Bill Would Abolish Wildlife Commission
If a lawmaker from Grant Parish has his druthers this session, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will be abolished. Rep. Billy R. Chandler, D-Dry Prong, has proposed a constitutional amendment to scrap the panel that sets hunting and fishing seasons, oversees enforcement and manages wildlife biological practices. Chandler wants most of the policy-making duties of the commission to revert back to legislative control. The commission's other functions would be absorbed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries if lawmakers and voters approve his House Bill 529.
In 1975, the commission went from an administrative body to one that drafts policy. Since then, more responsibilities regarding wildlife and fisheries have been stripped from the Legislature and given to the commission, creating some tension along the way. Recently, relations between lawmakers and the commission have been civil, says Robert Barham, secretary of the department. He says it's unlikely any real cost savings could come from the proposal, and there doesn't seem to be much support — or political will — to abolish the commission. Barham, a former state senator, also argues that the commission serves as a barrier between biology and politics. "This would be a very unwise decision," he says. If the Legislature adopts Chandler's legislation, the proposed constitutional amendment would be submitted to voters on Nov. 2, 2010. — Jeremy Alford
Checking Jindal's Pulse
Since a coalition of elected officials and special interests announced plans to reform the state's public school boards, Gov. Bobby Jindal has been quiet. By most accounts, Louisiana's Rhodes Scholar governor supports the legislative package, but no one knows if Jindal will be there when he's needed most. The package, authored by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, received barely a passing mention in Jindal's opening address to lawmakers last week. Still, supporters of the reforms say they sense a lot of interest from the administration. "They have been generally supportive in our conversations and have asked how it's going," says Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, which helped craft the bill. Recent history offers conflicting clues as to what Jindal might do. For example, he has been known to flip-flop on legislative promises (think: pay raises, reporting of contributions from appointments, Stelly tax rollbacks), but this time he's at the table with two good friends: CABL, which was a cheerleader following the governor's first special session on ethics last year, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which supported Jindal's second special session for economic development. — Alford
Coastal Living in Gonzales
As flooding has become a perennial issue in recent years, officials in Ascension Parish have questioned whether the parish should have joined Louisiana's coastal zone during the 1970s, when the political territory was created by legislation to help municipalities deal with levees, floodgates and other water-control matters. The overriding answer has been increasingly positive, and Rep. Eddie J. Lambert, R-Gonzales, has filed House Bill 423 to add Ascension to the coastal zone. By joining the 19 parishes in the zone, parish officials hope to secure financial and technical assistance. — Alford
Who's the Real Streamliner?
Rep. Erich E. Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, has filed a resolution directing state agencies and departments to "maximize efficiency, minimize waste and save taxpayer dollars" by eliminating duplications, decreasing merit pay and other measures. Ponti's HCR 13 competes on some levels with a new initiative by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Last month, the governor issued an executive order outlining the mission of his proposed 13-member Commission on Streamlining Government, which would be created by Senate Bill 261. The special panel would be charged with finding inefficiencies in government and making recommendations to legislative committees for an up or down vote, meaning no amendments. At least on paper, Ponti's resolution takes the concept a step further by calling for the state to contract services with Louisiana companies as much as possible — and to turn to out-of-state consultants and businesses only as a "last resort." Ponti's measure also would require agencies and departments to report annually to the governmental affairs committees so progress could be tracked and suggestions provided. Ponti says that element of continued oversight is why his proposal stands out from the governor's. "Agencies and departments would have to keep coming back to the committees," he says. So far, Ponti's resolution has more than 30 co-authors. — Alford