wyoming is the worst in the nation. There, women make 67 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Louisiana is not far behind. We are tied with Utah for the second widest disparity, with female employees making 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. If you are Sen. Gomez, you’d say she makes only 31 percent less than the male but if you’re a woman, he makes 44.9 percent more.

Even Mississippi and Alabama, where women are paid 74 cents per dollar made by men, rank ahead of Louisiana. South Carolina? Seventy-six cents. Arkansas and Texas? Eighty-two cents—18.8 percent higher than Louisiana.


While the disparity is worse in Wyoming, Louisiana and Utah, the difference is evident throughout the country. In California, for example, Women are paid roughly 85 percent of a man’s salary for the same job. The difference is the same for Nevada and Arizona.

The District of Columbia has the narrowest gap, with women making 90.4 cents per each dollar made by men in the same job.

Murray’s bill failed to get the necessary 20 votes the first time around on May 15 but it passed on May 22 after five senators—Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), Cortez, A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), Elbert Guillory (D-turned R, Opelousas), and Neil Riser (R-Columbia)—changed their votes from the previous week after Cortez’s amendment passed, 24-11.

Four of the five voted no on May 15. Guillory, the lone exception, was absent on the first vote.

Understandably, some senators like Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville), Norbért Chabert (R-Houma), Eric Lafleur (D-Ville Platte), and Sherri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville) voted in favor of Cortez’s amendment because it was the only way to get even the gutted version of the bill passed. Each of those voted in favor of the original bill, the subsequent amendment and for final passage.

Senators who displayed their disdain for women in general and private sector women in particular by voting against final passage included:

• Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego);

• Robert Adley (R-Benton);

• R.L. “Bret” Allain (R-Franklin);

• Conrad Appel (R-Metairie);

• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville);

• Dale Erdy (R-Livingston);

• Ronny John (R-Lake Charles);

• Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches);

• Dan Morrish (R-Jennings);

• Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City);

• Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan);

• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe);

• Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central).

Those who took a hike and did not vote were:

• Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie);

• Gary Smith (D-Norco);

• John Smith (R-Leesville).

House members voting against the bill included:

• Richard Burford (R-Stonewall);

• Gordon Dove (R-Houma);

• Lance Harris (R-Alexandria);

• Joe Harrison (R-Gray);

• Paul Hollis (R-Covington);

• John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe);

• James “Jim” Morris (R-Oil City);

• Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula);

• Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);

• Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs);

• Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge);

• Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

Staying home and not voting were:

• Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans);

• Greg Cromer (R-Slidell);

• Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro);

• Kenny Havard (R-Jackson);

• Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);

• Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs);

• Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).

So much for the campaign rhetoric that these good and noble public servants want nothing more than to represent all the people of their districts.

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