One of the more substantive issues looming over the next term of the Louisiana Legislature is who will succeed Senate President John Alario to lead the upper chamber.
Alario, R-Westwego, has held the post since 2012; before that, he was a member of the House since 1972 — a span during which he served as speaker twice.
Alario’s approaching exit will leave a major void in the Legislature. But the void will be bigger in the Senate.
Alario hasn’t said anything official yet, but Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, is certainly looking like an early candidate in the run to replace Alario for Senate president.
At least that’s the portrait being painted by the spending in his Bayou Leadership PAC, which is Allain’s leadership committee. The PAC received a hefty $25,000 contribution in April from Galliano shipbuilder Gary Chouest, and the money has been circulating ever since.
Over the past two months, Allain’s PAC has given $2,500 to Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, for his recent campaign for the upper chamber; $1,000 to Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, who’s running for the Jefferson Parish Council; and $1,000 to Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who’s running for state treasurer.
Others said to be favored contenders for the Senate president’s race next term are Sens. Page Cortez of Lafayette, Ronnie Johns of Lake Charles and Rick Ward of Maringouin.
Conner May Seek 3rd District Seat
While it might be a while until we start hearing more chatter about 2018’s congressional races, speculation is already stirring in the 3rd Congressional District.
That’s where freshman Congressman Clay Higgins of Port Barre may face some opposition.
Republican attorney Josh Guillory of Lafayette has been raising money since January, and has $46,000 in his campaign war chest, according to the FEC.
Guillory describes himself as a “constitutional and family law attorney.”
His tally normally wouldn’t catch a second look. But Higgins had just $44,000 in the bank as of June 30, with an additional $10,000 in debts owed by his committee.
Not to be outdone in the 3rd, Democrats are making a hard push for Dr. Phillip Conner of Lake Charles, a family medicine and sleep specialist. He is said to be seriously considering the race, but would only do it with a “first-rate campaign team.”
Lawsuit Challenges Booze Tax
A civil district court hearing will explore the constitutionality of what is being called a gallonage tax on alcohol. And it’s taking place in a city known for its booze consumption — New Orleans.
The tax, according to critics, directly impacts alcoholic beverage dealers and indirectly touches consumers, restaurants and retailers.
The lawsuit, which was originally brought by the Beer Industry League of Louisiana and later joined by the Louisiana Restaurant Assoc., seeks to invalidate two taxes in the city of New Orleans.
Plaintiffs expect to move for a ruling on a processing fee soon.
Attorneys for the associations are describing the taxes as “unconstitutional overreaches.”
Judge Clare Jupiter has the case, which will first focus on the gallonage tax, which is imposed on alcohol based on the volume sold. The plaintiffs call the tax for that a “property tax” that violates state law, while the city contends its home rule charter exempts it from all state and constitutional limits on taxation.
The case raises interesting questions about whether the 1921 version of the constitution guides the way for the city on this issue or the Legislature is vested solely with taxation authority.
The so-called gallonage tax was adopted last year. It went into effect in the spring and is currently being paid under protest.
The other tax, which has been on the books for more than seven years, is a $1,000 processing fee for restaurants and other establishments that are required to obtain a liquor license. The fee is charged in addition to the cost of a license, which ranges between $135 and $500.
Attorneys for the associations argue that state law specifically limits the amounts a municipality can charge for liquor license fees, and say the city is attempting to skirt those limitations by calling the $1,000 charge a “processing fee.”
Oil Spill Claims Process Nearing An End
After five years, nearly 400,000 claims and more than $9 billion in payment offers, BP’s massive settlement program may be coming to a close within the next five months.
“We will have decided all of our determinations by the end of this year,” Pat Juneau, the court-appointed administrator, told LaPolitics.
While the work related to the private claims will likely continue past December, due to appeals and other legal maneuvers, the work of Juneau, a Lafayette attorney, will be concluded by New Year’s Day.
The claims process was established in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill that killed 11 people and littered Gulf of Mexico beaches with balls of tar.
The closing of the curtain can’t come soon enough for executives at BP, which is experiencing an earnings slip as costs associated with the oil spill continue to weigh on balance sheets, according to reporting from the Associated Press. The numbers tell the story:
— One measure of profit suggests BP’s second-quarter standing dipped to $684 million, compared to $720 million during the same quarter of 2016.
— BP had to escrow $347 million in the second quarter for the claims process and other expenditures connected to the spill.
— That makes for $63.2 billion expended on the disaster thus far, and $39.8 billion in net debt for the company, which was higher than expected.
“While net debt rose primarily due to Gulf of Mexico payments, we expect this will improve over the second half as these payments decline and divestment proceeds come in towards the end of the year,” CFO Brian Gilvary told the AP.
Political History: A Booze-Free Louisiana
The state recently marked the 99th anniversary of Louisiana’s ratification of the 18th Amendment, which established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States.
Ruffin Golson Pleasant, a Shreveport native, was the governor at the time. He waited a week before making the ratification effective.
According to Samuel Hyde’s article “Prohibition,” which was produced for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2010, “Louisianans quickly perfected numerous methods to circumvent [prohibition]. Indeed, some have argued that drinking liquor became even more popular in Louisiana after it was declared illegal.”
In New Orleans, local elected officials fought to have alcohol declared a food supplement, and rum-running became a major industry in the state. “Smugglers brought so many shiploads of illegal liquor to Louisiana that the price actually began to decline,” Hyde wrote.
During the last stretch of prohibition, even Louisiana’s top elected official was willing to look the other way. “When asked by the mayor of Atlanta what his administration was doing to enforce prohibition, Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long famously responded ‘not a damn thing,’” Hyde wrote.
“Scores of Louisiana residents, whether they consumed alcohol or not, simply resented the intrusion of government into what they perceived as private affairs. Thus, they refused to support enforcement of the law.”
An Endorsement For Treasurer
The first notable endorsement of the election season has finally come. The Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee has given an official nod to former state Rep. John Schroder’s campaign for state treasurer.
There were 89 members voting, and Schroder, a native of Covington, received nearly all the votes.
Schroder’s endorsement could be an early sign that he has infiltrated Jefferson Parish politics — a move that was important in the wake of state Rep. Julie Stokes of Kenner decision to drop out of the race before qualifying.
It’s a GOP-heavy parish with a lot of big boxes in conservative precincts.
At the start of his campaign, Schroder made the decision to have a political director focused only on Jefferson and Orleans parishes.
More They Said It
“How do I fly an airplane looking backwards?”
— Michael Glisson, South Louisiana Community College vice chancellor, explaining the value of prospective data, in The Lafayette Advertiser
“I just want the community to quiet down. I don’t need for this to be stirred up.”
— Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans, on hearing the mounting complaints about his administration, in The Shreveport Times
“I would couch this as a just-in-case resolution.”
— Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, to the Bond Commission, explaining the early steps for a possible $500-million short-term loan for the state.
For more Louisiana political news, visit LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.