Archive for the ‘Veto’ Category

In our lowlights review for the first six months of 2014, we were reminded by State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) that we had omitted a major low point in Louisiana politics.

Accordingly, we will preface our second half with the June veto by Gov. Bobby Jindal of HB 142 by Richard and Sens. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) and Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central) which was pass unanimously by both the House (84-0) and Senate (37-0).

Called by Richard as the only “piece of legislation that would’ve done anything in the form of reform,” HB142 called for a reduction in consulting contracts. Richard said the bill also “would’ve provided transparency in the way the state hands out contracts” and would have provided savings that would have been dedicated to higher education.

“It just made too much sense to Bobby,” Richard said.

Jindal, on the other hand, said the bill would “hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high-quality services.”

Such high-quality services as paying $94,000 to a firm to assistant students to learn to play during recess; paying consulting fees to Hop 2 It Music Co. or to the Smile and Happiness Foundation.

Jindal also said the bill would “cause significant delays and introduce uncertainty to executing a contract” and would “discourage businesses from seeking opportunities to provide services to the people of Louisiana.”

Which now brings us to the second half of political news that could only occur in Louisiana.


Troy Hebert back in the news:

Three former ATC supervisors, all black, have filed a federal lawsuit in the Baton Rouge’s Middle District claiming a multitude of actions they say Hebert took in a deliberate attempt to force the three to resign or take early retirement and in fact, conducted a purge of virtually all black employees of ATC.

Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III filed the lawsuit on behalf of Charles Gilmore of Baton Rouge, Daimian T. McDowell of Bossier Parish, and Larry J. Hingle of Jefferson Parish.

The lawsuit said that all three plaintiffs have received the requisite “right to sue” notice from the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints.

So, where are all those savings we were promised?

To probably no one’s surprise except a clueless Gov. Bobby Jindal, the takeover of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB) by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana a scant 18 months ago has failed to produce the $20 million per year in savings to the state.

Quite the contrary, in fact. The OGB fund balance, which was a robust $500 million when BCBS took over as administrators of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in January of 2013, now stands at slightly less than half that amount and could plummet as low as an anemic $5 million a year from now, according to figures provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

There is no tactful way to say it. This Jindal’s baby; he’s married to it. He was hell bent on privatizing OGB and putting 144 employees on the street for the sake of some hair-brained scheme that managed to go south before he could leave town for whatever future he has planned for himself that almost surely does not, thank goodness, include Louisiana.

So ill-advised and so uninformed was Jindal that he rushed into his privatization plan and now has found it necessary to have the consulting firm Alvarez and Marcel, as part of their $5 million contract to find state savings, to poke around OGB to try and pull the governor’s hand out of the fiscal fire. We can only speculate as to why that was necessary; Jindal, after all, had assured us up front that the privatization would save $20 million a year but now cannot make good on that promise.

We can save, but we have to let you go…

The Jindal administration announced plans to jettison 24 more positions at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) as a cost cutting measure for the cash-strapped agency but is retaining the top two positions and an administrator hired only a month ago.

Affected by layoffs are eight Benefits Analyst positions, three Group Benefits Supervisory spots, one Group Benefits Administrator, seven Administrative Coordinators, an Administrative Assist, two Administrative Supervisors, one IT Application Programmer/Analyst and one Training Development Specialist.

All this takes place at a time whe OGB’s reserve fund has dwindled from $500 million at the time of the agency’s privatization in January 2013 to about half that amount today. Even more significant, the reserve fund is expected to dip as low as $5 million by 2016, just about the time Jindal leaves town for good.

Completing the trifecta of good news, we also have learned that health benefits for some 200,000 state employees, retirees and dependents will be slashed this year even as premiums increase.

Neil Riser helps Edmonson revoke the irrevocable:

One of the single biggest state political stories of the year was the surreptitious attempt of State Sen. Neil Riser to slip an amendment into an otherwise nondescript bill ostensibly addressing procedures in handling claims against police officers that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an illegal $55,000 per year retirement boost.

Events quickly began to spin out of control after Riser first denied, then admitted his part in the ruse and as retired state police opposed the move and public opinion mounted against the move, Edmonson, after first claiming he was entitled to the raise, finally relented and said he would not accept the increase.

