Governor transitioning away from run of sessions

With three lawmaking sessions of the Legislature behind him, you can expect Gov. John Bel Edwards to start focusing on policies and politics of his own, beginning with the state’s Medicaid expansion.

Edwards triggered the expansion upon being sworn into office and the new program went into effect on July 1. As of last week more than 235,000 people had been enrolled.

“Expanding Medicaid in Louisiana was the easiest decision I’ve made since taking office in January and I meet people from all walks of life who will be positively impacted by expansion,” said Edwards.

Adults who earn up to $16,395 per year and a family of four that brings in $33,534 annually are now eligible for insurance through Medicaid. Services that are covered include doctor and hospital visits; emergency services; laboratory and x-ray services; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance abuse treatment; prescription drugs; and more.

According to the Department of Health, the Medicaid expansion could cover at least 375,000 newly-eligible adults. That would reduce the rate of the uninsured in Louisiana from 13 percent to about 8 percent.

But it’s going to be a long road ahead that will take up a great deal of the governor’s attention. Challenges include ensuring that the funding needed will be there the future, making sure people go to primary care providers rather than hospitals and helping the state’s safety net hospitals transition into this new way of doing things.

On another policy front, top staffers expect Edwards to start messaging on transportation issues very soon. A large cash infusion from the federal government is expected — and like the Medicaid expansion, it’s part of a pot of money that former Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to tap.

It could potentially lead to immediate construction projects in the Capital Region.

All of this will play out as Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson and a new task force start working on identifying priority projects and making recommendations.

What could create interest among lawmakers is the fact that the federal money that’s expected to arrive could free up other cash elsewhere in the transportation budget.

On he campaign side for Edwards, Emilie Tenenbaum has been brought in to oversee fundraising and her appeals are expected to be aggressive.

The governor is working toward a “very strong number” to post in 2017, according to his campaign team, and he recently joked with reporters that he will indeed be running for re-election, although that announcement hasn’t been officially made with all of the usual pomp and circumstance.

Tenenbaum arrives via the New Orleans Business Alliance, but was previously the state campaign finance director for former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. She was also the national campaign finance director for former Congressman Charlie Melancon in his 2010 U.S. Senate bid.National group running ads in Louisiana

The conservative Club For Growth, which is expected to play heavily in Louisiana’s fall U.S. Senate race, launched an ad on television last month attacking candidate Congressman Charles Boustany, a Lafayette Republican, for supporting the Export-Import Bank.

Club For Growth also put Congressman Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, in the ad, which shows both of their photos at the same time. The ad ran on broadcast and cable TV throughout the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts.“Obama and Clinton support it,” the voiceover in the ad says. “So do Louisiana Congressmen Charles Boustany and Cedric Richmond.”

Boustany has said he is simply working to protect export contracts for small businesses and to safeguard jobs in Louisiana.New lawmaker to be seatedIn the open House District 85 race, Gretna City Councilman Joseph Marino has claimed victory in the easiest way possible — he ran unopposed.

Since no one qualified to run against Marino, the Aug. 6 special election will not be held and Marino will soon be sworn in. He replaces former Rep. Bryan Adams, a Republican who accepted a new job in the state Fire Marshal’s Office. Marino benefitted in recent weeks from fundraisers hosted by current and former legislators, including some members of the Senate leadership.

Marino has no party affiliation and will be the lower chamber’s third independent member.

While that is cleared up, there is another special election pending in House District 80, which was vacated two weeks ago by Rep. Joe Lopinto, another Republican from Jefferson Parish.

University of New Orleans professor Polly Thomas remains the only high-profile candidate to emerge so far to replace Lopinto.Qualifying is scheduled for July 20-22. The primary election date is slated for Nov. 8, with a runoff as needed on Dec. 10.Parish president’s race starting soonThe death of Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier has created an open election on the Nov. 8 ballot to replace him that could pull in a state lawmaker.

Local politicos say Rep. Chris Leopold, a Republican from Belle Chasse, is being encouraged to look at the race. Should he made the leap, Leopold will not be alone. A sizable field is expected.

Parish Council Chairman Kirk Lepine, who temporarily took over day-to-day duties for Cormier, is said to be receiving encouragement as well. So is former state Rep. Benny Rousselle and attorney Amos Cormier III.

Edward Theriot, the director of administration for Plaquemines Parish, has already been sworn in as interim parish president.They Said It “I wish I could be honest and say every moment of it was enjoyable.”

—Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, reflecting on his time with the big gavel“I’m surprised every April.”

—Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, on tax time


About Jeremy Alford 211 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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