The big winners were US Senator David Vitter who gets lots of the credit from the business community for his public attacks on trial lawyers and his threat not to go away until this issue was settled. LABI was also a big winner on this one, along with key state senators who wanted this annual controversy put to bed. Senator John Alario and Senator Robert Adley played key roles in this legislation finally passing. With Governor Jindal sitting on the sidelines, Senator Alario and his colleagues realized this had to be settled sooner rather than later – the politics of the Senate and a lack of resolution meant this would spill over into their reelections. Three more years of this controversy was not a reasonable option. Big oil surely benefited – however, they were of no consequence throughout this long conflict. All sides had lobbyist involved and yet they had zero impact from day one. Big issues like legacy are not influenced or decided by any lobbyist – it is about reelections and the big players with million dollar political pacts that affect election (especially reelections) outcomes. The big loser has to be Don Carmouche – a trial lawyer who literally pioneered hundreds of these niche lawsuits. In some quarters, Jimmy Faircloth (former Jindal executive counsel) did the unthinkable. It has been reported (although Faircloth apparently denies) that in a conversation with Representative Neil Abramson he claimed to threaten to expose Neil Abramson’s alleged conflict of interest re Legacy Lawsuit legislation – Representative Abramson was the author of the bill that Faircloth and Carmouche were opposing. Big mistake by Faircloth, regardless – the net effect is that from then on Abramson’s legislation sailed through house with few dissenting votes. Also, Don Carmouche – a lawyer – went one step further than Faircloth and called a press conference on steps of state capitol and announced he was filing ethics charges against Representative Neil Abramson. I am told it is against the law to announce you are filing ethics charges against someone in this type of situation! Whether it would be against the law or not, it sets a terribly bad precedent – anyone can announce they are filing ethics charges against you or me and smear our reputations with no basis. Carmouche would not have to actually file the complaint – the damage would have been done. Plus if Carmouche actually did file the complaint against Representative Abramson – some say he could have stepped over the line. We’ll see how this plays out in the future.
Losers- Board of Regents: One of the biggest losers this session was once again the Board of Regents. Pushing a new fee to raise revenue for universities put Regents on display once again as the most anti parents and student agency in state government. The good news for us tax payers: their influence is next to nothing with legislators. Regent’s also pushes legislation to give LSU Shreveport to Louisiana Tech – their legislation is nuked. The Board of Regent remains anti TOPS and anti LSU. The new commissioner at Regents (zero qualifications by the way) Jim Purcell is bad news for higher education. The good news, Purcell should start looking for employment outside Louisiana - he will not be around come new governor. The agenda of this board would be great if they were in Boston or New York – in case Regent Board members missed the last three hundred or so surveys survey on voter attitudes in Louisiana – Louisiana now ranks in the top five most conservative states. TOPS remains very popular and taxes and fees are not!
Winners (Jindal) and Losers (teacher unions) Education reform: Teacher unions, school boards and bus drivers were overwhelmed and trounced by Governor Jindal this session. Governor Jindal passes any and every teacher or education establishment reform he wanted. This was a mismatch from day one of the session and did not stop till the last few hours when bus drivers were striped of tenure protection. Teacher’s show up at state capitol for rallies to protest Governor Jindal’s reform legislation – this was a huge P R mistake. Lots of teacher appeared to lack twelfth grade verbal skills during speeches and interviews. Maybe these reforms will not result in significant student progress as teacher unions predict– this session showed the vast majority of Louisiana citizens support Governor Jindal’s education reform effort.