Sometimes I can't write about just one topic because there's so much going on at once. This is one of those times.
In state politics, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has a new leader — one with close ties to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Locally, the "nominating committee" charged with vetting applicants to serve on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) appears, sadly, to be towing the governor's line against the reappointment of John Barry.
And if you ever doubt that one person can make a difference, check out blogger C.B. Forgotston (forgotston.com), who has made state funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) a hot-button issue.
• LABI's new leader — When LaPolitics Weekly broke the news that former Jindal aide Stephen Waguespack had the inside track to succeed Dan Juneau as LABI president, it raised eyebrows. LABI under Juneau was the most influential lobby in the Capitol.
There were times when the business group had more stroke than the governor. LABI's opposition to Jindal's "tax swap" plan (to replace the state income tax with the highest combined sales tax rate in the nation) effectively killed the controversial proposal.
Throughout his nearly 25 years as LABI president, Juneau brought keen political insights and strong communication skills (his weekly columns were great reads) to the task of promoting the business agenda. He worked with every governor since taking the reins of LABI in 1989, and he knew how to disagree with them without making enemies.
Waguespack has big shoes to fill. He has to start by convincing folks he's not a Jindal lackey. There will be times when LABI disagrees (or should disagree) with the governor. We'll know then if LABI made the right choice.
• Kowtowing to Jindal? — When area business and civic leaders pushed to reform levee boards after Hurricane Katrina, they blasted the old levee board for "backroom deals" hatched by the political elite and championed the notion of a politically independent flood protection board.
Now, some of those same reformers serve on the "nominating committee" that vets potential SLFPA-E board members.
When the committee met Sept. 13 to begin the process of nominating three board members, it extended its Sept. 11 deadline for receiving applications until Sept. 30 — even though the committee had several applicants for two of the three available seats. One of those seats is held by SLFPA-E Vice President John Barry, the noted author and chief supporter of the authority's environmental lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies. Barry applied to be reappointed, as has board Chairman Tim Doody. Also applying for Barry's seat are attorney Lambert "Joe" Hassinger, who sits on the non-flood asset management board, and construction company exec George Ackel III.
Whatever the committee's logic, extending its published application deadline plays into the hands of Jindal, who wants to stack the board with puppets who will kill the lawsuit. The delay gives Jindal time to find his puppets.
Plus ca change.
• Storming the budgetary Bastille — Few people know the legislative process (often compared to making sausage) like blogger and attorney C.B. Forgotston. A former legislative staffer, Forgotston has turned his time in the belly of the beast into fodder for scathing online commentaries. His latest target: state funding for NGOs.
Forgotston has opposed NGO funding for decades. Now he's blogging a multi-part rant against dozens of questionable allocations. State Treasurer John Kennedy was the first politician to pick up on Forgotston's exposes of NGOs that have not filed required disclosure forms with the state. (Kennedy notes that some NGOs are worthy of support, but others clearly aren't.) The errant ones inevitably have ties to legislators who get them funded, according to Forgotston.
Bobby Jindal promised to reform NGO appropriations. He devised a four-part test to determine whether they qualify. However, the Jindal test seems to apply more strictly to NGOs with legislative sponsors who don't vote the governor's way. Not so for lawmakers who vote with Jindal. Go figure.
Now, some lawmakers are ready to change things. Several reportedly are planning to introduce bills to eliminate or further restrict public funding of NGOs. It proves that one man really can make a difference.