Meanwhile, Jindal, who signed the bill, was eerily quiet on the issue despite speculation he was behind the attempt to slip the increase into the bill.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, just to make sure Edmonson didn’t go back on his word, filed suit to block the raise and a Baton Rouge judge agreed that the bill was unconstitutional.

The bill, which quickly became known as the Edmonson Amendment, along with the Office of Group Benefits fiasco, constituted the most embarrassing moments for a governor who wants desperately to run for president.


Selective—and hypocritical—moral judgments

Gov. Bobby Jindal weighed in early on the kissing congressman scandal up in Monroe. When rookie U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was revealed on video exchanging amorous smooches with a female aide, Jindal was all over him like white on rice, calling for his immediate resignation.

Jindal’s judgmental tone was dictated more by the philosophical differences between the two (McAllister wanted the state to expand Medicaid, Jindal most assuredly did not) than any real issues based on morals as Jindal’s silence on the philandering of U.S. Sen. David Vitter who did a tad more than exchange affectionate kisses.

Edmonson Amendment spawns other state police stories:

LouisianaVoice, in its continuing investigation of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), learned that a number of DPS employees enjoy convenient political connections.

  • Dionne Alario, Senate President John Alario’s daughter-in-law, is a DPS Administrative Program Manager;
  • Alario’s son, John W. Alario, serves as a $95,000 per year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission.
  • DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux retired on April 28 from her $92,000 per year salary but the day before, she double encumbered herself into the position and reported to work on April 30 in the higher position of Undersecretary. Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis ordered her to repay the 300 hours of annual leave (about $46,000) for which she had been paid on her “retirement,” but Davis resigned shortly afterward and the matter was never pursued.
  • DPS issued a pair of contracts, hired the contractor as a state employee, paid her $437,000 to improve the Division of Motor Vehicles and ponied up $13,000 in airfare for trips to and from her home in South Carolina. The contractor, Kathleen Sill, heads up a company called CTQ but the company’s web page lists Sill as its only employee.
  • Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie was simultaneously employed in an offshore job and was on the payroll for seven months of the State Police Oil Spill Commission.
  • Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater was employed as a “specialist” for State Police.
  • Tammy Starnes was hired from another agency at a salary of $92,900 as an Audit Manager. Not only was her salary $11,700 more than state trooper Jason Starnes, but she is in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.

Thanks, retirees; here’s your bill for medical coverage:

LouisianaVoice was first to break the news that the Jindal administration was planning to force retirees out of the Office of Group Benefits by raising premiums astronomically and slashing benefits.

The news sparked waves of protests from employees and retirees alike, prompted legislative hearings at which Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols looked more than foolish in their attempts to defend the ill-conceived plan.

The entire fiasco was the result of the Jindal administrations foolish decision to cut premiums, which allowed the state to be on the hook for lower contributions as well. The money the state saved on matching premiums went to help patch those recurring holes in the state budget. Meanwhile, because of the lower premiums, the $500 million OGB reserve fund shrank to about half that amount as OGB spent $15 million per month more than it received in premiums.

All this occurred just three years after then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, in a letter on the eve of the privatization of OGB, promised the continuation of quality service, rates that would be “unaffected” with any increases to be “reflective of medical market rates.” More importantly, he emphatically promised that benefits “will NOT change.”



What premium decrease?

Contrary to the testimony of Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols that Buck Consultants recommended that the Office of Group Benefits reduce premiums for members, emails from Buck Consults said exactly the opposite. State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) had asked Nichols during legislative committee hearings who recommended the decrease and she replied that the recommendation came from Buck. All witnesses before legislative committees are under oath when they testify.

Surplus, deficit, tomato, to-mah-to:

Nichols “discovered” a previously unknown “surplus” of $320 million in mystery money that set off a running dispute between her office and State Treasurer John Kennedy—an argument that eventually made its way before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

With a tip of our hat to cartoonist Bud Grace, we are able to show you how that surplus was discovered:



Murphy Painter vindicated, Jindal humiliated:

Jindal’s attempted prosecution persecution of fired Director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter blew up in the governor’s face when Painter was first acquitted of criminal charges, costing the state nearly half a million dollars in reimbursement of Painter’s legal fees, but Painter subsequently won a defamation suit against his accuser.

Secret survey no longer a secret but “no one” more popular than Jindal:

A survey to measure state employee satisfaction in the Division of Administration (DOA) should be an eye opener for Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols and agency heads within DOA.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana) received some exciting news this week when a new poll revealed that no one was more popular among Republican contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

The excitement was short-lived, however, when the actual meaning of the numbers was revealed.

