Welcome to Democratic Louisiana!
Welcome to the Sunday edition of Democratic Louisiana!
Today's edition is a little different in that we take a look at a look at a weird development that took place before the session in which a Democratic state Senator from Acadiana, Elbert Lee Guillory, emerged as the co-author of a plan to reapportion the Louisiana Senate. The eye-popping part was the identity of his political partner on this issue the Louisiana Family Forum's action arm.
On the surface of it, the plan looks almost reasonable. But it is only once you begin to look at the numbers behind the plan that it begins to become clear what is afoot here. This is a plan to use the post Katrina/Rita displacement as cover for a plan to rid the Senate of Democrats.
The plan closely tracks the work, money and interests of the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, which tried to take over the House in 2007 in the hope of controling the reapportionment process here like Tom DeLay did in Texas.
The Guillory/LFFA plan appears to be the Senate companion to whatever the LCRM's allies have cooking in the House for reapportionment there.
Reapportionment is a huge issue (so, too, is the Census!) and there'll be more coverage of the issue here in coming weeks and months.
If you've missed an earlier edition of Democratic Louisiana, we have an archive page. Here's the link.
Thanks for reading!
Mike Stagg, Editor
Obama defends priorities, makes plea for civility
President Obama delivered a spirited defense of government Saturday and issued a call for civility in a direct rebuttal to Republicans and "tea party" activists who have attacked his politics and priorities. The speech came at the University of Michigan commencement exercise.
The Washington Post story is here.
According to the paper, Obama called for greater tolerance in a "poisonous political climate." He criticized both ends of the political spectrum for using words such as "socialist," "fascist" and "Soviet-style takeover" and lamented that such thinking has begun "to creep into the center of our discourse."
"This kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise," Obama told an audience of 92,000 at the University of Michigan commencement. "It prevents learning -- since after all, why should we listen to a 'fascist' or a 'socialist' or a 'right-wing nut' or a 'left-wing nut?'
President Obama defended the philosophy that drives his presidency while criticizing arguments that have animated his opponents on Capitol Hill and on the airwaves.
"What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad," Obama told a crowd gathered under cloudy skies. "For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us."
What's the Matter with Elbert Lee Guillory?
Democrats across the state have been asking that question about Opelousas Senator Elbert Lee Guillory since February when he leant his name to a Louisiana Senate reapportionment proposal produced by the conservative Louisiana Family Forum Action (LFFA).
The plan uses the cover of maintaining racial continuity in the Senate to advance a plan that would fundamentally alter the political tilt of the Senate. Under the plan put forward by Guillory and the LFFA, the Senate would become more conservative, more racially polarized and less likely to be responsive to the needs of African Americans.
In terms of the color of the people holding the 39 seats in the Senate, things would look pretty much as they do now if this plan were to be enacted. There are 10 African American majority districts in the Senate now, held by eight African Americans and two whites. Under the Guillory/LFFA plan, there would be 10 African American majority seats, but fewer of those would be in New Orleans due to the population loss (the plan uses 2008 Census Bureau estimates of population in Louisiana) resulting from the flooding that followed Katrina.
But that visual continuity would conceal a fundamental shift in the ideological underpinnings of the politics of the Senate that the plan would set off.
Guillory and LFFA couch their plan in terms of “Demographic Equity” but a closer look at what the plan’s potential impact shows that it would make moderate Democrats (and independents) endangered species. It is probably just a coincidence that the only districts eliminated by the plan are held by term-limited Democrats (District 29 now held by Joe McPherson and District 17 held by Robert Marionneaux, Jr.). Or that term-limited Democratic Senate President Joel Chaisson’s district gets completely reconfigured and converted from a district with a 67% majority to one that has a 80% white majority.
The long-term impact of such a plan cannot be overstated as the reapportionment that will take place in the spring of next year will affect three statewide election cycles 2011, 2015, and 2019 before the results of the 2020 Census set the table for a new round.
Conservatives and Republicans are playing for keeps on reapportionment this year. That’s what the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM) effort was about in 2007. The Guillory/LFFA plan, in fact, appears to target senators that the LCRM worked to defeat in 2007. This is a coordinated effort to which Guillory has leant his name.
There is evidence in his campaign finance reports that this is no accidental combination. The names of some LCRM members and other prominent Republicans have supported Guillory's House and Senate campaigns.
