It’s been a banner year for the Louisiana Lottery, with record profits being reported and major accolades being doled out for its leadership.
President Rose Hudson announced last month that the most recent fiscal year resulted in an all-time high of $508 million in revenue. That’s $13.6 million more than the previous record in 1993, when the lottery was the only legalized form of gaming in Louisiana.
Per statute, at least 35 percent of all lottery sales are transferred to the state treasury, the highest mandated transfer percentage in the nation.
Hudson will be inducted into the Lottery Industry Hall of Fame next month.
With those bright spots, no one wants to think about competition. Still, it could be coming. With expectations of raising $160 million annually there, Mississippi lawmakers came very close to creating a lottery in their most recent session. But the needed provision was removed from a bill during the conference process.
Potential candidates for Mississippi governor, however, are already hinting that a lottery will be a part of their 2019 platforms. There are also three more legislative sessions in Mississippi to go before that 2019 election.
How big of a dent that would put on the Louisiana Lottery is unknown, although jackpots that are tracked geographically point to at least 5 percent in sales going to Mississippi residents. That number would probably be higher if the smaller wins were included.
Legislator Eyes Options
While there are no legislative races scheduled for the ballot until 2019, there could potentially be one out of the Big Easy in 2017. Democratic Rep. Helena Moreno said recently that she might end up running next year for the at-large seat being vacated by New Orleans Councilwoman Stacy Head. “I’m very, very, very seriously considering it,” she said.
Moreno added that a final decision will be announced either at the end of this year or the beginning of 2017.
Senate Debates Lined Up
The leading candidates in the U.S. Senate race are slated for a televised debate. Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for A Better Louisiana have scheduled its regular candidate forum for Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 7 pm. It will broadcast live from the campus of Louisiana Tech in Ruston. The debate will be hosted by CABL president Barry Erwin and LPB president Beth Courtney.
With 24 candidates running, it’ll be interesting to see who makes the stage and which guidelines were used for inclusion.
There’s at least one other televised debate already on the books. It’ll take place Wednesday, Nov. 2, in Baton Rouge. It’s being hosted by Raycom Media (WVUE-TV New Orleans, WAFB-TV Baton Rouge, KSLA-TV Shreveport and KPLC-TV Lake Charles).
To participate, candidates must be polling at 5 percent or higher in a survey that will be commissioned by Raycom Media.
In the event of a runoff, a second debate will take place on Thursday, Dec. 8, in Baton Rouge.
Candidate Can’t Drop Out
While there might be chatter about this candidate or that candidate dropping out in races all around the state, it’s not going to happen.
A new law that took effect this year limits the time period during which candidates can withdraw from races. The deadline was July 29.
The prior law, which few had even realized was removed from the books on Jan. 1, allowed for candidates to drop out at any time, through the closing of polls on the day of the election.
The Secretary of State’s Office faced a major challenge with this in 2014, when 120 candidates backed out of races. Notices had to be posted at precincts all over the state, and decoding the actual candidate fields was a puzzle for voters.
So there will be no last-minute changes this time. In fact, there are already voting machines with complete ballots installed around the state.
Solitary Confinement Bill Possible
In a LaPolitics Report podcast, Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman J.P. Morrell didn’t rule out a run for mayor of New Orleans next year.
He also teased a policy proposal he’s working on for the 2017 regular session. It could become a bill that grabs headlines when lawmakers get together again. “It’s come to my attention working with some of these advocates that there are facilities that do solitary confinement for juveniles, which is kind of unconscionable,” Morrell said.
On the podcast, he also discussed his concerns about the House leadership and what kind of tax debates are in store for 2017.
State’s Taxpayer Burden High
Louisiana has the second highest taxpayer burden in the nation, according to a new report from Truth in Accounting, a Chicago-based think tank that analyzes government finances.
Louisiana’s tally is $17,400; this is the amount each taxpayer would have to pay in order for the state’s treasury to be debt-free.
When states are ranked regionally, Kentucky taxpayers owe more than anyone else in the deep South — around $33,700. Tennessee is the only state in the South with a taxpayer surplus.
Neighboring states were ranked as follows:
— Alabama taxpayer burden: $14,000
— Mississippi taxpayer burden: $11,800
— Texas taxpayer burden: $7,700
— Arkansas taxpayer burden: $1,400.
“Even though taxpayer burdens may seem immaterial at the moment, they have serious consequences,” said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of TIA. “If the taxpayer burdens for the other states don’t decrease, taxpayers will suffer, whether it’s through higher interest rates, tax increases or fewer government programs.”
Opponents Keep Spotlight On Duke
The Louisiana Democratic Party doesn’t want to see David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, gain any momentum in his U.S. Senate bid, but its political apparatus is continuing to shine a bright light on the divisive figure.
Top surrogate James Carville, who helped elect former President Bill Clinton, was used for a fundraising appeal to party loyalists in September that focused on nothing else.
“Can you believe it?” Carville wrote in the fundraising email. “David Duke is running again. If I had a dollar for every time David Duke has run for office. We are gonna have to stop him. Duke has been going round the state telling people to vote Trump and vote for him. You have got to be kidding me?”
The next day, Michael McHale, first vice-chair of the party, signed an issues email that sought to link Duke to Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president this year. “The inmates are running the asylum. With Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, and in our own backyard David Duke running to replace David Vitter in the U.S. Senate, it is clear the alt-right has taken over the Republican Party … Given multiple chances, Donald Trump refused to disavow the KKK, David Duke and other white supremacist groups.”
