REC meets on Friday

A lot of Mardi Gras plans hang on the findings of the Revenue Estimating Conference on Friday.

The four-member board representing the governor, each chamber of the Legislature and an independent economist officially decides how much money the state has to spend.

It’s esoteric for most Louisiana residents, but for bureaucrats and legislators, talk around the State Capitol has been of little else. Staffers already have been warned not make plans that can’t be rearranged in case lawmakers have to come to Baton Rouge sometime over the next few months to help balance the budget.

Even Gov. John Bel Edwards weighed in on Friday, saying that if the REC rules that the state revenues come up $300 million short of the bills owed, a special session of the Legislature will be called. The amount is too large for the governor to make the mid-year adjustments on his own. He would need the Legislature’s involvement.

With half of Congressional delegation previously in Legislature, Louisiana mimics nation

Half of Louisiana's Congressional delegation previously served in the state Legislature — a statistic that directly mirrors the national figure.

The National Conference of State Legislatures recently tallied how many members of the U.S. House and Senate were once state lawmakers. The answer: just under 50 percent — 266 of the 535 voting members in both chambers combined.

Of Louisiana's delegation, four members — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, and U.S. Reps. Cedric Richmond and Mike Johnson — served in the Legislature in Baton Rouge. Reps. Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves and Clay Higgins and U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy didn't.

NCSL also took a look at the newest members of Congress, of which Louisiana had three sworn in this year. The trends there also are oddly similar.

Almost half of the new members of the U.S. House are former state legislators. For Louisiana, it's exactly half. Among the state's two new Congressmen: Johnson served in the state Legislature. Higgens didn't.

And as for the newest batch of senators, state lawmakers were barely represented. Kennedy, Louisiana lone senator sworn in this week, spent 16 years as state treasurer, but never served in the Legislature.

Gov. John Bel Edwards scheduled to make two trips to Washington next month

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is planning at least two trips to Washington, D.C., next month.

Edwards, a Democrat who took office a year ago, told reporters on Friday that he will be attending the Washington Mardi Gras festivities on Feb. 11 and then will return about a week later for the National Governors Association's annual winter meeting, which runs Feb. 19-22.

Edwards said he plans to lobby Congress and other leaders for additional federal aid for recovery efforts in response to the catastrophic floods that swept the state last year. He said he is also scheduling a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office later this month.

Congressman Cedric Richmond vows to fight Trump's AG nominee, but Sen. John Kennedy says he supports Sessions

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Attorney General is pitting Louisiana's lone Democratic congressman against its only senator on the powerful Judiciary Committee that will vet U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions for the role.

The Congressional Black Caucus, lead by Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, held a news conference on Thursday to express its opposition to Sessions becoming the nation's top law enforcement officer. Richmond further vowed to "hold all those who vote to confirm him accountable."

Just a day earlier, U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, a Madisonville Republican who has been named to the Judiciary Committee, expressed his support of the Alabama Republican.

"I'm proud to offer him my support," Kennedy tweeted.

Kennedy reiterated his support following Richmond's news conference Thursday.

Richmond said he was concerned by Sessions' views on criminal justice reform and opposition to consent decrees that regulate law enforcement in major cities, including New Orleans.

Sessions’ confirmation, scheduled to begin Jan. 10, is heavily expected to pass through the GOP-controlled Senate.

1,000 Louisiana residents expected to take part in Women's March in D.C.

Nearly 1,000 Louisiana residents are expected to take part in the national Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump this month, organizers say.

“Louisiana marchers want to help send the message that large numbers of Americans in every state across America are committed to working together to protect each other’s rights, to defend against injustice, and to resist policies that reverse decades of progress toward full and equal participation in American society," local organizer Dora Lambert said in a news release. "As a majority of the voting public, we expect our lawmakers to do the same.”

The Jan. 21 march, which is expected to be the largest demonstration linked to Trump's inauguration, has registered more than 100,000 people across the country, according to the Washington Post. The event's official program includes appearances by nationally-recognized advocates and entertainers including Gloria Steinem and Harry Belafonte.

A sister march will take place at City Hall in Baton Rouge at 10 a.m. Jan. 21.

Trump won 58 percent of the vote in Louisiana on Nov. 8 and received more votes than any candidate in state history.

Gov Edwards tells House GOP that Obamacare works for La.

Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that he thinks the Affordable Care Act is working in Louisiana.

“In just six months, nearly 375,000 Louisianians have gained health care coverage. For the very first time in our state’s history, we are able to deliver primary care and better health outcomes for our working people,” Edwards wrote.

McCarthy solicited input from the nation’s governors on possible alternatives to the federal healthcare plan often called Obamacare.

Edwards listed the impact the expansion of Medicaid has had in Louisiana: Nearly 47,000 patients have had a primary care visit or received a preventive health service; 4,500 women have been screened for breast cancer, and 58 have been diagnosed and received treatment; 4,000 people have received a colon cancer screening, more than 1,000 had a potentially cancerous polyp removed, and 45 were diagnosed with cancer that can now be treated; 850 people have been newly diagnosed with diabetes; and 2,000 people have been newly diagnosed with hypertension and are getting care.

Conservative group rates Louisiana legislators

The 2016 class of Louisiana legislators voted more conservatively than in 2015, according to ratings by The American Conservative Union Foundation.

