Legislature starting to show independence from Gov. Jindal
It was back in the 1960s, that great decade, that legendary singer Bob Dylan sang his hit song, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” It appears that song has finally been played in Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Legislature – at least the state House – is finally showing some independence from Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has kept it on a tight leash for the past five years.
On Friday, after days of negotiations and back room deal-making, the House passed a $25 billion budget. Nothing unusual about that.
But what is unusual is that the budget deeply differs from the spending plan originally put forth by the governor and his staff.
Spurred on by an odd coalition of Republican fiscal hawks and Democrats, the governor’s leaders in the Legislature saw the hand-writing on the wall and turned their backs on Jindal.
In the end, leaders of the Republican delegation, the Democratic Caucus, and the Black Caucus worked together to craft the final deal.
Those legislators objecting to using one-time money to fill budget holes – a tactic Jindal has used every year he has been in office – won the final battle and the war.
Jindal’s budget proposed to use $500 million, which would come from property sales, legal settlements, fund sweeps, and other financial deals that have not yet happened, to obtain a balanced budget, as required by law.
Instead, House members decided that those one-time dollars could be used for coastal restoration, debt retirement, and highway projects.
To make up for the one-time money Jindal had inserted into his budget, legislators passed a series of bills designed to raise revenues to fill budget holes.
The biggest piece of their revenue-producing package was a tax amnesty program, which is estimated to produce about $200 million in the first year of the 30-month program.
But some of the revenue-raising measures could face tough sledding in the state Senate. And, of course, there is always the threat of the governor’s veto.
The legislators made other significant changes to the governor’s budget proposals. They reversed Jindal’s plan to cut domestic violence programs, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and the program that helps elderly citizens apply for discounts on medications.
In the end, it was a virtual love-fest on the House floor. The bill passed by a vote of 93-5.
Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said, “We set out to create a responsible budget without including non-recurring money, without relying on hopeful contingencies, without raising taxes, and ensuring higher education was properly funded; we did just that.”
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, had this take: “This process has been exactly what you want in representative government.” Imagine that.
To be sure, the bipartisan plan was a rare display of independence for House legislators, who usually are reluctant to challenge the governor on his budget proposals. But Jindal’s falling approval rating is apparently giving legislators some courage.
House members better reserve those high-fives for the time-being. The Senate now takes up the budget plan and nothing is ever certain in the Upper Chamber.
Bobby has left the building
As the Louisiana House of Representatives was thumbing its nose at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget plan, he skipped town – right in the middle of budget negotiations.
The reason? Jindal is already campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. He flew way up north to New Hampshire to become the first presidential candidate to make an appearance there – two and one-half years before voting begins.
The Concord Monitor newspaper reported that Jindal reiterated his call for the GOP to stop being the “stupid party,” insisting that Republicans must expand their message beyond budget austerity and shrinking government.
At a Manchester fundraiser for state senators, Jindal, the chair of the Republican Governors Association, said that he visited New Hampshire to help the local GOP.
He was quoted by the Monitor as saying, “The reality is anybody who’s thinking about 2016 needs to have their head examined. It’s way too early.”
The Monitor noted that Jindal said the GOP must work to appeal to 100% of America and called for a more “compassionate solution” for the nation’s immigration debate. But he refused to endorse the bi-partisan immigration bill moving through the U.S. Senate, saying, “I haven’t read the bill.”
Meanwhile, another potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, was visiting Iowa. Let the games begin.
Locals tabbed by Jindal
Gov. Bobby Jindal has appointed one local and one former local resident to serve on a commission and a board.
Luke Turner of Bossier City was appointed to the Louisiana Racing Commission. He is the chairman of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.
The Louisiana State Racing Commission was created by legislative act in 1940. The Commission is composed of 23 members, one representing each Congressional district plus 2 at-large and 4 representing each of the parishes where live racing is held. All are appointed by the Governor, subject to State Senate confirmation.
The Racing Commission's legal mandate is the forceful and honest statewide control of horse racing for the public health, safety, and welfare by safeguarding the citizens of Louisiana against corrupt, incompetent, dishonest and unprincipled horse racing practices. The official domicile of the Commission is in New Orleans.
Jerry N. Jones, formerly of Shreveport (and a former mayoral candidate) and now of Baton Rouge, got the nod for a position on the Board of Commerce and Industry. He is a partner at the law firm of Bradley, Murchison, Kelly & Shea.
The 20-member board is responsible for approving and disapproving tax exemption applications for new manufactured establishments and expansion of existing establishments and for property owners who propose development of existing structures in a downtown, historic, or economic development districts.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.