Capitol Buzz: Legislators head to BR for party, meetings _lowres


’Tis the season, and Louisiana legislators from across the state are headed to Baton Rouge for their annual Christmas party.

Coincidentally, nine hearings involving legislators have been scheduled for Thursday, the day of the party, one for Friday and three more on Wednesday. Legislators collect $150 per diem when they come to the Capitol on official business, like committee meetings.

The Christmas party begins at 5 p.m. Thursday.

White: Report supports need for Common Core

State Superintendent John White says a new report out on the state’s tuition assistance program, commonly called TOPS, supports his position that Louisiana should implement Common Core education standards.

The new report on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students — an update of the many studies that have been performed on the generous program in recent years, as legislators have reacted to its ballooning costs — shows that white and affluent students were more likely to benefit from TOPS between 2003 and 2014.

“We have to react to tragic reports like this,” White said Thursday. “We can adopt Common Core state standards and step up to compete with every state in this country.”

Per diem payments for legislators drop by $3

Louisiana legislators’ compensation has declined a little.

Legislators’ per diem dropped from $153 to $150. That means they will get $3 less for each day they are in session, attend interim committee meetings or other conferences related to their position.

Under state law, the payment is tied to the reimbursement rate federal employees received while traveling in the Baton Rouge area. That rate went down Oct. 1, so legislators’ per diem did as well.

The per diem is in addition to base pay of $16,800 and a $6,000 unvouchered expense allowance. Legislative leadership’s base pay is more. It’s all part of their taxable compensation package.

At the same time last year per diem increased from $149 to $153.

The payment stood at $75 when legislators first tied it to the federal rate in 1997. In most years since then, the rate has increased.

Effective Jan. 1, legislators will get a boost in their reimbursement for mileage from 56 cents to 57.5 cents per mile.

Jindal slams Duncan, Obama via statement

A few days after Secretary Arne Duncan’s U.S. Department of Education gave Louisiana a $32 million grant to provide new and improved prekindergarten classes for about 10,500 youngsters in New Orleans and elsewhere, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a statement slamming Duncan and President Barack Obama.

The statement was released Thursday as Duncan visited New Orleans to speak at the Bureau of Governmental Research’s annual luncheon at the Marriott Hotel.

Jindal called it a welcome to Duncan, but in the prepared statement released by his press office, the governor said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu supported Obama’s policies and lost the election. “So we have to wonder — is the president sending Secretary Duncan here to double down on these failed policies and bully us into federal overreach and the Obama administration’s top-down education agenda?” Jindal stated, talking about Common Core, which the governor once backed but now opposes.

“What we’ve done is encourage states to raise their standards,” Duncan said at the Bureau of Governmental Research speech. “So many states have dummied down their standards to make politicians look good … and, to me, that’s one of the most insidious things that can happen in public education.”

Nungesser gearing up for a busy 2015

Outgoing Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said last week he’s preparing to position himself for a stepped-up pace as election year 2015 dawns.

Nungesser is within weeks of leaving the parish president’s position. Soon thereafter, Nungesser said he plans to rent a house in the more strategically located Lafayette “so I can drive from there to get around the state.”

Nungesser ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2011. He had the backing of fellow Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter who is running for governor next year.

This time around, Nungesser said, he’s not expecting Vitter to weigh in.

“He’s got his own race,” Nungesser said. “I’ve got mine. I’m not supporting anyone in the governor’s race.”

AARP picks James as Legislator of the Year

State Rep. Edward “Ted” James II is the recipient of AARP Louisiana’s 2014 Legislator of the Year Award.

The Baton Rouge legislator received the award for championing issues that enhance the lives of older Louisianans.

The Louisiana chapter noted James’ fight to rein in payday loan interest rates, to increase consumers’ access to health insurance and support family caregivers.

“We appreciate Rep. James for working with our volunteers and giving them a voice in the Legislature,” said Denise Bottcher, interim state director of AARP Louisiana. “This award recognizes the tireless dedication and commitment Rep. James has toward older Louisianans and making their lives brighter.”

AARP is a membership organization that champions issues important to people over the age of 50.

Perret retains post as leader of roads group

Kenneth Perret has been re-elected as president of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association for 2015.

Perret is former assistant secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development. He also served as an administrator with the Federal Highway Administration.

The vice president of the group is Johnny Bradberry, former DOTD secretary.

The association is a transportation infrastructure advocacy group whose officials often appear at legislative and other hearings.

Cassidy asks for help collecting yard signs

The election’s over, but you’re probably still seeing campaign signs around town.

U.S. Sen-elect Bill Cassidy is asking supporters to help collect yard signs and return them to his office this week.

“We have one more task — we have to collect the yard signs we put up,” the Cassidy campaign wrote in an email to backers today.

According to the email, Cassidy’s campaign is asking people to bring signs to his Baton Rouge office at 6160 Perkins Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

Cassidy, a three-term congressman representing Louisiana’s 6th District, defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu on Dec. 6.

Albrecht to speak to Press Club of BR

Greg Albrecht, chief economist with the Legislative Fiscal Office, will be the speaker for Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

He will discuss state tax credits.

The Press Club meets 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.

This is the last meeting of the Press Club in 2014. Monday lunch meetings will resume on Jan. 5.

Honoré to lecture on environmental damage

Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honoré will speak 7 p.m. Monday of the need for the petrochemical industries to support repair of environmental damages caused by their exploration and production techniques.

He is the D’Orlando Lecturer of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, 5212 South Claiborne Ave., New Orleans.

The D’Orlando Lectureship was established in 1995 and is named in honor of the Rev. Albert D’Orlando, a civil rights leader who co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana in 1956.

Shane to address Pachyderm Club

The Pelican State Pachyderm Club will hear 6:15 p.m. Tuesday from Henry Shane who will give a 2015 forecast for Jefferson Parish.

The meeting is at the DoubleTree Hotel, 2150 Veterans Blvd., Kenner.

The cost is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.


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