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News » POLITICS BLOG


POLITICS BLOG


POLITICS BLOG
Cassidy votes on hate crimes


Posted by Washington bureau at 11:00 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, was one of only 18 House Republican who voted last week to pass hate crimes legislation.

The bill extends protections to victims of crime based on their gender identity, sexual orientation or handicap. U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans, also bucked his party in supporting the bill.

All of Louisiana's seven re-maining House members, in-cluding Melancon, voted against the measure. Cassidy said he voted for the bill based on its support by law enforce-ment groups and that the ex-ception was warranted.

"No class of people should be intimidated or terrorized by a single person," Cassidy said. "Burning a church is more than arson."

Posted in: Politics, U.S. Congress

Chronology of the Saints deal

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 6:02 p.m.

1985: Gov. Edwin Edwards signs a contract to give the Saints concessions and tax breaks worth about $2.5 million a year for 21 years.

1994: A new lease agreement with the state increases the team's take on game day con-cessions, lowers the rent on the Superdome, builds a $10 million training facility and commits $25 million to Dome reno-vations. In exchange, the Saints agree to stay in New Orleans for 25 years.

2001: Gov. Mike Foster guar-antees the team $186 million over 10 years in addition to previous incentives.

2009: Gov. Bobby Jindal agrees to lease office space for 20 years in a Benson family-owned building, pay the team up to $6 million a year in cash and spend $85 million to reno-vate the Superdome.

Posted in: Politics, Budget, Gov. Jindal

Jindal-Benson Saints Deal Now Goes to Legislature

Posted by Michelle Millhollon at 6:00p.m.

Lawmakers will have at least two opportunities to vote on the proposal unveiled by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Saints owner Tom Benson to keep the NFL franchise in Louisiana.

The outcome will show whether legislators' grumbling over the deal extends to the votes they ultimately will cast.

First, legislators must approve spending $85 million of a state surplus to renovate the Louisiana Superdome. Secondly, Commissioner of Administration Ang?le Davis said lawmakers will be asked to ap-prove the state's lease of office space from Benson.

Many legislators argue that the state should not be in the business of subsidizing a sports team when public health care and education are being threatened with massive cuts.

Lawmakers currently are contemplating how to handle a $1.3 billion shortfall for the budget year that starts July 1.

"The Saints resonate in New Orleans," said state Rep. Avon Honey, D-Baton Rouge. "Outside New Orleans, people love them, but not to that extreme."

State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, said he is con-cerned about a for-profit business receiving money from the state.

"We have tremendous needs in this state ... That $85 million can go a long way toward help-ing Louisiana citizens," he said.

Jindal downplayed the discord Friday, saying there is strong support for the proposal.

He said the arrangement reduces the team's reliance on state dollars by tying the subsidies to revenues generated by the Saints . For instance, the more tickets the team sells, the less state money it would re-ceive, Jindal said.

"The goal and the hope is they'll be able to earn those dollars," Jindal said.

The team currently is receiving $23.5 million a year from the state with few strings attached - money that the state is struggling to pay.

As governor, Kathleen Blanco negotiated with the Saints on a long-term deal before Hurricane Katrina. A new agreement was never reached and Blanco left future negotiations to her successor.

Jindal said he is being frugal by renovating the Dome at a fraction of the cost of a new stadium. Benson has pushed for years for state dollars to build a new stadium for the team he owns.

Jindal's proposal calls for:

* An $85 million renovation of the Superdome to widen concourses, add concession stands and restrooms, build new club lounges, add seating and construct new luxury boxes. The money would come from state funds.

* Up to $6 million a year in cash payments from the state to the Saints , depending on how much money the team gener-ates.

* The state would pay about $7 million a year for 30 agencies to lease office space in a downtown New Orleans building owned by Benson's family. The rent is about $2.5 million a year more than the state currently is paying to lease office space in New Orleans, accord-ing Commissioner Davis.

* The Saints and the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome for the state, would partner in developing a now-shuttered mall to create a "sports entertainment" district. The LSED will rent the mall and an adjacent parking garage from the Saints for $2.5 million a year.

The deal is supposed to keep the Saints in New Orleans through 2025, which would mark the 40th year of the team receiving incentives from the state.

The state and the Saints inked their first deal in 1985, the same year Benson bought the team for $70.2 million.

Gov. Edwin Edwards gave the team concessions and tax breaks worth a little more than $2 million a year. That arrangement was supposed to last 21 years or until 2006.

Benson tried to renegotiate the deal with former Gov. Buddy Roemer, who served from 1988 to 1992. Roemer turned him away.

In 1992, Edwards won a final term as governor and soon agreed to increase the team's take on game day concessions, lower the rent on the Super-dome and build a state-of-the-art practice facility. In ex-change, Benson signed a 25-year lease on the state-owned Superdome.

Former Gov. Mike Foster sweetened the pot in 2001 shortly after the Saints wrapped up their first winning season in more than a decade.

Foster offered the Saints a $186.5 million, 10-year package of additional aid to keep the team in New Orleans through 2010.

Foster's package includes annual cash payments to the team that escalated in later years. Foster told legislators at the time that a portion of the New Orleans hotel-motel tax and other sources would pay the subsidies.

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who was a Republican state senator at the time, warned that the state taxpayers would have to pay the Saints because the deal's revenues would prove inadequate to cover the obligation.

Over the years, state taxpayers have been called upon to make increasingly larger payments to the Saints . In 2008, the payment expected from state government calculated to $23.5 million.

Lawmakers approved Fos-ter's deal when they convened for a session in 2002. But prior to the vote the legislators grumbled.

