Archive for December, 2008

“Change – An Inaugural Affair” celebration and fundraiser on January 10, 2009

December 19, 2008

Please join the Louisiana Democratic Party for “Change – An Inaugural Affair,” as we celebrate the historic win of President-Elect Barack Obama. We’ll also be celebrating our local and state heroes in politics at this fundraiser in Baton Rouge on Jan. 10. Here are the full details:

Change – An Inaugural Affair

Saturday, January 10, 2009

6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Camelot Club, 451 Florida St., 21st floor, Baton Rouge

HOST COMMITTEE:

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell

LDP Chairman Christopher Whittington

Tickets are $75 per person, with $1,000 sponsor level packages also available. (Sponsorship includes 10 tickets, sponsor gift, sponsor recognition, and drink tickets.) There is a cash bar, and door prizes.

Please make checks payable to Louisiana Democratic Party, P.O. Box 4385, Baton Rouge, LA 70821

We hope you can join us for this special event in anticipation of Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20.

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Louisiana auto workers to Vitter: we won’t stay silent, and we won’t forget

December 19, 2008

If Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter thinks that Louisiana auto industry workers will stay silent while Vitter refuses to help the American automotive industry and doesn’t offer any concrete, constructive solutions, he’s wrong. In Monroe yesterday, retired United Auto Union Workers who’ve experienced the hardship of a plant closing picketed Vitter’s Monroe office. From the Shreveport Times:

“We can’t just sit back and ignore what’s going on,” said Luther Burrell, who was among the Guide retirees who were members of United Autoworkers Local 1977.

“This could throw millions of people out of work if we allow the automakers to fail. We know what it’s like to lose a plant.”

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to chair Senate Small Business Committee

December 18, 2008

Congratulations are in order for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who’s been selected to chair the United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. That’s good news for Louisiana’s small businesses; Landrieu’s efforts in 2008 alone earned her the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Guardian of Small Business Award and the Spirit of Enterprise Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Bolstered by my seats on other key committees for our state, this assignment provides the seniority to fight even harder for Louisiana’s more than 350,000 small businesses,” said Sen. Landrieu, who also chairs the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is also a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Read full coverage here.

Under Jindal’s “ethics reform,” still no Ethics Board administrator in sight

December 18, 2008

Six months after former Ethics Board administrator Richard Sherburne and nearly every Ethics Board member resigned due to the Jindal administration’s inexplicable decision to change the burden of proof for ethics violations from “reliable and substantial evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence” – making it much more difficult to prosecute ethics offenders – the board is still in disarray. Word comes from The Advocate that now the board is considering splitting the still vacant administrator’s duties into two positions and reopening the application process, again delaying the board’s ability to conduct business.

So while Jindal and his allies might crow that there haven’t been any serious ethics violations since the governor took office, let the record reflect that the board’s been understaffed and powerless – and with hiring for the top post now stretching into 2009, there’s still no telling when the Ethics Board will be able to fulfill its duties.

Jindal’s budget shell game and numbers exposed

December 15, 2008

When it comes to the state budget, Gov. Bobby Jindal has been trotting out a litany of supposed accomplishments, inevitably touting a reduction in state spending, a hiring freeze, and eliminating government jobs. Jindal especially loves to recite these talking points to national media, never missing a chance to burnish his credentials as a reformer.

There’s only one problem: the bluster’s highly misleading, and now it’s catching up with Jindal. It started with an analysis column by the Associated Press’ Melinda Deslatte, who noted that legislators have been caught off guard by a projected $1.3 billion shortfall in next year’s budget:

Some of the rhetoric bandied about by Gov. Bobby Jindal hasn't helped matters, particularly about overall spending. Jindal and other administration leaders have talked repeatedly of a multibillion dollar decrease in the current 2008-09 budget.

That's not false, but it also has nothing to do with the actions of the Legislature and governor. The shrinkage is tied to the loss of one-time federal recovery aid after the hurricanes of 2005, a decrease in the budget that lawmakers did not control.

