QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Running a successful campaign is 20% policy, 40% marketing and 40 % destroying all the values and reputation of your opponent." — Local blogger Clifton Harris (cliffscrib.blogspot.com)
"I don't know what the little boy governor is trying to do, but I think it is a mistake." — BESE board member Linda Johnson, about Gov. Bobby Jindal asking BESE member Tammie McDaniel to resign (as quoted in the Monroe News-Star)
"As a woman who is often criticized and dismissed by the media I obviously can relate to Governor (Sarah) Palin on many levels. Given this I am very interested to hear what she has to say about the challenges women like ourselves who are not afraid to display our sexuality face when it comes to being taken seriously as leaders. ... I am planning to hold to my timetable of making an official announcement at the end of the summer. So it is my hope that Gov. Palin and I can have a chance to sit down sometime in August." — Adult film star and potential Louisiana Senate candidate Stormy Daniels, shortly after Palin announced her intention to step down as Alaska governor
Does New Orleans Need a Surge?
New Orleans' chronically high homicide rate has often been compared to that of wartime Iraq, but things may be getting better in Baghdad — at least for American troops. Statistics show 104 homicides in Orleans Parish in the first half of 2009, according to the coroner's office. During the same six-month period, 95 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Iraq and another 85 were killed in Afghanistan, according to The Washington Post database on military casualties in the two overseas theaters of war (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/fallen). The Web site's casualty count includes troops who died in helicopter crashes and vehicle accidents as well as "hostile fire" and ambush explosions. The Post site attributes the decline in American casualties to a "surge," changes in tactics, improved armory and other factors. The New Orleans City Council recently approved Police Chief Warren Riley's request for $1 million in police overtime to deal with the summertime spike in crime. The violence has yet to relent, however. Orleans Parish Chief Coroner's Investigator John Gagliano last Tuesday cut short a reporter's request for comment on comparisons between Iraq and New Orleans violence. "I have to talk to you later," Gagliano said by phone. "I'm working a murder right now." Two, actually. The midday double-homicide at a local housing project pushed the city's death toll to 112 by 1 p.m. on July 7. — Allen Johnson Jr.
Landrieu's Horse Sense
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, has attached language to the Interior Appropriations Act to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from using taxpayer dollars for the destruction of healthy, unadopted horses and donkeys. Landrieu is also pushing for a new comprehensive long-term plan for wild horse populations to be implemented by Sept. 30, 2010. Landrieu says using taxpayer funds to slaughter healthy wild horses in the care of the bureau is "not acceptable," and it would be just as easy to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to use these horses whenever possible. "There is simply no reason for the federal government to destroy these animals if viable alternatives exist," she says. Landrieu also supports another provision in the appropriations bill that would encourage all federal agencies that utilize horses in their operations to acquire a wild horse from the Bureau of Land Management prior to seeking another supplier. In addition, she's backing another measure that would force the bureau to develop an expedited process for providing wild horses to local and state police forces.
This is not Landrieu's first rodeo when it comes to championing issues for horse lovers. Earlier this year, she introduced legislation to end the slaughter of horses for food. The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, co-sponsored by 14 other senators, would specifically prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivery, receipt, possession, purchase, sale or donation of horses and other equines for slaughtering for human consumption. The proposed act would bring horse cruelty in line with other animal cruelty laws. If enacted, a person violating the law would be subject to criminal and civil penalties, including fines or prison. — Jeremy Alford
While the budget absorbed most of the legislative spotlight this year, some light was directed to the ongoing problem of affordable housing. Many lawmakers consider it a critical issue that still hasn't received the attention it deserves. According to RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure database, Louisiana saw more than 1,100 foreclosures in April alone — the worst month since January 2005. Senate President Pro Tempore Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, says Senate Bill 221 can push the state in the right direction. Her legislation, which was pending the governor's signature at press time, establishes the State Housing Tax Credit Program to prioritize which projects should receive state and federal assistance. "I don't have to tell you that one of the pressing challenges that we face in Louisiana is the shortage of affordable housing," Broome says, "and I certainly believe the quickest way to build wealth is through home ownership." The ultimate goal of the program is to stimulate "creative private-sector initiatives" and increase the "supply of affordable housing in urban and rural areas," the legislation states. — Alford
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law last week Senate Bill 279 by Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, allowing state and local governmental facilities to be used as shelters during emergency evacuations, such as those preceding hurricanes. In a press release, Jindal said the new law seeks to identify and prepare in-state facilities for use as emergency shelters so the state can ensure people are arriving at safe locations. "This legislation will reduce our need for out-of-state shelter capacity and will help our state to better prepare for future storms," Jindal says. In addition, the governor says $7.5 million in surplus funds was included in House Bill 2, the state's construction budget, to support eligible state buildings that need modifications to allow for their use as emergency shelters under the new law. — Alford
Disclosure Changes Vetoed
Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed legislation that would have scaled back some of the new financial disclosure requirements ushered in last year. House Bill 896 would have loosened guidelines on all officials elected to any public body that represents districts with fewer than 5,000 residents. Currently, individual members of an elected board with such a district are already in reporting Tier 3, which was created during the 2008 special session on ethics reform. The bill also would have moved other elected officials on the boards into the same Tier 3. In his veto letter, Jindal wrote that personal financial disclosure for elected officials across all levels of government was a key component of his reform efforts last year. "The public began to see the practical impact of this legislation in May of this year, when hundreds of elected and appointed officials filed personal financial disclosure forms for the first time in Louisiana's history that are available online for oversight by all our citizens," Jindal wrote.
Both Tier 2 and Tier 3 already require information regarding taxes, contracts with state and gaming interests, but Tier 2 also seeks more detailed data on spouses and job descriptions. Jindal added Tier 3 was created to require a less extensive form of disclosure for elected officials representing very small municipalities and districts. Camille Conaway, Jindal's policy consultant, opposed the bill during the recently adjourned legislative session, even though proponents repeatedly argued the bill would impact only a few dozen elected officials. Jindal said it would be premature to make changes in the 2008 ethics laws, especially when many officials won't have to file until next year under the current system. "I prefer to give these laws a chance to work before considering making significant changes," Jindal says. — Alford
Teen Jobs Buck Trends
Despite continued job losses across nearly all industries nationwide, the number of teenagers hired for summer jobs through June is slightly ahead of last year, according to an analysis of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm. Still, even if teen hiring remains slightly ahead of 2008 levels through the end of July, it simply means that 2009 will go down as the second worst summer job market for teens since the late 1950s. Non-seasonally adjusted figures released last week show employment among 16-to-19-year-olds grew by 111,000 in May and 698,000 in June, for a total of 809,000 jobs added so far this summer. That is about 10,000 more than a year ago, when teen employment grew by 799,000 in May and June. For those who still want a summer job, it's not too late. Some retailers may add more workers for back-to-school sales. High school students may also be able to find positions in the late summer or early fall as college students return to campus, says John A. Challenger, the firm's CEO. "While summer hiring among teens is by no means robust, it has been stronger than expected, particularly in light of this recession's impact on retailers, restaurants, tourist destinations, and other businesses that are typically the biggest recruiters of teenagers during the summer months," he says. — Alford