Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin said he’s not yet decided whether to have a legislative hearing on proposed Group Benefits plan changes.
“I know it will be my call between now and the 29th (of January). I want feedback from the (committee) members,” Fannin, R-Jonesboro, said.
Under legislative pressure, the Jindal administration altered its initial plan to cushion the additional costs that would be imposed with the new benefit structures. The new plan reduces out-of-pocket expenses originally contemplated in exchange for higher premiums. Premiums could go up nearly 11 percent beginning July 1.
The Office of Group Benefits has about 230,000 members who are state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.
A legislative hearing is one of the steps in an administrative approval process before the changes take effect. A hearing is not required, just an option.
A public hearing on Dec. 29 attracted little comment, except complaints about alleged financial mismanagement by the Jindal administration that led to the extra insurance costs.
“I have had zero feedback from members or Group Benefits members since we made the changes that we did in committee,” Fannin said. “I think people understand it may be the best scenario now. This is the better opportunity than what they had and most of them realize that.”
Jindal to address conservative group
Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference next month in National Harbor, Maryland, CPAC organizers confirmed in a Facebook post and on Twitter on Friday.
Jindal, who is considering a run for president, has spoken to the conservative gathering several times in recent years. Last year, he made headlines calling President Barack Obama the “worst president” in his lifetime.
The meeting — expanded to four days this year — will take place Feb. 25-28.
Other speakers include Republican U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas; Tim Scott, of South Carolina; and Rand Paul, of Kentucky; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee; along with Dr. Ben Carson; former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and talk show hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham.
Vitter files bills on 1st day of session
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican running for governor, filed several pieces of legislation on the first day of the 114th Congress, including bills that would set term limits for Congress and require Washington leaders to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange.
Among his proposals: limiting elected officials to three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate; eliminating automatic pay raises for Congress; barring Congress members’ spouses and immediate family members from getting paid by their political action committees or individual campaign funds; and establishing local subcontractors as the go-to entities for debris removal or demolition following natural disasters. He also has proposed legislation that would require members of Congress, congressional staff, the president, the vice president and all political appointees to purchase health insurance on the federal health care exchange and receive the standard amount of financial support to do so.
Adams tapped as committee vice chair
Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley appointed state Rep. Bryan Adams as vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee.
Adams, a Gretna Republican, fills the vacancy created when state Rep. Simone Champagne resigned to become Youngsville’s chief administrative officer.
Adams has been a member of the House since 2011. He also serves on the House Administration of Criminal Justice, Judiciary Committee, Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, House Select Committee on Homeland Security, and the Joint Committee on Homeland Security.
State Rep. Williams eyes workforce direction
Baton Rouge state Rep. Alfred C. Williams was named last week as chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.
He replaces Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, who recently resigned from the Legislature.
“This will give me an opportunity to help identify the direction of our present and future workforce,” Williams said.
Abraham to lead vet affairs group
In his first week on the job, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, was selected to chair a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee.
Abraham will chair the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
One of the subcommittee’s top priorities will be ending the VA’s disability compensation backlog by 2015, just as department leaders have promised. The committee will maintain pressure on the department to ensure this goal is met without sacrificing quality, accuracy and service to veterans.
One of the top legislative priorities for the committee as a whole will be to work to ensure proper implementation of the Veterans Access and Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.
Battle of New Orleans film in works
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne announced plans Friday for a major motion picture about the Battle of New Orleans.
Ken and Fred Atchity, of Atchity Brothers Entertainment, will produce the feature film, “Andrew Jackson — Battle of New Orleans,” based on military historian Ron Drez’s latest book, “The War of 1812: Conflict And Deception.” The project is endorsed by the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Commission.
Andrew Jackson arrived in New Orleans in December 1814 to discover a local force in place with fewer than 1,000 soldiers. In two weeks, he put together an army to face the grand British force. Jackson assembled a ragtag group of soldiers including pirates, free men of color, American Indians and visiting militia from other states. The battle ended with a U.S. victory on Jan. 8, 1815.
The Atchity brothers are expected to announce actors and directors soon.
D.C. Mardi Gras ball draws La. politicos
The annual Washington, D.C., Mardi Gras celebration will draw elected leaders, lobbyists and others involved in Louisiana politics to the nation’s capital later this month.
But Gov. Bobby Jindal’s involvement level might be a bit tamped down again this year. Jindal was noticeably absent from festivities last year.
This year, the governor has planned a prayer rally in Baton Rouge on Jan. 24 — the same day as the Mardi Gras ball in Washington. The rally is being billed as a day of prayer and fasting — a stark contrast from the raucous revelry that will be going on in D.C.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who is running for governor this year, has been named captain of the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians, which holds the annual D.C. event. Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who lost her re-election bid last year, previously was captain.
Congressman Charles Boustany, a Republican representing Louisiana’s 3rd District, is this year’s ball chairman.
Chamber CEO to speak to Press Club
Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, will speak at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
Knapp will deliver a state of the region address, featuring BRAC’s top priorities for 2015, as well as a retrospective of economic development activity in 2014.
Press Club meets on Mondays in the Iberville Room at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St. Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street. Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers. The public is invited, but only members of the Press Club and the news media are allowed to ask questions during the question-and-answer portion of the program.
EBR GOP to host candidates forum
The Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish hosts a Tuesday forum for Republican candidates for state representative of Louisiana House District 66 at the Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon.
Three candidates — Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, former Councilman Darrel Ourso, and Baton Rouge attorney Rick Bond — will participate in the event at Café Americain, 7575 Jefferson Highway, in Baton Rouge. House District 66 represents residents in the eastern part of the parish, including parts of Shenadoah and Woodland Ridge.
Each candidate will speak for five minutes and answer questions from the media and attendees for eight minutes.
The event begins with a reception at 11:30 a.m. Lunch is at 12 noon.
The meeting is open to registered Republicans and invited guests. Lunch is $15, payable to the restaurant, and complimentary to media.
For information, contact Woody Jenkins at woody email@example.com.
Watchdog leader to address roundtable
Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, a watchdog group, will address Thursday’s Ascension GOP Roundtable.
The meeting, sponsored by Ascension Republican Women, will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Kamal’s Kafe, 13091 Airline Highway, in Gonzales.
Landry will discuss the impact of Louisiana’s jury trial threshold and other current legal issues.
Cost for the buffet lunch is $15 with RSVP and $17 at the door. The event is open to the public and guests are welcome. Reservations are requested. RSVP: Call (225) 644-5728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor contenders set to debate
In what will be the first forum in the race for Louisiana governor — the election is 10 months away — the four announced major candidates agreed to debate transportation and infrastructure issues Friday, Jan. 16, according to the American Council of Engineering Companies of Louisiana, Louisiana Associated General Contractors, AIA Louisiana and Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association.
The Republican candidates — Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge; and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie — and the sole Democratic Party candidate, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, all confirmed they would participate in the 2015 Critical Issues Summit.
The gubernatorial primary is Oct. 24 with a runoff, if needed, set for Nov. 21.
The forum takes place at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel, 7000 Bluebonnet Blvd., in Baton Rouge and begins at 10 a.m. Friday.
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