For instance, state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, said at the time that the NFL franchise should look for another market. (Now one of the governor's floor leaders, Michot has voiced support of Jindal's arrangement.)

Seven years later, legislators are once again grumbling about a governor's arrangement to keep the Saints in Louisiana.

State Rep. Michael Jackson, No Party-Baton Rouge, said he also is concerned about the administration's priorities.

"The state as a whole has much more pressing issues," he said.

The Saints are important, Jackson said, but not as impor-tant as higher education and health care.

Baton Rouge Rep. Honey said it seems like the administration is focusing on the Saints when there are people who need as-sistance.

He said higher education and health care rank higher on his radar screen than the Saints .

State Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, predicted that the $85 million will be the toughest hurdle in the package. It's also one of the few pieces that requires a vote of the Leg-islature.

State Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro and chairman of the House Appropriations Commit-tee, said some legislators mis-takenly think the $85 million is going into Benson's pocket. In-stead, the money is going to renovate a state-owned build-ing, he said.

State Rep. Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan, said he would prefer to send the money to Vermilion and Cameron parishes to help them recuperate from the hur-ricanes and other costly problems.

State Rep. Simone Champagne, D-Jeanerette, said she cannot support the governor's Saints proposal because of pressing needs in her district.

State officials need to address the lack of coastal protection in southwest Louisiana before giving money to a sports team, she said.

Champagne said the Saints are important to the city of New Orleans and the state. But, she said, the $85 million could be better used.

State Rep. Joel Robideaux, No Party-Lafayette, said the state should do what it can to help the Saints as long as it makes economic sense.

"I don't think we should sub-sidize their profits," he said.

State Rep. Kay Katz, R-Monroe, said there is a balanc-ing act between the Saints and state services such as higher education and health care.

State Rep. Jane Smith, R-Bossier City, said she likes the idea of enhancing the Super-dome to generate more money through food sales and other ventures.

"The North can support the South," she said.

State Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, said lawmakers will have to ask themselves a question.

"We have to do a gut check and ask, 'Do we want the Saints to stay here or not,'" Greene said.

Posted in: Politics, Budget, Gov. Jindal

Walsworth jabbed

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 5:20 p.m.

After hours of pushing legislation that would give a north Louisiana chicken plant money from an economic development "mega-fund" on the Senate floor, state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, took some additional ribbing in a Senate Insurance Committee meeting that followed the floor debate.

The megafund bill, sponsored by Walsworth and backed by the governor, would allow the state to put $50 million of the designated economic development money toward the purchase of the plant, which does not currently qualify for the funding.

Several legislators, including state Sen. Troy Hebert, D-Jeanerette, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, raising concerns about the state's stake in a chicken plant.

After the Senate passed the megafund measure 31-3, Walsworth went in front of the insurance committee, which Hebert chairs, for a bill regarding domestic mutual non-life insurers.

"Is this going to cost us any money?" Hebert asked Walsworth, before he could get a word out. "We're not going to have any left after today."

Posted in: Politics, Budget

Jindal to help national GOP

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 5:15 p.m.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining efforts to reenergize the national Republican Party.

Jindal is part of the GOP's National Council for a New America, which CNN describes as an "effort to revive the image of the Republican Party."

Other participants include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour.

Jindal's press secretary, Kyle Plotkin, wrote in an email that the governor wants to contribute his policy ideas and draw on the lessons he learned in the federal and state arenas.

"He looks forward to contributing those ideas to this forward-looking group," Plotkin wrote. "He has not commit-ted to any travel or speaking engagements at this time."

Posted in: Politics, Gov. Jindal

LaFonta looks at congressional bid

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 5:00 p.m.

State Rep. Juan LaFonta is eyeing U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao's congressional seat.

LaFonta, D-New Orleans, said he is considering running for the seat in less than two years when Cao is up for re-election.

LaFonta criticized the Republican congressman for voting against the federal stimulus package after Cao said he would support it.

"I think I could do a better job," LaFonta said.

Posted in: Politics, Legislature, U.S. Congress

Kimball's brief remarks

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 4:40 PM

Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball took a few lighthearted jabs during her first "State of the Judiciary" address to law-makers.

"It was suggested to me by some of the members that I should keep my remarks brief," Kimball said.

"I will try to do that but please know that I do not speak as fast as Governor Jindal," she said.

"On the other hand, I don't speak as slow as Francis Thompson," Kimball said.

Jindal is known for his rapid-fire delivery. Thompson, a state senator from Delhi, speaks with a slow pace common in his north Louisiana district.

Posted in: Politics, Legislature

UL Today seeks consitutional amendment to protect education funding

Posted by Capitol news bureau at 4:31 p.m.

UL Today.com is seeking names for a petition asking for a constitutional amendment that would protect education from future budget cuts. The free online newspaper reports doings in and around the University of Louisiana Lafayette is operated by the Acadiana Educational Endowment, a nonprofit group that raises money from federal grants and donors to provides services for educational institutions. UL Today is not affiliated with the university.

Joe Abraham M.D. of Lafayette, president of the endowment, said UL Today is trying out new software that directs the petition to the appropriate elected official whenever one of their constituents sign it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three elected officials from around ULL received the most petitions -- Republicans U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, state Sen. Mike Michot and No Party state Rep. Joel Robideaux.

But the one elected official who won't get copies of the signed petitions is Gov. Bobby Jindal. His office is the only one that asked to be removed from the recipients list, Abraham said.

The petition and UL Today can be found at the web address of http://ultoday.com/

Posted in: Politics, Budget, Education, Gov. Jindal



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 4, 2009

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