And that hiring freeze? C.B. Forgotston details the real numbers:

As of January 30, 2008 (two weeks after Jindal took office), total state employment was 99,573.

As of December 1, 2008 (Monday), total state employment was 102,351.

That’s an INCREASE of 2,778 state employees in only 10 months.

With the truth becoming public knowledge, now the Jindal administration’s in full-on spin mode. The Advocate’s Michelle Millhollon notes that Jindal’s chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, is trying to stem the tide with some, ahem, fact sheets they’re distributing to Louisiana press. Read the full column here, and note its conclusion:

Regardless, the detailed explanation for the $1 billion increase and the acknowledgement that federal funds contributed to any decrease in the overall budget indicate that the administration is furiously trying to defend Jindal’s reputation as a “fiscal conservative.” Legislators are asking questions that the national media would not know to ask.

Asked about his statements to news organizations such as FOX, Jindal now says that it is the bottom line that is important.
“Your average taxpayer wants to know what’s happening with overall government spending,” Jindal said.

That explanation may work for [Fox News’] Greta Van Susteren, but it no longer works with legislators.

Vitter’s grandstanding could cost thousands of Louisiana jobs

December 12, 2008

As one of five Republicans who led the charge to defeat a bridge loan for struggling U.S. automakers last night, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter showed that he’s perfectly willing to put politics over Louisiana’s auto industry and thousands of Louisiana families and jobs. In addition to the General Motors plant in Shreveport, there are also more than 200 auto dealers in Louisiana that sell vehicles made by Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Vitter and Senate Republicans were offered multiple bipartisan options on the bridge loan, including ones from the White House and conservative Senate colleagues. They chose to reject any effort to help this struggling American industry and protect millions of American jobs – including thousands based here in Louisiana.

Blake Corley’s family has been in the automobile business for three generations, and here are some eloquent excerpts from his post on the potentially devastating effects of Vitter’s grandstanding:

Vitter fails to see that many Louisiana dealers, like my family, who combined owns four dealerships and employ 300 people total, would completely lose everything if this ‘bailout’ were to fail. Lafayette alone has about 7 domestic car dealerships that would all close their doors if Vitter had his way. I would lose everything, if my Senator had his way in Washington.

… We are not corporate CEOS flying to Washington asking for your help. We are a small Louisiana family trying to make a living. We are the people you represent. What about the General Motors plant in Shreveport? That plant alone employs 1,500 people and had plans to employ 1,500 more. Every 1 in 10 person’s job in America is related to the domestic car industry. 65% of car dealerships in Louisiana are domestic and on average employ 60 people each. How could you let Louisiana down? Your plan to filibuster this ‘bailout’ in the Senate shows me, every dealer in Louisiana, and every person in Louisiana affected by the auto industry that you are not qualified to be in Washington. See you in 2010, Senator, me and the 20,000 other people in LOUISIANA whose jobs rely on the DOMESTIC car industry.

Change is Coming local house meetings this weekend

December 9, 2008

David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama for America, has just released a new letter and video that details this weekend’s Change is Coming house meetings. These meetings are a way to continue the grassroots efforts that helped elect Barack Obama, and give citizens in Louisiana and across the United States a voice in the direction and policies of the incoming administration. He notes:

At the house meetings, you’ll reflect on our campaign, discuss the future of this movement, and identify some ways to get involved in your community.

Meeting hosts will report back, and your feedback will be instrumental in guiding this movement through some important and unprecedented territory.

This grassroots organization has always been about more than an election. It’s about transforming our country — and we’ve only just begun.

With the enormous challenges we’re facing at home and abroad, we have no choice but to continue working together. There’s so much more we can do to help Barack bring change to America.
How we do that is up to you.

Watch the video and sign up to host or attend a house meeting this weekend:

GOP Hypocrisy: Gov. Bobby Jindal, David Vitter and fellow Republican legislators

December 9, 2008

vitterTonight in Washington, D.C., Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal will lead a gathering of Louisiana Republican elected officials in honoring and raising money for … David Vitter.

