Friday, December 22, 2006


From our family to yours, here's hoping you have the Merriest Christmas and the best New Year ever. Thanks so much for making the blog fun to do, and for listening to the radio show. We're looking forward to hearing from more of you as time goes on. We're blessed, and you're the reason.
Thanks, and may God bless you one and all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A House divided cannot serve

There are lots of support groups around the country, and more are popping up every day. Apparently there’s room for others, and one is screaming for a well-intended psychotherapist to step into the breach. Right here in our little piece of America, we’d like to suggest another program to deal with addictive behavior displayed by some elected officials.
Symptoms seem most pronounced when certain of the aforementioned gather in groups of, say, 105 or a few less, depending on whose schedule conflicts with the public’s business. Observers of the group tell us addictions fall into distinct categories (with, of course, sub-categories a'plenty) including, but not exclusive of: (1) an intolerance of individuals whose name is oft followed by one of two specific non-vowels, i.e., R or D, (2) a compulsive need to travel and vote in a pack and (3) an obsession with finding someone to blame, other than those with matching consonantic suffix, of course.
The recently adjourned anything-but-special session of our Legislature shows just how necessary this support mechanism will be over the next few months. A defining time in our state’s political history most certainly will be that period beginning with the adjournment of the recently completed get together and concluding with the opening gavel of the Legislature’s next regular session scheduled — quite appropriately — to kick off in the Spring of ‘07. Both Mother Nature and the houses of legislation in Baton Rouge will be just itching to shoot forth all things new for our observation.
If this past session taught us anything, it’s that Louisiana is definitely a two-party state, and that the party often just begins when folks gang up with their own to stand in the corner and confab. Forget that Democrats still maintain a significant lead in the lower chamber — 41 Republicans occupy seats in the House — and pencil into your consciousness that some pieces of legislation require a super majority or two-thirds vote for approval.
"We have arrived," House Republican Caucus Chairman Jim Tucker of Algiers said. "I think we showed the governor that we are a force she will have to deal with."
Indeed. Tucker and his loyal troops (including a couple of newcomers to the Republican fold) managed to turn back on three occasions Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s floor leaders and followers in their efforts to uncap the state’s constitutionally imposed spending ceiling. A force to reckon with? Absolutely, and the governor may be forced to use force in dealing with her fiesty opponents. Were the Republican slapdowns a display of fiscal responsibility? Perhaps. Did the R-types unveil even more cracks in the armor of an already wounded governor? Most certainly.
And, least some should forget...this is the second time in the last couple of years that Repubs in the House have managed to snuff out a Blanco plan which required the vote of a super-majority. Remember the cigarette tax hike plan of ‘05? So should have Blanco when considering her proposed spending programs with last fiscal year’s surplus and Republican body language heading into the session. A bemused spectator may wonder if the governor’s advisors were caught napping.
Republicans have returned to their safehouse districts with the unified message that Blanco’s “10 days of Christmas” session failed because of their solid stance for fiscal responsibility. One must remember, however, that claiming credit often is like picking a rose: thorns can be involved. Some of that fiscal restraint may have put teachers, state employees and a wide assortment of public safety employees in near riot mode. What some view as being responsible may be viewed by others as being responsible for failing to realize just how important five months can be when it comes to a larger pay envelope.
Some observers are saying Democrats bemoan the partisan nature of the session. Former speaker, now chairman of the Appropriations Committee Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, complained of something brand new.
"We've always looked at issues, not decided things along party lines,” Alario said following adjournment. Sorry, chairman, that won’t wash. Everything was pretty cool in Red Stick when those pesky Republicans couldn’t muster the numbers to qualify as a super minority. Can you say bipartisan negotiations, boys and girls?
Speaking of negotiations, other observers in the Capitol are hinting that Republicans came into the session (a) as folks who wanted to be anywhere else and (b) with a laundry list of tax breaks which they declared essential if removing the spending cap were to be considered. No negotiations, just OK the tax relief (mostly for business, some say) or watch the cap remain firmly in place. To date, Republicans we’ve heard say this isn’t true. Fortunately, results of the de-fib-orator are not admissible in court.
Several commentators and news outlets throughout the state have declared this session of the special Legislature a complete failure. Both parties can take either credit or blame. There’s plenty to go around, and it’s bipartisan. With Campaign ‘07 looming, lots of folks are saying the next regular legislative session will be equally, if not more, contentious. If so, one must wonder if it’s a purposeful thing with Republicans seeking to further damage the governor and Democrats attempting to show the honorable opposition as nothing but a block of “aginners.”
We remind our Republican friends that shooting cripples can be easy, unless the cripple can shoot back. Remember: not every vote that comes along will require a super majority, and not all legislation makes it through committee.
Our Democrat buddies should also consider: paying back payback doesn’t set well, especially among those who do the paying. Even getting even ain’t what it used to be.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Opening salvo?

