The Jindal administration has two new six-figure salary employees, hired to help with state Office of Group Benefits changes.

Thomas Groves has been hired as an assistant commissioner at $220,000 a year and Elise Cazes as a $106,512-a-year group benefits administrator.

Group Benefits will be part of Groves’ duties. He’ll also lead risk management, technology services, Office of Planning and Budget and two other offices.

Groves has more than 20 years’ experience in the health care and insurance industries.

Cazes will administer the medical and pharmacy management for OGB and oversee vendors and their performance related to the administration of the benefit program.

Both are former employees of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has the claims administration contract with Group Benefits.

Groves was vice president of network administration for Blue Cross for six years. Cazes was a performance consultant for the Blue Cross Learning Institute and manager of Group Reporting and Analytics for the company.

The hirings come as the administration continues to overhaul Group Benefits operations, including major changes in the program that provides health insurance to some 230,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents.

Whitney robo-call makes bold statement

Those running in the 6th Congressional District election in November might find candidate Lenar Whitney’s take on the race a little presumptuous.

Some district voters got a robo-call from Whitney’s campaign Thursday alerting them that she had qualified for the office.

Then, Whitney, a Republican state legislator from Houma, added that she’s running against former four-term Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Whitney and Edwards are but two of more than a dozen candidates for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Judge uses unusual wording in ruling

The judge whose ruling has paved the way for resumption of Common Core test plans used some unusual wording in his decision.

Judge Todd Hernandez, of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, twice referred to Louisiana’s push for new standards in reading, writing and math as a “crusade.”

“The evidence shows that in 2010, plaintiffs and defendants chartered a crusade to raise the expectations and standards of education in the state of Louisiana,” Hernandez wrote in his ruling, which was issued Aug. 19.

And a few paragraphs later, the judge wrote that, in 2010, state officials “began a collaborative crusade to raise the standards and expectations of education in Louisiana.”

Lawmakers ranked low on education issues

A teacher’s union has given 11 state lawmakers — all Republicans — failing marks in its annual survey of how legislators aligned with priorities of the group.

The rating was done by the Louisiana Association of Educators, and its issues included bills to overhaul the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, study the way public school teachers are evaluated and a bid to raise the retirement age for teachers.

Three Republican state senators were given Fs by the LAE: Conard Appel, of Metairie; Jack Donahue, of Mandeville; and Bodi White, of Central.

Eight state House members got failing marks: Stuart Bishop, of Lafayette; Simone Champagne, of Jeanerette; Nancy Landry, of Lafayette; Joseph Lopinto, of Metairie; Nick Lorusso, of New Orleans; Scott Simon, of Abita Springs; Julie Stokes, of Metairie; and Kirk Talbot, of River Ridge.

The full list is available at

Palmieri tapped as assistant chief of staff

Gov. Bobby Jindal has named Stafford Palmieri as assistant chief of staff.

Palmieri was previously policy director for the Governor’s Office and before that was education and workplace policy adviser to Jindal.

The governor also named Natalie LaBorde as policy director.

LaBorde was previously senior policy adviser in the Governor’s Office.

Lawyer joins state Ethics Board

Alexandria lawyer Kay Michiels is the newest member of the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Michiels to the 5th Congressional District seat on the 11-member board.

Michiels replaced Monroe attorney Mark J. Neal whose appointment by Jindal did not receive Senate confirmation.

Jindal picked from a list of nominees provided by the presidents of Louisiana’s independent colleges.

ACT! chief to speak at Pachyderms meeting

Christopher Holton, director of education and outreach with ACT! for America, will be the speaker for Thursday’s meeting of the Pachyderms of GBR.

Holton is former vice president of the Center for Security Policy.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting will be at the Grand Asian Chinese Buffet (formerly Great Wall), 3132 College Drive, in Baton Rouge.

Pachyderm meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. Attendees will pay the restaurant individually for the buffet. Reservations are requested. RSVP at (225) 644-5728 or

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