It turns out that in a CNN poll of New Hampshire voters, Jindal tied with Rick Santorum with 3 percent, while “No one” polled 4 percent, prompting Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to joke that Jindal should adopt the slogan “Jindal 2016: No one is more popular.”

To shred or not to shred:

The controversy surrounding the sweeping changes being proposed for the Office of Group Benefits just got a little dicier with new information obtained by LouisianaVoice about the departure of Division of Administration executive counsel Liz Murrill and the possibly illegal destruction of public records from the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and the involvement of at least two other state agencies.

While it was not immediately clear which OGB records were involved, information obtained by LouisianaVoice indicate that Murrill refused to sign off on written authorization to destroy documents from OGB.

We first reported her departure on Oct. 14 and then on Oct. 22, we followed up with a report that Murrill had confided to associates that she could no longer legally carry out some of the duties assigned to her as the DOA attorney.

But now we learn that the issue has spilled over into two other agencies besides OGB and DOA because of a state statute dealing with the retention of public documents for eventual delivery to State Archives, a division of Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office.

Reports indicate that Schedler became furious when he learned of the destruction or planned destruction of the records because records should, according to R.S. 44:36, be retained for three years and then delivered to the state archivist and director of the division of Archives, records management and history.


Secret grand jury testimony of Greenstein made public:

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office, in an unprecedented move, released the 100-plus pages of testimony of Bruce Greenstein, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals but the testimony did little in revealing any smoking gun related to the state’s $180 million contract with CNSI. About the only thing to come out of his testimony was the indication of an incredible bad memory in matters related to his dealings with his former bosses at CNSI and a razor-sharp recall of other, more insignificant events.

Approval? We don’t need no stinkin’ approval:

The very first state agency privatized by Gov. Bobby Jindal was the Office of Risk Management (ORM) and after the state paid F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) $68 million to take over ORM operations and then amended the contract to $75 million after only a few months, the agency was subsequently transferred three times to other firms. The only hitch was a specific clause in the original contract with FARA that no such transference was allowable without “prior written approval” from the Division of Administration. The problem? When LouisianaVoice made an FOIA request for that written approval, we were told no such document existed.

Edwards’ Last Hurrah:

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, one of the most successful, colorful and charismatic politicians in Louisiana history, lost—decisively. Republican Graves Garrett rode the Republican tide to easily hand Edwards his first political defeat, dating back to his days on the Crowley City Council. Some may remember when Buddy Roemer led the field in 1987, forcing Edwards into a runoff. Technically, though, Edwards did not lose that election because he chose not to participate in the runoff, thus allowing Roemer to become governor. But he would return in 1991 to win his unprecedented fourth term.


Friends of Bobby Jindal seeking donations:

A new web page popped up seeking donations for the Friends of Bobby Jindal, raising speculations of an attempt at a higher office (president?) since Jindal can’t run for governor again.

The new web page cited a speech by Jindal at a foreign policy forum at which he called for increased military spending.

Gimme the keys to the cars:

The Public Service Commission (PSC) became the second state agency (the State Treasurer’s office was the first) to openly defy Jindal when the administration demanded that the PSC relinquish possession of 13 vehicles as part of the administration’s cost-cutting measures.

We have already examined State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard’s attempt to cut consulting contracts which was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate but vetoed by Jindal.

But there was another veto that should be mentioned in context with Jindal’s penny wise but pound (dollar) foolish fire sale approach to state finances.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) managed to get overwhelming passage of a bill that called for more oversight of the tax break programs by the state’s income-forecasting panel.

But Jindal, who never met a tax break he didn’t like, promptly vetoed the bill, saying it could effectively force a tax increase on businesses by limiting spending for the incentive programs.

Only he could twist the definition of removal of a tax break for business into a tax increase even while ignoring the fact that removal of those tax breaks could—and would—mean long-term relief for Louisiana citizens who are the ones shouldering the load. And for him to willingly ignore that fact borders on malfeasance.

Another (yawn) poor survey showing:

24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion company, released a report which ranked Louisiana as the 11th worst-run state in America.

Louisiana, in ranking 40th in the nation, managed to fare better than New Jersey, which ranked 43rd, or eighth worst, something Jindal might use against Gov. Christ Christie if it comes down to a race between those two for the GOP nomination.

