Last Modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 11:08 AM
By Jim Beam / American Press
Sessions of the
Louisiana Legislature are pretty much the same year in and year out.
However, it’s great theater for political addicts like me. Although the
characters change, most of the subjects don’t.
governors have been different, no doubt about that. I have followed
eight of them since Jimmie Davis took office in 1960. Edwin W. Edwards,
who keeps popping up like a bad penny, was the most flamboyant and
has provided me with more copy than all the rest, and it’s virtually
impossible to write a finish for that fellow. Maybe we can eventually,
depending on how well he does in the 6th Congressional District race
Foster was a relative unknown when he ran in 1995. He had been a state
senator, and didn’t appear to be governor material. However, he gets my
nod as one of the most accessible, personal and productive of the lot.
You always knew where you stood with Foster.
believe the fact Foster was independently wealthy and comfortable with
who he was were the keys to his success. Foster is largely responsible
for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rise in the political ranks when he made Jindal
secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in 1996. I
still find it amusing that Foster was constantly criticized for never
going anywhere, and Jindal is accused of never staying home.
has been running for president during most of his time in office, and
that accounts a big chunk of his travel time. When he became governor in
2008, much of his staff came from Washington, D.C. And they have helped
make him perhaps the most inaccessible governor of the eight I have
known. Jindal and his handlers have gone out of their way to protect his
conservative image, which is great for national consumption.
One feature of the Jindal administration stands out for me. He has been
governor for over six years, and he and his administration don’t make
mistakes. They do, actually, but they rarely admit it. And they seldom
respond to press or other criticism. They simply react as though it
never happened. I remember when they insisted some elements of Jindal’s
education reform package in 2012 were constitutional, but those same
laws were later rejected by the courts.
OK, enough about the key players. What about those issues that keep popping up every year?
budget is always controversial because Jindal has constantly robbed
Peter to pay Paul. It hasn’t hurt him that much, however, because he has
refused to raise taxes. That sells well with voters, even though many
of them complain of poor government services when they need some help
from the public sector.
asked whether they are sure money will be there to fund programs, they
always confidently say it won’t be a problem. Unfortunately, it
handful of legislators tries to put caps and other controls on the TOPS
scholarship program, but they are rejected every year. Rep. Joe
Harrison, R-Houma, has tried to make changes for the last five years. He
called this year’s measure his Lazarus bill, hoping it could be raised
from the dead. It died again last week.
Drugs and drunken driving are annual topics because they are problems that we can’t seem to solve.
Bodi White, R-Central, has legislation every year trying to create new
school districts. Baton Rouge Parish is so split up now with school
districts no one is quite sure what will be left if White is successful.
attempts at education reform have spawned Common Core standards, an
extremely controversial program that has some parents enraged. John
White, the state superintendent of education, has become the handy
villain who was blistered during testimony last week. Common Core will
be the only subject at two days of hearings before the House Education
Committee this week.
attempt at prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones while driving
bit the dust last week. Bills that attempt to control the use of traffic
cameras and end speed trap towns in the state got out of committee, but
their future is still uncertain.
organizations, better known as NGOs, continue to come under fire, as
they have for years. They get government money, but use it with little
oversight. Reform efforts are being tried again this year to make those
organizations more accountable.
talked Thursday about another perennial topic — legacy lawsuits. They
involve claims for damages created years ago by oil and gas drilling.
The governor said a new bill is going to solve that problem, but don’t
hold your breath. This is an issue that goes back generations.
is always good for a hundred bills or so, but lawmakers have to be
careful. Some involve special benefits for a select few, while others
are legitimate attempts to try and erase a retirement debt that is at
$19 billion and still climbing.
subjects that crop up nearly every year give you a good sample of why
things don’t change that much in Baton Rouge. However, good bills do get
passed in the process, so I suppose we can afford to grin and bear
those things that come with it. Personally, I find it all rather
enjoyable and stimulating.