Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, is already facing opposition to his HB 676 to legalize fantasy gaming — think football, basketball and baseball — before the bill has even had its first hearing.The Louisiana Family Forum has asked its members and followers to oppose the bill “in the interest of protecting Louisiana citizens from the addictive nature of online gambling and from criminal activity and especially in the interest of protecting Louisiana children.”
Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, passed a similar bill through the House last year, but ran into trouble on the Senate side when the Louisiana Video Gaming Association voiced concerns about his proposal, and the unneeded competition it would have created.
“I think we’re only one of three states that don’t allow it and I don’t see it as an expansion of gambling,” Talbot said, adding that it may be a couple more weeks until he tries to move his legislation.
The regular session is scheduled to adjourn on June 6.
Governor, treasurer trade words
It was Oil and Gas Day at the State Capitol last week and a group of elected officials spent their lunch break extolling the virtues of the industry and offering a small touch of political debate courtesy of the treasurer and governor.
One of the three U.S. Senate candidates who appeared before the group gathered outside the Capitol Park Welcome Center, Treasurer John Kennedy strayed from his campaign speech to question the policies of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. He accused the governor’s Medicaid program of being riddled with fraud and criticized Edwards’ tax proposals, many of which were adopted in this year’s special session.
“His plan is for Louisiana families to cut their budgets so Louisiana government doesn’t,” Kennedy said.
Marc Ehrhardt, executive director of Grow Louisiana Coalition, one of the day’s sponsors, was tasked with introducing Edwards following Kennedy’s speech.
Ehrhardt said, “Either our timing is perfect or incredibly awkward.”
Edwards explained, as he has done before, that he inherited a $2 billion collective budget shortfall, which he also described as the largest in Louisiana history. He added that the energy industry was shielded from any major tax changes in the special session as well.
“I did not propose a single measure targeted at the oil and gas industry,” Edwards said. “I know now is not the time to do that.”
The governor described Kennedy’s accounts of Medicaid fraud as “inaccurate,” noting private companies are on the hook for that, not the state of Louisiana. He added that he is not trying to grow state governor either through tax increases.
“It was strictly a continuation budget, in the strictest sense,” Edwards said of the current fiscal year that needed to be propped up with new revenue.
The event was co-sponsored by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Some 50 businesses from around the state participated.
Looking ahead to redistricting
The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Louisiana’s population growth, while less than the rest of the nation, is still better than it has been since the 1970s, which likely means the state’s six congressional seats are safe. That’s according to John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling, who has a new breakdown of the numbers on his website.
Here are the major legislative takeaways from Couvillon:
—Orleans and St. Bernard were the fastest growing parishes between 2010 and 2015. They could recapture two of the four state House seats that were eliminated during the 2011 reapportionment, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
—The I-10/I-12 corridor parishes posted a 5 percent population gain between 2010 and 2015. The growth between Lafayette and the Mississippi state line means that a new House district is likely to be created either in Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa or St. Tammany parishes, while a fourth new seat will likely be created in and around Lafayette.
—Since the state House is fixed at 105 seats, those four gained seats have to be offset somewhere else. Currently, it looks like Caddo and Jefferson Parishes could lose a seat apiece, while a third seat would come from Central/northeast Louisiana and a fourth seat could come from East Baton Rouge Parish.
A final qualifier from Couvillon: “However, it’s important to emphasize that nothing is final until the official April 1, 2020 Census count (the July 1, 2015 figure was an estimate). And furthermore, internal legislative politics can and will play a large part in determining the specific seats that are added or eliminated.”
Poll: voters like term limits
A new poll shows a majority of Louisiana voters support a Constitutional amendment to term limits for members of Congress, with majorities saying they would vote for or against a state legislative candidate depending on their position on the issue.
The support for term limits crosses party and demographic lines, with a total of 83 percent of voters in favor of limiting congressional terms and 66 percent strongly favoring such limits.
The breakdown among those polls shows support for limits among the following groups: Republicans, 93 percent, with 75 percent strongly favoring limits; Democrats, 79 percent, with 64 percent; independents, 77 percent, with 59 percent; African-Americans, 79 percent, with 63 percent; and whites, 87 percent, with 70 percent.
The poll, conducted last month by McLaughlin & Associates for U.S. Term Limits, has a 95 percent confidence level with a margin for error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
They Said It
“When they were settling this country they said whisky was for drinking and water was for fighting over. I found when I drank whiskey I did fight. So I quit.”
—Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, on a water management bill
“We’re done with taking the fat out. We’re down to muscle and bone.”
—Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, on his department’s budget