Louisiana had “one of the lowest median household incomes in the nation,” at just $44,164, the report said “and 10.7 percent of all households reported an income of less than $10,000, a higher rate than in any state except for Mississippi. Largely due to these low incomes, the poverty rate in Louisiana was nearly 20 percent (19.8 percent) and 17.2 percent of households used food stamps last year, both among the highest rates in the nation. The state’s GDP grew by 1.3 percent last year, less than the U.S. overall.

May we pray?

Meanwhile, Jindal prompted more controversy by having his favorite publisher and LSU Board of Supervisors member Rolfe McCollister run interference in securing the LSU Maravich Center for a political prayer event in January of 2015. The event will be sponsored by the controversial American Family Association and will not (wink, wink) be a political event, Jindal said.

And that, readers, is where we will leave you in 2014.

For 2015, we have an election campaign for governor to look forward to.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

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Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, wants people to know he’s serious.

He has already pre-filed SB 41, which calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot which, if approved, would make the state superintendent of education and elective position as opposed to the current appointive one.

Kostelka also wants it understood that he wants current Superintendent John White to go.

He says he has seen enough of bloated contracts granted to politically-connected firms. He has seen his fill of contracts like the one that teaches kids how to play at recess. He has heard quite enough about contracts awarded to PR hacks to work out of their homes in other states for outlandish figures like $12,000 per month.

Most of all though he has grown weary of trying to obtain information and records from the secretive Louisiana Department of Education—and repeatedly encountering a brick wall of resistance.

And he is more than a little concerned about the approval of vouchers for schools which have no classrooms, no teachers and no desks—like New Living Word in Ruston.

And while he didn’t say so, he seemed to take some bit of pleasure in knowing that his bill has come under fire from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief apologist, Jeff Sadow.

Kostelka claim that the bill would make the superintendent answerable to the people instead of a rubber-stamp Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was described by Sadow as a “curious mix of ignorance and illogic.”

Sadow chose to fall back on the argument that most of the BESE members are already elected and “answerable to the people,” apparently choosing to ignore the fact that most of the elected members’ seats were bought by out of state contributions from such people as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Walton family and K-12.

Sadow also says Kostelka seems to have forgotten the “policy-making mess” that existed under the elected superintendent structure that existed prior to 1988. In saying that, Sadow appears to be overlooking the ever-evolving “policy-making mess” that is indicative of today’s DOE under a superintendent who doesn’t seem to have a clue where he intends to go or what he intends to do when he gets there.

“People like Mr. Sadow say I want to return to old-time politics,” Kostelka said. “To that, I would have them look at the political contributions to the BESE members and then explain to me what has changed under the present system.”

“They say my bill would cost the state the expense of another election, but it wouldn’t. I’m calling for the election to be held in the fall of 2014 at the same time as the Congressional elections, so there would be no additional costs. If approved, the elected superintendent would take effect with the 2015 gubernatorial election and White could leave with Jindal,” he said.

Kostelka is well aware that he has run afoul of the petulant Jindal and is certain to incur the governor’s wrath. His punishment could range from a loss of committee assignments to vetoes of key projects in Kostelka’s senate district. All one has to do is harken back to last year’s session when Jindal vetoed a major construction project in Livingston Parish after Rep. Rogers Pope and Sen. Dale Erdy had the temerity to buck Jindal on legislative matters important to the governor.

If that isn’t old-time politics, we don’t know what is.

But Jindal has proved beyond any doubt that he is not above such tactics.

But, at long last, those tactics appear to be coming back to bit him in the backside.

He has demoted legislators, fired a BESE member, an LSU president, doctors, various department and agency heads, appointed legislator buddies (Noble Ellington, Troy Hebert, et al) to six-figure deadhead jobs and in at least one case—that of Hebert—that appointment appears to be a major embarrassment to the administration.

But even after all of that, nothing compares to the damage done to his political stock as the recent dust-up with the Board of Regents.

Send in the clowns

As is his M.O., Jindal attempted to distance himself from the action—perhaps as a means of attempting to maintain deniability, a ploy that has consistently served him badly—by dispatching an emissary to do his dirty work. In this case, it was Taylor Teepell, brother of Timmy Teepell who seems to be running his OnMessage political consulting operation from the governor’s fourth-floor offices in the State Capitol.

