The chatter among the lawmakers and lobbyists late last month at the annual LegisGator event at L’Auberge in Lake Charles included reports on a commercial many had seen on their hotel television screens that morning.
It was from state Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia, who, with that spot, became the first candidate for treasurer to go on television. The ad focused heavily on drainage and weather-related issues, along with a bit of anti-tax messaging.
While the ad originally aired in the Lake Charles market a bit earlier, with a relatively small buy pushing it, the commercial was running in at least the Alexandria, Baton Rouge and Shreveport media markets a couple of weeks later.
Not to be outdone, former commissioner of administration Angele Davis, of Baton Rouge, has started rolling out sponsored social media that features photos of her duck hunting alongside former Gov. Mike Foster. It’s an important endorsement for her campaign — and the images no doubt caught the attention of eager hunters waiting for the opening of teal season on Sept. 15.
Lionel Rainey, strategist and media consultant for former Rep. John Schroder of Covington, said his camp has been “very tactical” in its approach to digital advertising. When it comes to sponsored social media, Schroder’s engagement does appear to be among the strongest. What election-watchers are really waiting on, though, is Schroder’s coming TV buy, which could be sizable, based on what little he has spent so far on other platforms.
On Labor Day, Schroder released a five-minute bio video online that told his life story and explained his political stances.
House Speaker Tours State
House Speaker Taylor Barras recently visited with legislators in Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria, then made his way around the southeastern corner of Louisiana holding similar meetings.
Soon Barras, a Republican from New Iberia, will have covered the entire state — all in hopes of establishing a foundation for the 2018 legislative year.
Lawmakers who have taken part in the talks say the speaker isn’t putting forth any specific ideas; rather, he’s offering a snapshot of where the state stands today in terms of revenue and what the next year or so might bring.
There’s also been some discussion about the benefits of temporary revenue versus permanent tax revenue. But few in the leadership can say a consensus is in reach.
That said, those hoping for true tax and budget reforms aren’t hearing much to get excited about. In fact, those lawmakers are convinced that the conversation will eventually — sooner, rather than later, probably — come back around to either extending the fifth penny that was added to the state sales tax structure last year or cleaning up the state sales tax structure in an effort to reach a lower rate.
That’s a non-starter for Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has already said he won’t entertain those ideas unless they’re attached to significant reforms.
The speaker, for his part, has admitted to his colleagues that any deep-digging reforms could be a “little tricky” in the House in 2018.
Constitution May Be Issue In 2019
By making it a campaign issue during his first run for the Mansion, Gov. Edwin Edwards is often credited with giving birth to the 1973-74 constitutional convention.
With that in mind, a small group of politicos are having preliminary conversations about generating the same kind of enthusiasm during the 2019 election cycle, when legislative seats will share ballot space with the race for governor.
That could mean a white paper, pledges and general outreach, said constitutional law attorney Scott Sternberg, whose firm has offices in New Orleans and Covington.
“The current constitution hampers elected officials from making the decisions we elect them to make,” he said. “It’s the biggest issue no one is talking about.”
Sternberg said such a drive would certainly focus on fiscal issues only, which is the same approach that’s been used in related legislation in recent years.
Lawmakers Consider Departmental Reforms
When lawmakers debate taxes and spending during the next session, another budget issue is likely to be added to the mix: departmental reforms. That’s according to Senate Natural Resources Chairman Norby Chabert, R-Houma.
While the House Appropriations Committee has been shining a bright light on the Louisiana Health Dept. and its operations and budget, Chabert, an interim Finance member, said he’s taking a closer look at Louisiana Economic Development and the Dept. of Transportation and Development.
“We’re in desperate need of restructuring,” said Chabert, who’s reviewing a number of ideas, including some of his previous attempts at reform.
At DOTD, Chabert is investigating the ways in which districts and sub-districts operate and whether there’s enough regional fairness in place. Flood-related authority is an issue, as well. “Why is DOTD still in charge of that?” he asked.
As for LED, there was some banter — when Chabert legislatively created DOTD’s Office of Multimodal Commerce — about renaming LED the “Commerce Department” and making it “focus on business” rather than recruitment and incentives.
The drive has some passion attached. Chabert went on a tear on social media recently when it was announced that Louisiana wasn’t in the running to land a Toyota-Mazda production facility — and that Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas were all on the short list for the $1.6-billion deal. “Damn shame we aren’t even in competition for this plant,” Chabert tweeted.
Governor An Issue In PSC Race
Gov. John Bel Edwards won’t be endorsing any of the candidates in the Public Service Commission race — or probably in any election in the fall. But he is a part of one contender’s campaign rhetoric.
Former state Rep. Lenar Whitney sponsored a post on Facebook linking opponent Craig Greene to Edwards’ 2015 victory. She wrote in her post, “Craig Greene, candidate for PSC, donated $1,000 to John Bel Edwards, and publicly endorsed him days before the election.”
The picture of Greene, of Baton Rouge, and Edwards that Whitney used is also being used by another Facebook group called Democrats For Craig Greene.
“I’ve always been a very conservative person, both in my personal and public life,” said Greene, who, like Whitney, is a Republican. “This was the first time I ever supported a Democrat. Like a lot of Republicans, I believed Edwards when he said he was a conservative, would govern as a conservative and wouldn’t raise our taxes. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.”
If the governor does have a candidate in the race, simple logic would point to former state Rep. Damon Baldone, whom Edwards appointed to fill the PSC seat temporarily when former commissioner Scott Angelle went to work for the Trump Administration.
Edwards assumed he was temporarily appointing a Democrat who would not run for the seat, but Baldone was never told as much. That became apparent when Baldone, who shares Terrebonne Parish as a home along with Whitney, switched to the Republican Party and qualified for the permanent position.
Political History: Nixon And Louisiana
The world recently marked the 43rd anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation as president of the United States. Did you know that former Louisiana secretary of state and insurance commissioner Jim Brown almost ended up working for Nixon?
In a column he penned in the spring, Brown recalled that Nixon often visited Louisiana, and over time became friends with trumpeter Al Hirt and clarinetist Pete Fountain.
“I was class president at Tulane Law School in 1966 and had the chore of arranging speakers,” Brown added. “On a whim, I wrote Nixon asking him to address the Tulane student body. To my surprise, he accepted. Over a light lunch at the Tulane Student Center, he quizzed me about Louisiana politics, and asked a number of questions about my background and future plans. I found him engaging, funny and quite the dominating figure one would expect of a former vice president.”
As that evening ended, Nixon’s chief of staff asked Brown if he would consider joining the campaign and traveling immediately to New Hampshire, the first primary state. Brown, although tempted, declined.
In 1972, Brown, then in the state Senate, saw Nixon again — this time, at the funeral of former U.S. Sen. Allen Ellender of Terrebonne Parish. “He said that I had missed a great opportunity,” Brown wrote of Nixon. “Watergate proved otherwise. But he also told me that if I had to be living and working somewhere, Louisiana was one of the best places to be. He sure was right about that.”
They Said It
“Why did Alabama raise the drinking age to 32? They wanted to keep alcohol out of the high schools.”
— U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, speaking during the annual LegisGator event in Lake Charles recently.
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.