Heard an interesting radio ad Monday afternoon on a local talk station. Apparently Jay Murrell is keeping his promise to consider challenging Billy Montgomery for the Senate District 37 seat being vacated this term by Max Malone. In his ad, Jay is introducing himself and alluding to movers, from one party to another and from one district to another, and to those who violate the spirit of the term limit law. It's a not-so-veiled shot across Montgomery's bow since he qualifies on all counts.
We're also hearing of a phone survey going on within the district, apparently paid for by Murrell, with questions directed at name recognition among other items. Murrell, a Republican, has said he intended to test the waters and take a hard look at numbers. If those numbers seem to balance, he's in the race.
That's going to make it all the more interesting. For some time now, we've heard a "real" Republican would be getting into the race to challenge Montgomery, who switched to the R-party a couple of months ago. That switch has brought howls from within some corners of the Caddo Parish Republican party, and plenty of air time from Moon Griffon. If Murrell does toss his hat into the ring, that would make three Republicans who would be seeking Malone's vacant chair. Former state representative B.L. "Buddy" Shaw is telling folks he's definitely in the race, and as a former office holder in the district, he certainly would bring along a core base of supporters. Another Republican which had been mentioned as a potential candidate — Nancy Victory — reportedly has decided not to give the race a try this time.
But the question will certainly be: how will Republicans in the district (which features a substantial number of registered Democrats) determine which of the three R candidates will gain their support, and how will that support be courted? If the campaign boils down to a heated review of Montgomery's record, a tactic Murrell has said would likely be the most effective, the entire race may become a battle royal. That type of bloodletting, as you may remember, thrust Malone into the 37 seat three terms ago when two well knowns cut themselves to pieces while Malone sat back and reaped the reward.
About the only mystery remaining in District 37 is whether or not a "real" Democrat will sneak into the race. With three Republicans battling among themselves, that D could stroll into a runoff with an opponent who's been severely crippled by his fellow Rs. We're keeping our ears to the ground, and our eyes on the poll numbers.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rumble in Red Stick

That little mushroom cloud hanging over Baton Rouge has grown larger in the past 12 hours, and there's a special session riding on whether the major combatants in this growing battle are inclined to flinch. Using his power as chairman of the Legislature's Revenue Estimating Committee, Senate President Don "Doc" Hines has blocked the use of $827 million in surplus funds to build roads and other projects. That money is one half of the cornerstone on which Governor Kathleen Blanco has set her course for the special session which is to begin Friday.
Hines said that since the final budget analysis from 2005-06 has not been printed, he would not vote to recognize any surplus amount, claiming to do so would violate state law. Many pundits and observers are saying this is step one in Hines' promise to "get even" over the state bond commission's failure to guarantee half the cost of the proposed $135 million sugar cane syrup mill in Bunkie. Although Hines said he wasn't mad following the 9-4 vote against state guarantees, our good friend — the Ol' Perfesser from the Kollege of Political Knowledge — isn't buying it. Perfesser says his sources in Baton Rouge say Hines is livid over the syrup mill and what he sees as a betrayal by the Governor. Hines, sources say, was one of the most surprised individuals in the room when the committee voted thumbs down on the project. In his mind, a promise was made and violated.
Apparently, all it takes to turn a positive vote of around 8-5 to a negative was the switch by Blanco and some of her administrative cohorts on the bond commission.
Why the sudden turnaround which Hines sees as a betrayal? Apparently the '07 gubernatorial race has as much to do with it as anything, Perfesser says. For more years than anyone can remember, Hines and former state Senator Foster Campbell — now Public Service Commissioner and all but announced candidate for Governor in '07 — have been strong allies. That translates to Hines' support for Campbell in the race, because in his political world, Hines is loyal to those who have staunchly supported him. Reportedly, Blanco pulled the plug on the syrup mill to remind Hines that all things have their consequences. Now, sources say, Hines is "getting even" for someone "getting even" over his lack of support for the one who made him President in the Senate.
This, according to the Perfesser, has set the stage for a political war which hasn't been seen in the state capitol since the days of Earl K. Long, and it's just beginning. The big question now is will the special session be sabatoged, and if so, by whom.
The good news: the combatants have until Friday to work it out. The bad news: the combatants have only until Friday. It's coming to s showdown.

Who gets it when Hines gets even?

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know by now the state Legislature heads into special session Friday. That is, unless Sen. Noble Whittington manages to pull off a coup and get 20 of his partners to move for adjournment after the Leg. is gaveled into session.
Perhaps the most interesting sub plot of the session, though, could be whether or not Senate President Don "Doc" Hines of Bunkie follows through on his promise to "get even" for the state bond commission's refusal to pass a favorable recommendation on guaranteeing half of the $135 million cost of a proposed sugar cane syrup mill in his home town. Following a 9-4 turndown of the bond guarantee, Hines told a reporter the following day, "“I’m not mad about the syrup mill; I’m just going to get even, that’s all.” The question that begs an answer: with whom will Hines get even, and what will "even" cost?
Gov. Kathleen Blanco was initially criticized for wanting to hold off on a special session until after the first of the year. Now, she's catching heat for calling the session (a) for 10 days only to consider spending roughly $1.6 billion is surplus from two fiscal years, (b) calling the session BEFORE the end of the year and (c) asking Legislators to switch their Christmas shopping time for 10 days in Baton Rouge. Not so surprisingly, some Republicans who had petitioned for the special session are now wondering if it's a good idea. Often, a governor is sorta like an umpire..only half the people are happy with your calls, and it's not always the same half.
As Senate president, Hines wields a load of power when it comes to handling his governor's legislation. He may be able to kill or permanently damage many of Blanco's proposals. The governor is talking about pay raises for teachers, state employees, law enforcement officers and others; she's looking at returning insurance premium dollars to state residents; infrastructure needs could be addressed under another proposal...all these could be held hostage if a hostile Legislature is led by one who wishes to get even.
Hines really has little to worry about. He is term limited (as are about 43 percent of those who will be called into session), and that means no "get even" from the great unwashed. This session could indeed be very special.