What was Taylor’s mission? Nothing less than to demand the firing of Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. James Purcell. Purcell, you see, committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Jindal’s repeated cuts to higher education. There is no run for dissention on Team Jindal.

But Taylor Teepell got a major surprise. Regents Chairman W. Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, Jr. sent Teepell back to Jindal with a message: “Dr. Purcell works for the Regents.”

Whoa. Herr Jindal is not accustomed to such spunk from his subordinates. The governor does, after all, appoint the Regents members and he expects all appointees to toe the line, not draw a line in the sand.

Of course, Jindal could fire the entire board and replace the recalcitrant members with more compliant sycophants. But his brazen attempt to oust Purcell for the sin of independent thinking probably did more harm to Jindal than anything else he has done in his five-plus years in office. This attempt, coming as it did on the heels of three major court reversals of his education and retirement reforms and the word last week of a federal investigation into a contract with the Department of Health and Human Resources, has left him politically crippled.

And his blatant, quixotic pursuit of the presidency would be laughable were it not such a pathetic sight to behold. It somehow makes him look even smaller, more the little boy, in his ill-fitting suits.

Seeing his presidential aspirations slip away raises yet another spectacle that he would probably rather no one would know about. When he encountered occasional crises during his tenure as head of the University of Louisiana System, rather than facing the problems head-on, his solution of choice was to retreat to his office where he is said to have played video games virtually non-stop.

One must be wondering what video games he prefers these days. League of Legends, perhaps?

As one observer recently said, the Jindal waters appear to be circling the drain.

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LouisianaVoice will soon have a sister publication in the form of an online state newspaper, according to publisher Tom Aswell.

The new feature, which will be published online in newspaper format, will be a weekly publication geared exclusively to Louisiana political news.

“This will be a free-subscription publication because we want everyone in Louisiana—and elsewhere—to have access to what elected and appointed officials are doing that affect the daily lives of Louisiana’s citizens,” Aswell said.

The name of the new publication will be Louisiana Free Press and will be accessible via the link http://www.louisianafreepress.com, Aswell said.

Louisiana Free Press will be supported 100 percent by advertising revenue and our coverage will be broadened from publishing a single story at a time. There will be multiple stories posted each Friday and the coverage will vary greatly.

Several writers will be contributing coverage of many more agencies than have historically been covered by LouisianaVoice.

These writers will be covering the Louisiana Supreme Court proceedings, Louisiana Attorney General opinions, audit reports of all state and local agencies as they are provided by the Legislative Auditor’s office. Moreover, coverage of agencies will be increased—agencies like the Department of Health and Hospitals, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Department of Education, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Board of Regents, University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and the Public Service Commission, the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor, state treasurer and the legislature, as well as other more obscure state boards and commissions.

“We feel it is important that Louisiana’s citizenry remain informed about what their public officials are doing in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere,” Aswell said.

“This is an ambitious endeavor but for too long, too many agencies, board and commissions have operated under the radar of the media,” Aswell said. “We anticipate that is about to change.

“That is not to say that everything we write will be of an investigative nature or that each story will be some major exposé. Most will be of a routine nature but will provide news otherwise not available to the public.”

LouisianaVoice will issue further updates as the schedule for launching Louisiana Free Press develops.

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But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

—True Colors
(Lyrics by Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly)

Whether you prefer the Cyndi Lauper or Phil Collins version, nothing more aptly—or more shamelessly—describes the sinister motives of Gov. Piyush Jindal in vetoing four legislative bills than the first three lines of this song.

It seems rather curious that Jindal, such an avowed advocate of openness, would veto SB 629 by Sen. Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles) that would have required increased accountability from the state’s Bayou Health and Behavioral Health Partnership programs.

Of course, it might be more easily understood when we learn that Bayou Health contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s gubernatorial campaigns – $5,000 in 2003 and another $5,000 in 2009.

It would also appear rather disingenuous for the governor to veto a bill calling for the convening of a task force to study wage disparities between men and women in the public sector.

But it is simply unconscionable for a governor who purports to support transparency and accountability to veto HB 1104 that would have done just that.

It likewise is two-faced, duplicitous and smacks of a blatant double standard for Jindal to veto HB 1106. The bill, after all, provided for tax rebates, something we thought equated to an economic Holy Grail in the eyes of this governor.

But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

Both HB 1104 and HB 1106 were authored by State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe).