The Louisiana Democratic Party then started placing web ads with the same themes later that afternoon.
While Duke certainly gives Democrats a foil to campaign against, and his extremist views may be helping with fundraising, others are worried that Duke’s candidacy will be dismissed too quickly or allowed to fly under the radar.
“The struggle for racial, religious and ethnic goodwill is never really done,” said Lawrence Powell, chairman of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism.
The coalition reemerged from inactivity late in August. It was first created for Duke’s 1991 run for governor against Edwin Edwards.
In what could be a sign of things to come for the remainder of the primary, Duke is getting a constant flow of media coverage in the U.S. Senate race for, basically, being Duke.
This is especially troubling for those who believe Duke needs earned media to make a go of his bid — and for those who refuse to underestimate him. The New York Times published a piece with the headline: “David Duke’s Senate Run in Louisiana Draws Attention but Not Support.”
“The less you talk about him, the worse off he gets,” Roy Fletcher, a Republican political consultant, told the Times.
How About Alario?
After 44 years of continuous service in the Louisiana Legislature; and with term limits forcing him out of the upper chamber in three and a half years; Senate President John Alario is hinting that he hasn’t ruled out a run for the state House in 2019.
“We’ll see what happens,” Alario said on an episode of The LaPolitics Report podcast. “I want to make sure I live that long. Two things: I didn’t know I’d serve this long or live this long. Both are big achievements for me.”
Alario, 72, said he’s always been interested in the distinction of becoming the longest-serving legislator in Louisiana history, a title held by another right now. “That does come into consideration.”
For now, he’ll just have to settle for being the second person in America to have served as both a House and Senate president. “I’m satisfied with that,” he said.
N.Y. Money For Maness
With a six-figure check from Robert Mercer, the New York conservative bigwig, the Warrior PAC is ready to start rolling out its efforts in support of retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness in the U.S. Senate race.
Robert San Luis, the director of the super PAC, didn’t immediately disclose the full amount, but noted the PAC’s cash on hand is now $324,000.
A sizable portion of this bankroll is about to be put into a media buy that will be overseen by Cambridge Analytica and another firm to be determined.
Digital billboards from the super PAC touting Maness recently went up in the Lafayette market.
Mercer could become an important political ally for the super PAC. He’s a computer scientist and arguably one of the most influential billionaires in American politics. Maness is a Republican from Mandeville.
Super PACs are a special breed of political action committee that are allowed to raised unlimited amounts in donations.
Tech Schools Ponder Growth Strategy
Following a record number of graduates and four-year transfers, officials with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System are wondering where additional resources will come from now that a special fund that partly contributed to this growth has been expended.
During the 2015-16 school year, the state’s community and technical colleges had nearly 29,000 graduates — that’s up from nearly 23,000 graduates during the previous year.
Approximately 80 percent of these graduates earned associate degrees or certifications for in-demand, high-income fields that have been the focus of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
The most recent school year also included a record-breaking 15,800 students who successfully transferred to four-year universities.
Tim Hardy, chairman of the LCTCS Board of Supervisors, said the results were aided by the one-time investment of the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund, or WISE Fund. Signed into law in 2014 by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, it directed $12 million to two-year colleges.
Monty Sullivan, president of LCTCS, asked the system’s board to authorize 100 percent of the fund’s appropriation for “high-value programs aligned with local workforce demands.
“Those funds have been able to touch thousands of people. The result is thousands of people with credentials who are able to go to work and take care of their families who were not in that position a year ago.”
Sullivan said he doesn’t want to lose sight of the significant role the WISE Fund played. “Now that WISE funds are depleted, the question becomes: what’s next? How do we continue to close the skills gap and the educational attainment gap, which helps to solve two of our state’s biggest problems?”
As part of the solution, Sullivan pointed to Our Louisiana 2020: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow — a workforce-development plan. It calls for increasing the number of LCTCS graduates to 40,000 annually, and quadrupling the number of student transfers to four-year universities.
The record-setting figures from the most recent school year puts the system on pace to accomplish these goals, Sullivan said. But there’s still a great deal of work to do.
Super PACS In Senate Race
Super PACs are showing up on television screens in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race.
ESAFund, which is advocating on behalf of state Treasurer John Kennedy, was the first to go statewide with a television commercial two weeks ago. Directed on the state level by consultant Kyle Ruckert, ESAFund dumped “six figures” into the commercial — a biography spot. With the treasurer going on the attack against Congressman Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, the spots soften the candidate’s hard edges, which are showing up in media coverage.
The Battle Of New Orleans
Firing the first shot, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu officially announced his endorsement for U.S. Senate candidate Caroline Fayard.
Fellow Democrat Foster Campbell answered that shot right away in what is being called “The Democratic Primary” by political observers.
Campbell, a member of the Public Service Commission, rolled out New Orleans-based nods from former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, PSC commissioner Lambert Boissiere III, state Sen. Wesley Bishop and others. He also joined Fayard in seeking the support of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
More endorsements for Fayard are coming. All of this signals a major fight on the ground in New Orleans, which is stacked with reliable Democratic votes.
The most successful Democrats have always been able to unite the voter-rich city, but it appears to be torn for this race.
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.