Some Lawmakers Considering Departmental Reforms for Next Session

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By Jeremy Alford

When lawmakers debate taxes and spending during the next session another budget issue should be added to the mix.

And that would be departmental reforms, according to Senate Natural Resources Chairman Norby Chabert, R-Houma.

While the House Appropriations Committee has been shining a bright light on the Louisiana Health Department and its operations and budget, Chabert, an interim Finance member, said he’s taking a closer look at Louisiana Economic Development and the Department of Transportation and Development.

“We’re in desperate need of restructuring,” said Chabert, who’s reviewing a number of ideas, including some of his previous attempts at reform.

At DOTD Chabert is investigating how districts and sub-districts operate and whether there’s enough regional fairness in place. Flood-related authority is an issue as well.

“Why is DOTD still in charge of that?” he asked.

As for LED, there was some banter — when Chabert legislatively created DOTD’s Office of Multimodal Commerce — about renaming LED the “Commerce Department” and making it “focus on business” rather than recruitment and incentives.

The drive does have some passion attached. Chabert went a tear on social media recently when it was announced that Louisiana was not in the running to land a Toyota-Mazda production facility — and that Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas were all on the short list for the $1.6 billion deal.

“Damn shame we aren’t even in competition for this plant,” Chabert tweeted.

Another federal judgeship to ponder

More names are beginning to surface for the Alexandria-based federal judgeship in Louisiana.

The most surprising may be Jimmy Faircloth, who served as executive counsel for former Gov. Bobby Jindal. But he’s definitely not alone in the running.

Bradley Drell, who is the son of Judge Dee Drell, is in the mix as well. Judge Drell is moving to senior status in the fall, which will in turn create the vacancy everyone is waiting on in Alexandria.

Other possibilities, according to locals, include state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; Greg Upton, a partner at Gold Weems law firm; and Judge Greg Beard of the 9th Judicial District.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy will be taking the lead on the nomination process in Washington.

An outsider battle in HD 77

The outsider candidate in House District 77 — in terms of party affiliation alone — is being dragged into a developing campaign issue by an opponent who built his own political brand as an outsider contender in statewide elections.

It started with this email from retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness that was sent to supporters: “Well, the race is on and its gotten weird already. Our notoriously big government, tax increasing, and budget raising Parish President has backed my opponent who is a Democrat recently turned No Party, to run against me. You can rest assured we have made the establishment insiders uncomfortable and this turning away from fellow Republicans by an elected Republican Official is undeniable proof!”

Pat Brister is the St. Tammany Parish president and she has been a fundraising host and public encourager for Lisa Condrey Ward of Covington, the only non-Republican candidate — non-party to be more specific — in the special state House election.

Asked about the email, Ward said, “I guess I’m doing something right.”

Ward said she was a non-party voter from age 18 and into her 40s before moving to St. Tammany Parish, at which time she switched to Democrat. More recently she moved back again into the unaffiliated category.

Local politicos, though, are less intrigued by Ward’s choice of party than they are Brister’s decision to wade into a race that has three Republicans, including fellow elected officials.

Covington City Councilman Mark Wright is a contestant and expects to file a “very healthy” campaign finance report soon. Wright doesn’t enjoy the same kind of statewide recognition as Maness, obviously, but he does have deep roots in the district and what is said to be a solid bloc of support in the Covington region.

Also running is Casey Revere, a justice of the peace.

Political History: Louisiana’s very first senators

For the first four months after it entered statehood, Louisiana didn’t have any representation in the U.S. Senate in Washington. But that changed with the election of Jean Noel Destréhan and Allan B. Magruder.

Both men took office on Sept. 3, 1812. (That, of course, means we are less than three weeks away from the 205th anniversary of Louisiana sending representatives to the nation’s upper chamber.)

Destréhan had actually wanted to be the governor as Louisiana inched toward statehood. He even mounted a campaign against our first governor, C.C. Claiborne, but placed a distant third.

In an odd twist Destréhan served just one month in office before resigning his U.S. Senate seat. That in turn created the state’s first ever vacancy in the U.S. Senate, which lasted just seven days before a replacement was appointment.

There doesn’t seem to be much written about Destréhan’s decision to step down, but it’s a fairly simply matter to speculate that his failed bid for governor was a driving force.

After abandoning one of the highest offices in the United States, Destréhan voluntarily chose to become a member of the Louisiana Senate and served there for five years while preparing to once again run for governor. He made his second and final bid for the premier post in 1820 — and performed worse on the ballot than he did during his first run.

But his name lives on today. The city of Destrehan, as you may have guessed, was named in honor of his family.

Magruder’s paper trail is much thinner than his counterpart’s. Born in Kentucky, he was likewise a member of the state Legislature, in the House, and practiced law in Opelousas, where he eventually died.

Both men were members of the Democratic-Republican party, which was created by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Destréhan was actually close with the two American legends and received high-profile appointments from each.

They Said It

“I’m gonna look like I’m 90 by the time I get out.”

—Gov. John Bel Edwards, during the 90th birthday celebration of former Gov. Edwin Edwards last week

“I did not eat that cake once I found out that Chef Vitter made it.”

—Gov. John Bel Edwards, referencing the culinary skills of Chef Drue Vitter, not his 2015 opponent former U.S. Sen. David Vitter