The overall “Republican average” increased by 6.5 points in 2016 to 58.5 out of 100, compared to 52 out of 100 in 2015, to 58.5 out of 100 in 2016.

The ACU judged legislators on whether the group agreed with votes on 27 bills from the two special sessions and regular session in 2016. The group gave highest marks to Republican state Reps. Phillip R. DeVillier, of Eunice; Julie Emerson, of Carencro; Valarie Hodges, of Denham Springs; Blake Miguez, of Erath; and Alan Seabaugh, of Shreveport. They agreed with ACU positions on the bills at least 80 percent of the time. State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, had the highest ACU rating in the upper chamber, agreeing with the group’s positions on the bills 79 percent of the time.

New Orleans Sen. Karen Peterson, who also chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party, had the lowest rating from the conservative group.

Founded in 1964, the American Conservative Union is a political organization based in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. and is perhaps best known for founding CPAC or Conservative Political Action Conference that attracts leading Republicans to speak. Funders for the ACU include evangelical groups like the National Christian Charitable Foundation and large corporations, like ExxonMobil, according watchdogs that track spending of political organizations.

Trump transition team moves to drum up support for president-elect's agenda in Louisiana

A member of President-elect Donald Trump's Louisiana leadership team has been tapped to drum up support in the state for Trump's first 100-day agenda.

Brian Trascher, a New Orleans resident and partner at Gulf South Strategies USA, will be coordinating special post-election activities in the state, according to Trump's Louisiana campaign director. Trascher served as a co-chairman on Trump's Louisiana team.

“With hearings for Trump's cabinet picks starting as early as next week, we are asking supporters to call their Senators to confirm President-elect Trump's nominees,” said Ryan Lambert, who served as Trump’s Louisiana campaign director.

College boards get started

The managing boards of most of Louisiana’s public universities swore in new members and officers on Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards named Lola Dunahoe, of Natchitoches; Thomas Kitchen, of Metairie; and Elizabeth Pierre, of Monroe; and reappointed Al Perkins, of Prairieville; to the 16-member University of Louisiana System. All of whom officially took officew Friday. The new Board Members will serve through Dec. 31, 2022.

The UL System also swore in its new officers: UL System President Jim Henderson, Board Parliamentarian James Carter, Board Chair Al Perkins and Board Vice Chair Mark Romero.

“Our opportunities among the Universities of Louisiana are vast. More than ever before, quality of life and economic empowerment are dependent upon educational attainment.” Henderson said.

The board oversees nine public universities that educate 90,439 students.

Board Chair Al Perkins then named presidential search committees to fill the vacancies at McNeese State University and Northwestern State University.

The System hopes to have new leadership in place at both universities by July 1.

On the bluffs in north Baton Rouge, the Southern University and A&M College System Board of Supervisors installed officers for 2017 and held a swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed members.

Chairwoman Ann A. Smith and vice chairman Rev. Donald R. Henry, who were elected during the annual officers' election in November 2016, were installed as the new officers for the governing board for the only historically black college and university system in America.

Taking the oath of office for the SU Board were two newly appointed members and three reappointed members named by Edwards.

The additions to the 16-member board were Leroy Davis, of Baker; Richard T. Hilliard, of Shreveport; Domoine D. Rutledge, of Baton Rouge; and Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert Jr., of Lake Charles.

Flood relief to be addressed at Press Club

Pat Forbes, executive director of the Office of Community Development, will speak Monday to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

He will discuss the state’s plan for spending flood-relief funding recently approved by Congress.

Press Club meets on Mondays at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, which is located at 102 France Street. Press Club meets in the East and West Baton Rouge Room.

Parking is free in the garage off Mayflower Street. Lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m., is $13 for members and $17 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. Like the Baton Rouge Press Club on Facebook.

D.A. Hillar Moore visits with Jim Engster

Hillar Moore, District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, will be a guest on Monday’s “Jim Engster Show.”

Moore will talk about the decrease in murders in the parish for 2016 when other cities saw sharp increases in homicide rates.

“The Engster Show” airs weekdays 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on WBRP, Talk 107.3 in Baton Rouge and on WSLA, AM 1560 in New Orleans.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson speaks to EBR Republicans

Scott Wilson will address the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party on Tuesday about his role as Baton Rouge mayor pro tem for the next four years.

The mayor pro tem runs the meetings of the 12 Metro Council members and is generally a liaison between the council and mayor-president.

Wilson, R-Central, said shortly after being elected to the post last week that he expects flood recovery and policing to be major challenges.

The party’s Ronald Reagan Newsmakers luncheon begins at 12 noon in Café Americain Restaurant, 7521 Jefferson Hwy., Baton Rouge.

The event is free and open to the public, but there is a cost for the meal.

Affordable Care Act supporters to rally

Supporters of Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act will gather at the State Capitol at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday to recognize the one-year anniversary of Medicaid Expansion in Louisiana.

Since its implementation in July 2016, Medicaid Expansion has enrolled 374,087 Louisiana residents.

The U.S. Congress began the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last week.

“Repeal of the ACA will likely result in changes that could lead to increased deficits in our state budget, reduced benefits and worse health outcomes for Louisiana residents, said Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, a longtime supporter of Medicaid expansion.

The public is invited.