Allain continues moves to protect artificial reef fund
By JOHN MAGINNIS
and JEREMY ALFORD
A committee hearing that was scheduled Monday for a bill to place the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the state constitution was temporarily deferred amid concerns that Gov. Jindal wouldn’t back the legislation.
But Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, author of the constitutional amendment, said he has since secured what amounts to a neutral stance from the administration for his Senate Bill 128.
“(The governor) has agreed not to oppose the bill,” Allain said, adding his legislation would protect the fund from being raided in the future by placing it in the constitution, rather than state law.
In the ongoing session, Jindal wants to transfer $20.6 million from the fund, which creates underwater habitats out of drilling rigs.
The administration has also taken $45 million from the fund since 2009.
A possible lawsuit from the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission involving the fund, which is supported by fees from the energy industry and private donations, seems more likely every day, especially if the latest transfer is approved.
Commissioner Stephen Sagrera of Abbeville said the administration has agreed to replace what it has so far removed from the fund in a “couple of months,” although he only “vaguely” knows how that will happen.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a chess game and they move around the money from other places or what. But personally, I don’t think they’re going to be able to do it,” Sagrera said, adding, “I’m not optimistic.”
Senator Eyes Citizens Insurance Job
If he gets a favorable ethics opinion next month, Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, will apply to be head of Citizens Property Insurance Company, the state-created insurer of last resort.
Morrish said the board, on which he serves, has asked him and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon to appear at a recent meeting.
The question to the Ethics Administration is, said Morrish, “Who does the executive director work for: the board or the commissioner?”
If it is the board, Morrish could in theory resign from his seat, but then he would be barred from working for the company for two years due to restrictions in the ethics code.
But if the opinion points to the insurance commissioner, Morrish said he would be free to apply for the job.
“Because of that provision, I didn’t want to apply, get the job and then have that question,” he said.
The chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee filed the bill to create Citizens in 2003.
“I have probably sponsored, co-authored, shepherded or killed legislation that has affected it one way or another,” he said.
Current director Rick Robinson has resigned effective June 1.
The job pays $240,000 per year.
Morrish, currently business manager for the Calcasieu River Pilots, noted that it was Donelon who picked Robinson.
Resolutions Reveal Lawmakers’ Pet Projects
While they can be used to express the mood of the Legislature or boss around agencies, resolutions also provide a bit of comic relief from the session’s heavier issues.
They are simply the most versatile tools of the House and Senate.
In keeping with the grand tradition of official state stuff, Sen. Rick Ward, D-Livonia, has a resolution designating the American Paint Horse as the official state horse.
Giving legislative pork a new meaning, he also wants to recognize the Smokin’ Oldies Cook-Off in West Baton Rouge as an official barbecue contest.
Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, has another encouraging the Louisiana Lottery Corporation to create new lotto tickets to benefit veterans.
For those who want to place a LoJack on their children, Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, wants the Law Institute to study the feasibility of “requiring the consent of both parents of a child to track that child by GPS.” It is related to issues of sole and joint custody.
EWE to Keynote Political Hall of Fame Reunion
Former Gov. Edwin Edwards should be in his element when he delivers the keynote address to the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Reunion on May 1.
The party will be held in the Atrium of the Belle of Baton Rouge to raise funds for the Louisiana Political Museum in Winnfield. Edwards is among the 145 Louisiana politicos who have been inducted since 1993.
Music will be provided by the Jimmie Davis Band and tickets are $125.
Call the museum at 318-628-5928 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
They Said It
“There’s a lot of people for tax reform. They just happen to be working and paying taxes.”
—Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, on his deferred tax repeal bill, in a room packed with repeal opponents
“I couldn’t handle his laundry bill.”
—Sen. Bob Kostelka on Education Superintendent John White’s $275,000 salary, in the Advocate