State budget hearings slated for December

Eager to get a jumpstart on finding savings for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the House Appropriations Committee is planning a set of meetings for the first two weeks of December to begin reviewing agency budgets.

Department heads recently received a letter from the committee asking for a breakdown of how many employees have been hired and fired since the beginning of the current fiscal year; how many raises have been granted; and how much services have been reduced.

The thinking among some conservatives on the committee is that most all departments received funding for this fiscal year well below what was requested and the first three months should offer a guide for how that has played out.

If departments and agencies have been delivering on their core objects with smaller budgets, that might color the thinking of the committee during next year’s session.

The Appropriations Committee is the first step in the legislative process each year for the administration’s budget proposal.

Lawmakers made plans for the budget reviews in mid-October, before another set of letters went out last week telling departments and universities that as much as a 10 percent midyear reduction may be needed to address a $313 million deficit from last fiscal year. The December hearings, which could stretch into 2017 depending on how things go, will be overseen by the entire Appropriations Committee. The sub-committee process will not be used.

Also, the entire House membership is being invited to the hearings and representatives not serving on the committee will be allowed to ask questions.Biggest electorate ever registered The Nov. 8 election will be the first ballot in Louisiana history where more than 3 million people will be eligible to vote, according to Meg Casper, press secretary for Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

The state surpassed the 3 million threshold during this most recent drive to register people to vote in the presidential election.

Compared to roughly one year ago, there was an overall increase of 61,424 registrations.

Some new trends did bubble to the surface. For example, after several years of being one of the fastest growing segments of the electorate, non-party voters increased by only 21,211. That category was outstripped this election cycle by the growth among Republicans, which added 26,425 new voters. Democrats saw an increase of 13,788.

The boost in Republican registration is being credited in part to Louisiana’s closed president primary earlier this year. A few candidates, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, put considerable resources into a registration push and a number of conservative voters may have signed up to participate due to the popularity of Donald Trump.

The secretary of state’s office saw its biggest jump in both September and October, with more than 61,400 voters being added to the rolls, or about 30,000 each month.

The most significant push came from Facebook, which ran internal ads to get voters registered between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 for National Voter Registration Month. That drive from the social media giant resulted in 21,704 registrations.

The largest growth area across the board was with new voters, ages 18 to 34.

The registration process is now closed for participating in the Nov. 8 primary election, but voters can still sign up until Nov. 9 for the Dec. 10 runoff elections.

Dewitt gets PSC nodFormer House Speaker Charlie Dewitt of Alexandria has been appointed by the governor to serve as the interim commissioner in District 4 of the Public Service Commission.The seat became vacant following the death of Clyde Holloway in late October. Holloway, of Forest Hill, was also a former congressman.

DeWitt will serve out the remainder of Holloway’s term, which will encompass the final two meetings of the year.

Holloway chose not to seek re-election this year and a race is ongoing in District 4 to choose his permanent replacement for next term.

LMA hiring new director

After three years as executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association, former Gretna mayor Ronnie Harris has stepped down from the position and the influential advocacy group is now working with a temporary replacement.

LMA’s executive board recently selected governmental affairs director John Gallagher to fill the position of interim executive director.

Applications for the full-time gig have already been filed with the LMA and interviews are expected to be completed by Dec. 2.

The three final candidates will then be interviewed and the new executive director will be chosen by the board on Dec. 13.

The association is in part the lobbying arm of Louisiana’s municipal governments, but it also offers continuing education to elected officials and resources for better government management.They Said It“It’s not exactly set in stone, is it?”—Public Affairs Research Council president Robert Travis Scott, after noting how times the current state Constitution has been amended, on WWL-TV“That would probably be the Cohiba. It’s sitting on my desk right now. It’s very fresh. It’s only a week old. Not that I’m smoking it in here, but I can smell it.”—Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, on his favorite Cuban cigar, in the Business Report

 

About Jeremy Alford 212 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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