Vitter, of course, is the senator who campaigned on family values, only to have his rank hypocrisy exposed when his phone number showed up multiple times in the phone records of Washington, D.C. madam Deborah Palfrey, who ran a prostitution ring.

Prostitution is illegal in Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

Vitter even received phone calls from Palfrey’s escort service during House roll call votes. [Associated Press News, Jul 12, 2007]

Compounding matters, Vitter has refused to answer questions about his behavior — including to what extent Vitter was engaging in these activities during working hours. Louisiana citizens and taxpayers fund Vitter’s salary, and deserve an accounting of how Vitter spends his time representing them. But Vitter refuses to make himself accountable to his constituents and the media.

Vitter’s hypocrisy is now matched by Gov. Jindal, who campaigned on ethics reform and transparency in government. Apparently Jindal and the Louisiana Republican Party think it’s perfectly ethical for fellow Republican Vitter to refuse to answer questions about how he spends his time serving Louisiana. Jindal is so comfortable with Vitter’s behavior and actions that he’s now raising money for him.

Co-hosting the fundraiser are the fellow Louisiana Republicans who also apparently condone Vitter’s behavior and actions; they include Congressmen Rodney Alexander, Jim McCrery, Charles Boustany, Steve Scalise, and Congressman-elect Bill Cassidy, among others.

At tonight’s fundraiser, top contributors will get a photo of Gov. Jindal and Sen. Vitter together. For Jindal, Vitter and other Louisiana Republicans at this fundraiser tonight, all it takes is some cash for a picture of GOP hypocrisy in action.

Call for release of Jindal’s health care plan records grows louder

December 8, 2008

The Louisiana Democratic Party isn’t the only entity wondering why the Jindal administration continues to stonewall requests for public records relating to its proposed health care plan. The Saturday, Dec. 6 edition of Lafayette’s Daily Advertiser features an editorial titled, “Release health-care plan details.”

Some highlights:

The ethics reforms proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and passed by the Legislature apparently are not providing the transparency that was promised. The Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, seeking information on a plan to restructure health care for the state’s poor and uninsured, has filed suit to compel release of the information. The pediatrics group is concerned primarily with a plan that would “move several hundred thousand children eligible for Medicaid into commercial managed-care plans.” It has expressed opposition to that part of the plan.

Moving “several hundred thousand children eligible for Medicaid into commercial managed-care plans” should be of concern. It would benefit Jindal to provide information demanded by the pediatrics group, making it available to the public, as well.

A response is definitely needed to the pediatrics organization’s claim that “there is ongoing concern that the direction that DHH wishes to pursue is not in the best interest of the state’s children, but focuses on investor returns supported by taxpayer dollars.”

Read the entire editorial here.

Jindal administration stonewalling and belittling The Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

December 5, 2008

After relentlessly campaigning for transparency in government, Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration continues to break their word to the public and stonewall public document requests. This time, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine has taken it to a whole new level, belittling a public records request from the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics as “a stunt.” Levine told The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler, “These are games that none of us have time to play.”

The health of Louisiana children isn’t “a game” to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is why they’re asking for specifics on the murky health care reform that the Jindal administration is proposing. Levine was an appointee of George W. Bush, and Jindal hired Levine as DHH chief – and now they’re trying to push through this plan before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. To date, the Jindal administration has only issued a policy paper on its proposal, and continues to keep lawmakers, hospitals and medical associations in the dark on the specifics of its plan.

Pediatric organizations aren’t the only ones clamoring for some transparency and accountability from the Jindal administration. Two weeks ago, former Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise, director of the LSU Healthcare Services Division, told Gannett’s Mike Hasten, “The details of the plan and its impact on our ability to deliver services is still unclear. It’s (also) unclear how funding would flow, so I’ll reserve judgment.”

Why is this so hard for the Jindal administration? Everyone wants meaningful health care reform. So if Jindal and Levine believe so strongly in their plan, why won’t they honor public records requests that show how it was crafted, who it will benefit, and how it will be administered?