Both bills, by themselves, did far more for transparency, accountability and even-handedness than everything Jindal has done in his entire four-plus years in office.

Both bills were passed unanimously by the House, both by votes of 96-0 with nine absences.

Not voting on HB 1104 were Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose), Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge), Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville), Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte), Joseph Lopinto, III (R-Metairie), Harold Ritchie (D-Bogalusa), Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette) and Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

Those absent for the vote on HB 1106 were Jared Brossett (D-New Orleans), Gordon Dove (R-Houma), Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), Gisclair, James Morris (R-Oil City), Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), John Schroder (R-Covington), Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs) and Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge).

HB 1104 also passed unanimously in the Senate (35-0 with four absentees) and only four senators voted against HB 1106. Absent on the HB 1104 vote were Sens. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville), Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans), Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) and Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe).

Voting against HB 1106 in the Senate were Robert Adley (R-Benton), Conrad Appel (R-Metairie), Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) and Donahue. Absent were Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) and Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City).

All four were good bills.

All four were vetoed by Piyush “I have the job I want” Jindal.

But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

HB 1104 would have required that state agencies which administer tax credits, exemptions and rebates to report certain information needed by the Legislative Auditor’s Office in determining whether each tax credit, exemption or rebate was “effectuating the purpose they were enacted to achieve.”

“More than half of Louisiana’s (annual) revenue is expended to pay for these credits, rebates and exemption,” Jackson said after being informed of the vetoes. “It is important that we review them to determine whether the state is truly benefitting.”

Louisiana has granted more than $18 billion in corporate tax exemptions over the past four years, according to information obtained from state records. Jackson said she is attempting to ensure that the state is getting its money’s worth in jobs and economic development.

Jindal disagreed.

But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

HB 1106 would have allowed taxpayers who donate to public schools to receive tax rebates.

“This bill supports public schools and has a $10 million statewide cap,” Jackson said of her bill.

After being amended in committee, the bill would have offered the following tax rebates for those who donated to public schools for the purpose of tutorial, curriculum, books, technology, Saturday school, etc.:

• 25 percent tax rebate for donations to a “C” school;

• 50 percent tax rebate for donations to a “D” school;

• 75 percent tax rebate for donations to an “F” school.

“The only bill that sits on the governor’s desk which truly helps our public schools to receive much-needed resources will not see the light of day,” Jackson said. “This is truly a blow to public education.”

The veto obviously discourages donations to public schools in favor of their non-public counterparts and comes on top of requirements that local school superintendents now must answer directly to Baton Rouge instead of their local school boards that hired them. It also is the equivalent to piling on in that local school funds under the state’s Minimum Foundation Program, a formula used to provide state funding to local school systems, can be diverted to benefit students transferring to charter schools—even if the charter schools are in another parish.

So, not only does Jindal’s American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-inspired educational reform legislation dilute local financial support of public schools, any attempt by individuals or corporations to assist struggling public schools is now officially discouraged by this administration.

One reader wrote of HB 1106: “If anyone ever questioned that Gov. Jindal is placing non-public schools over public schools, and treating them inequitably, his punitive legislation during the session, followed by this veto, is the final straw.

“According to Jindal, rebates to non-public schools are o.k. as passed by the legislature but rebates to public schools are vetoed ‘because there’s no provision in state budget for rebates.’”

Apparently, however, when it comes to non-public schools, there is a provision in the state budget for rebates.

“Shame on our governor for such a petty, discriminatory, embarrassing action,” the reader wrote.

It remains to be seen if the legislature has the courage to override the vetoes of Jackson’s bills.

If history is any indication, it won’t happen. One need look no further back than 2011 when the legislature approved a renewal of the cigarette tax only to have Jindal veto it because he was opposed to “new” taxes. While it is still a mystery how he could consider a tax renewal as a “new” tax, the legislature cratered, folded like a cheap suit, in its attempt to override Piyush’s veto.

But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

Senate Bill 577 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) would have established the Louisiana Equal Pay Task Force to study and make recommendations relating to equal pay for women in the public sector in Louisiana.

It, too, passed unanimously in the Senate with only six absences—Appel, Norby Chabert (R-Houma), Peacock, Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan), Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport) and Walsworth.

SB 577 passed in the House by a 71-17 vote.

