Attorney general accused of breaking law
By JOHN MAGINNIS
and JEREMY ALFORD
LaPolitics.com / Twitter: @LaPoliticsNow
In the ongoing debate over an already-historic lawsuit filed by a New Orleans area levee board against 97 energy companies, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association is now accusing Attorney General Buddy Caldwell of breaking the law.
By authorizing the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East to hire its own special counsel to pursue the lawsuit, the association, some of whose members are targeted, contends Caldwell violated constitutional and legislative provisions.
Last week the association’s executive committee voted to send a petition to Caldwell asking him to reverse the authorization. Association President Don Briggs said such a decision “would bring an end to the lawsuit effective immediately.”
However, if Caldwell doesn’t comply, Briggs said the association has hired the law firm of Mahtook and Lafluer in Lafayette to move forward with a declaratory judgment against the attorney general, which would pinpoint a legal position on the laws in question.
Specifically, the association contends Caldwell is ignoring a state law that mandates that he and his assistants shall serve as representation for the levee board or retain special counsel on its behalf. The petition also accuses the attorney general of usurping legislative authority by allowing state money to be used for the lawsuit.
The levee board turned heads and incurred the opposition of Gov. Bobby Jindal when it filed its lawsuit in Civil District Court in New Orleans in July seeking no specific dollar amount, but demanding that the oil companies immediately restore damages to wetlands caused by decades of energy exploration, including dredge work and the criss-crossing of canals through coastal marshes.
Amanda Papillion Larkins, Caldwell’s director of communications, said she could not provide a comment without first reviewing the association’s petition.
Poll Focuses on Louisiana’s
A new poll obtained by LaPolitics suggests voters in Louisiana overwhelmingly support medicinal applications for marijuana and are increasingly coming around on the decriminalization issue. But while states like Colorado and Washington recently changed their laws to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed, the political will in Louisiana still appears weak for any substantive reforms in this area.
Efforts to discuss the topic in the Legislature over the past few years have been met more frequently with jokes than debate, but the new survey conducted by Public Policy Polling of North Carolina shows 49 percent of those polled would be more likely to support a candidate for office in Louisiana if he or she voted to reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana. Another 53 percent said they would support mirroring the laws put into place in Colorado and Washington.
Closer to home in Acadiana, the poll shows that 63 percent of local participants support allowing seriously and terminally ill patients to consume marijuana for specified medical conditions with a doctor’s prescription. Moreover, 59 percent want to see Louisiana copy and embrace legalization laws from other states and 42 percent of those polled from Acadiana said they would back pro-marijuana candidates for office.
Dr. Edward Chervenak, an assistant professor of political science at the University of New Orleans, said the poll numbers may not amount to much unless there’s a large organized effort statewide to explain the benefits. He added that’s what has usually preceded reforms in other states.
“That’s what would get the Legislature moving, although we’re unlikely to see it any time soon,” said Chervenak. “Something else that might convince them is whether Colorado starts to see big bucks rolling in from tax revenue.”
One localized effort, called SaferNOLA, is under way in New Orleans and its organizers say support is mounting for sentencing reforms. Spokesperson Brian Welsh said the poll, commissioned by the Louisiana chapter of the ACLU, shows as much and that various judicial interests are coming together to do something in the 2014 regular session.
In the PPP poll, 56 percent of participants said they would support a $100 fine without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana. Another 59 percent said they currently oppose, in general, longer prison terms for simple possession.
“The Legislature came close earlier this year to reducing penalties and there’s a lot of interest from folks in the legal and judicial communities to revisit that next year,” Welsh said. “That could be the big takeaway from this poll.”
Race For No. 2 Starts Early
The annual Lieutenant Governor’s Tourism Summit was held in Baton Rouge last week and it drew a large and diverse crowd. Including a handful of politicians — most notably those who want to be the next No. 2, since, after all, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne appears to be running for governor in 2015.
Working the crowd hard were Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Jefferson Parish President John Young. Both Republicans have been mentioned as likely contenders.
Nungesser ran for the post back in 2011 when Dardenne pulled ahead with 53 percent following what was a very nasty race. In his second term, Young is looking to make his move to statewide office.
A trio of black Democratic officials also are eyeing the race, including Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and state Sens. Rick Gallot of Grambling and Elbert Guillory of Opelousas. But it is doubtful that all three will go to the post
They Said It
“We meet about every week or so.”
—Congressman Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, regarding a small group of conservative lawmakers who call themselves “The Jedi Council” and recently played a significant role in major budget negotiations
“You can have my go-cup when you pry it from my cold, dead drunk fingers!!!”
—Tweet by Brian Huddleston on a rumor, since debunked, that the New Orleans City Council would consider a ban on go-cups