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BESE members already drawing challengers

Special to the Herald-Guide -   May 01, 2014

By Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Holly Boffy, who was the state teacher of the year in 2010, could have another distinguished former educator challenging her next year.

So far it’s the most substantive BESE face-off threatened for next year’s fall ballot, but the board’s president, Chas Roemer, has also fielded a challenge from Jason France of Baton Rouge, who blogs under the pseudonym “Crazy Crawfish” and is a featured writer at the National Education Policy Center.

Melinda Mangham, twice named a White House Distinguished Teacher while teaching senior English at Lafayette High School, told LaPolitics she is considering opposing Boffy in 2015. Mangham said she objects to the influence Gov. Bobby Jindal and business allies exerted on new board members by bankrolling their 2011 election campaigns.

“I understand raising money, but not when it is so controlled,” she said. “Holly Boffy is totally controlled.”Weighing in on Common Core standards, she said, “Teachers are not opposed to high standards. We always have had standards and they change them on us every few years. The objection teachers have is the implementation of it.”

Mangham realizes that fundraising will be a major challenge, though she is no rookie, having been through election campaigns with her late husband, attorney Mickey Mangham.

“People are calling me and asking if I would consider (running). But I know I can’t raise money to compete with Lane Grigsby,” a Baton Rouge contractor who contributed heavily to the 2011 candidates backed by Jindal.

“She’s got a good heart,” Grigsby said of Mangham, but he added that he will continue backing Boffy. “We have just begun to fight,” he said. “I am not one to quit now and throw everything away.”

He now sees Jindal, who has backed off his support of Common Core, as the problem, not the BESE members, saying, “If the governor decided to turn tail, it’s up to those of us who toed the mark.”  Marijuana industry group formed The marijuana industry has grown up to the point where it has formed a trade association, launched a website and hired a lobbyist with the aim of passing legislation to legalize medicinal applications.

The Louisiana Cannabis Industry Association, according to its website, supports “legislation in Louisiana for medical marijuana...medical marijuana producers in Louisiana (and) medical marijuana Doctors and patients.”

It is registered with the secretary of state as a non-profit corporation and lists its president as Matthew Moreau, a Baton Rouge attorney. Lobbyist Jesse McCormick is registered with the Legislature to represent LCIA.

The site solicits associate memberships for $900, business memberships at $3,000 and executive memberships at $9,000.

Medical marijuana will soon receive its first legislative test when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee hears SB 541 by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks. Though medical marijuana was authorized in a 1992 law, rules have never been promulgated to set up procedures for prescriptions.

Mills’ bill sets up the Therapeutic Marijuana Utilization Review Board to write rules for prescriptive authority by certified neurologists, oncologists and ophthalmologists. The board would also work with the commissioner of agriculture to license marijuana farmers and distributors.

The best thing going for the bill so far is a statement by Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this year that he is open to making marijuana available under tightly-regulated circumstances to patients when there are legitimate medical needs.

Mills said he is in discussions with representatives of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys Association in hopes of convincing them not to object to his bill. His real challenge, however, may be with the dress and demeanor of marijuana supporters attending the hearing.

“They are sending me marijuana shirts and ties and I tell them I can’t wear that,” he said.  Lawmakers worried about capitol lakeAt a recent fundraiser held not far from the banks of Capitol Lake, Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, spent more time eyeing the water body than the influencers at the party.

“We need to get this place cleaned up. I’m going to get a boat and do it myself if nothing gets done,” he said.

To do something about it, Bishop teamed up with Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, to file HCR 47 to ask the Department of Environmental Quality to look into ways of cleaning up Capitol Lake.

Both men view the lake as the aesthetic front door of the Capitol building, sometimes the first sight seen by visitors. It’s an under-appreciated resource, they say, that was a strategic element in the 1862 Battle of Baton Rouge and the lake’s smaller component located to the south and east was once known as Bayou Garrison, named for the garrisons quartered along its banks.

But history is also the problem; at one time it was used as a wastewater receiving body and as a drainage basin for facilities and roads located nearby. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls was so high that signs were posted along the banks warning people not to consume fish taken from the lake, according to the resolution. More recently, siltation and drought conditions have made their contributions.

The resolution declares the situation “speaks badly of Louisiana’s desire to put our best foot forward and our state agencies should take the lead in rectifying the situation.”

The Said It“I know what I would do. I would resign, if my wife let me live that long.”My wife says I have two choices: I can be right or I can be happy.” —Sen. Robert Adley “Mr. Danahay is always trying to get me to move to the middle and that’s irritating.” —Rep. Brett Geymann, following an amendment by Rep. Michael Danahay

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