Despite the name of their venture and their lofty rhetoric, the Guillory/LFFA plan would actually under represent African Americans and other minorities in the Senate. African Americans account for at least 30% of Louisiana's population. Applying that percentage to the 39 seats in the Louisiana Senate would mean that there should be at least 12 African American majority districts in a plan that was truly interested in Demographic Equity.
But that would only matter if Guillory and his friends at the LFFA were actually interested in such equity. What this is really about is ridding the Senate of Democrats and moderates.
Clearly, Elbert Lee Guillory has signed on to help Republicans capitalize politically on the impact of the storms of 2005. The LCRM, to their credit, never made a secret of their intent. The Guillory/LFFA effort is more cynical because of the way it hides behind the language of racial equity to advance a fundamentally conservative agenda that most benefits the party that has built its power in Louisiana by working against the interests of African Americans.
To continue reading "What's Wrong With Elbert Lee Guillory, click here.
News Flash: Jindal blames spill on Feds while asking for their help
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been tied in knots by the BP uncontrolled oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jindal, who has long championed the oil and gas sector while opposing environmental regulation of them, lambasted (by his standards any way), oil giant BP for the gusher and the potentially ruinous harm it will inflict on Louisiana's coast and fishing economy.
BP, it turns out, had argued against the need for stricter safety rules were unnecessary, that the industry could police itself. Didn't Goldman Sachs say that, too? Oh, BP's first quarter profits? $6.1 Billion.
Then, Jindal criticized the federal government for not giving him the information he wanted when he wanted it on what was being done to containt the spill that his private sector buddies caused.
The words were barely out of his mouth before he was requesting federal disaster assistance for fishermen affected by the disaster, as well as asking the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare a fisheries failure to open the door for additional federal funding.
Meanwhile, Louisiana's other erstwhile defender against federal encroachment, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, joined his peers from four other Gulf Coast states in Mobile, AL, to map legal strategy to deal with the damage from the gusher. No word if the ghost of John C. Calhoun attended this session.
Committee approves bill for state help with local school repairs
The Advocate reports that the Senate Education Committee approved SB 584 by Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson of New Orleans. The bill would set up the Louisiana Statewide Facilities Authority. Local officials could apply to the authority for state aid.
Governor Jindal opposes the bill for the usual reasons it legitimizes a role for government, it actually gives local school systems something instead of taking it away from them, and it might lead to some obligation being created for something other than supporting projects of his contributors.
Louisiana's Expensive Love Affair with the Oil & Gas Industry
President Barack Obama flew to Louisiana today to inspect the emerging response to the emerging catastrophe resulting from the BP underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, someone is going to have to figure out how to cover this on a long-term basis, because the impact is going to be with us for a long while.
Florida, Alabama and Mississippi are terrified that the oil will make its way onto their beaches and cripple their tourism industries.
Louisiana's fishing industry which produces 30% of the seafood eaten in this country faces a real prospect of being wiped out. The environmental damage alone could be devastating, but there is no way those hard-working, under-paid people can go through a couple of seasons without being able to get out on the water. It looks like that could be the optimistic take on this.
Will this be the incident that finally gets Louisiana's political leaders to take environmental concerns seriously? Probably not.
After all, this is the industry that has single-handedly inflicted more damage to our coast that any other entity including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Yet, the notion of imposing some kind of accountability on the oil companies has always been viewed as some radical concept.
Dave Treen might have had a shot at a second term (not that I would have wished it) had he not had the temerity to propose his Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy (CWEL) tax which would have taxed oil moving into Louisiana from offshore. The money would have been used to help restore the coast.
The industry recoiled and rebelled.
Foster Campbell was labeled a radical and a kook for proposing a tax on imported oil when he ran for governor in 2007.
The Haynesville trend has made a lot of people rich in northwest Louisiana in recent years, but the exploration for that gas is causing problems with water supplies.
Still, the notion that people's ability to drink water might have something approaching equal standing with the industry and the nation's pursuit of energy gets no traction here.
Democratic Senator Rob Marionneaux of Livonia has introduced SB 432 which would allow a tax on the processing of oil and gas in Louisiana (that would include oil and gas coming in from offshore). It would also end the state's severance tax on oil and gas.
You would think that would have some support considering the state's dire financial condition, the fact that it lowers taxes on state property owners. But, no, Jindal and the industry gas bags are opposed.
No, they would rather have us remain in the assumed position and let the industry continue to have their way with us.
Hell, that attitude would not even pass muster in a third world nation.
Only in Louisiana.