The 17 voting against the measure in the House, all Republicans, included Reps. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), Richard Burford (R-Stonewall), Raymond Garofalo, Jr. (R-Chalmette), Geymann, Greene, Kenneth Havard (R-Jackson), Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville), Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), Hensgens, Anthony Ligi, Jr. (R-Metairie), Lopinto, Nick Lorusso (R-New Orleans), John Morris (R-Monroe), James Morris, Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), and Talbot.

Which begs the question of why any female voter could, in good conscience, ever support Piyush Jindal or any of the Misogynistic Seventeen for even the most menial public office.

But I see your true colors
Shining through;
I see your true colors…

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The state’s 2012 Capital Outlay Bill (House Bill 2) contains more than $1.5 billion in priority 1 projects and another $1.2 billion in priorities 2 and 5 projects.

The bill, which was approved by the full House on May 17, was heard by the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee on Monday, May 28, and now goes to the full Senate for debate. If the Senate version finally passed is different from the House version, the bill will go to a conference committee to hammer out a compromise and still must be approved by both chambers.

After final passage by both chambers, the bill will go to Gov. Bobby Jindal who, by line item veto, may eliminate projects he deems wasteful or which may obtain funding elsewhere.

At a time when the state is grappling with revenue shortfalls and budget deficits, this year’s construction bill is packed with more than more than $180 million in priority 1 local spending projects such as festivals, ball parks, sports complexes, community centers, professional sports facilities, groundwater reservoirs and golf courses.

Some of those include:

• $17.5 million for professional sports facilities in Jefferson and Orleans parishes;

• $1.17 million for New Orleans Zephyrs baseball facilities repair;

• $21.5 million for the New Orleans Sports Arena improvements;

• $17.2 million for an economic development award program for infrastructure assistance;

• $7.74 million for wet-lab business incubators statewide;

• $20 million for aerospace manufacturing infrastructure in New Orleans;

• $10 million for mega-project site preparation statewide;

• $4.6 million for renovations to the River Center Arena and Theatre in Baton Rouge;

• $1.4 million for baseball stadium improvements in Baton Rouge;

• $2 million for construction of a community center in north Iberville Parish;

• $6.7 million for improvements to the Bayou Segnette sports complex in Jefferson Parish;

• $8.6 million for land acquisition and additional cabins for Bayou Segnette State Park;

• $13 million for Bayou Segnette Festival Park land acquisition and construction;

• $600,000 for construction in raw undeveloped area of Parc de Families in Jefferson parish;

• $8.5 million for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Natchitoches State Museum;

• $6.6 million for improvements to New Orleans City Park golf course;

• $2 million for improvements to amusement area at New Orleans City Park;

• $2.4 million for Bayou Dechene Reservoir in Caldwell Parish;

• $1.7 million for real estate acquisition and improvements to Poverty Point Reservoir;

• $2.6 million for Washington Parish Reservoir study, planning and construction;

• $950,000 for repair and renovation of the Strand Theatre in Shreveport;

• $400,000 for a multipurpose evacuation shelter and community center in Avoyelles Parish;

• $4.2 million for a golf course development in Calcasieu Parish;

• $635,000 for the Woodmere Community Center in Jefferson Parish;

• $2 million for a governmental complex and jail upgrade in Lafayette Parish;

• $2.3 million for a multipurpose community center in Bienville Parish;

• $1 million for a fire station and public service center in St. Mary Parish;

• $1.6 million for a cultural center for the arts in Jefferson Parish;

• $250,000 for a Maurice civic center-post hurricane shelter in Vermilion Parish;

• $400,000 for Rosenwald Community Center in Orleans Parish;

• $200,000 for renovations to the Dansereau Harris Playground in Orleans Parish;

• $1 million for improvements to park land in Jefferson Parish;

• $215,000 for a Winnsboro community center in Franklin Parish;

• $4 million for Phase 2 construction of the West Calcasieu Community Center;

• $2.85 million for a public safety complex for the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office in Ruston;

That comes to a little more than $182.4 million – and that’s just a small sampling of the $1.5 billion in projects included in the bill.

The bill passed the House by an 84-15 vote with 6 members absent.

Those voting against the bill were Reps. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Simone Champagne (R-Erath), Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville), Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette), Anthony Ligi (R-Metairie), Sherman Mack (R-Livingston), Jim Morris (R-Oil City), Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), John Schroder (R-Covington), Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City) and Lenar Whitney (R-Houma).

Absent and not voting were Reps. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans), Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge), Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Girod Jackson (D-Harvey) and Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux).

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