News Briefs

Home insurance blues, Henke to run for insurance commissioner and more


Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Haik of Lafayette issued the first ruling on one of the most disputed insurance issues to arise out of last year's hurricane season: whether or not homeowners with only wind-storm insurance coverage could make claims on property damaged by flooding during a hurricane.

Haik ruled that homeowners without flood-specific insurance are not entitled to flood damage claims.

"You get what you pay for," Haik was quoted saying in The Advocate. "And what they paid for was wind damage."

Haik added, "I wish I didn't think that. I am not a fan of insurance companies."

The suit, filed by two families against State Farm and Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance, was seeking class action status for all homeowners with similar insurance disputes stemming from Hurricane Rita. The plaintiffs are still deciding whether or not they will appeal the decision. A similar case of disputed insurance claims, filed by victims of Hurricane Katrina, is set for a hearing in New Orleans next month. ' Nathan Stubbs


Hurricane Katrina and the flood after the levees broke killed more than 1,500 people. Half of New Orleans' residents are still displaced and many will never return. Basic services such as electricity and gas are still out in large portions of the Crescent City.

To The Times of Acadiana, this tragedy that has changed New Orleans and Louisiana forever is the equivalent of â?¦ missing a television show. In case you missed this unfathomably ignorant, callous and stupid piece of "journalism," here's the opening passage from The Times' cover story last week:

"It's 6:50 p.m. Tuesday night, and you're stuck in traffic on Johnston Street. You'll never make it home in time, and you didn't set the VCR â?¦ You're going to miss American Idol. This is more devastating than, well, the damage left behind from Hurricane Katrina. Or so you think." ' Scott Jordan


With a host of issues brewing from last hurricane season, Louisiana's next insurance commissioner will have his or her work cut out for them. Last week, former Lafayette School Board President DeAnne Henke announced she's ready for the task, citing the motivation of watching her grandparents jump through insurance claim hoops after their South Texas home was destroyed by Hurricane Celia in 1970.

Henke has spent the past two years working with a financial investment firm and as a lobbyist for Washington Matters, a firm set up by former Congressman Jimmy Hayes. The special election for insurance commissioner is scheduled for September. Current Commissioner Jim Donelon and State Rep. James David Cain of Dry Creek also have announced they will run for the seat. ' NS


At a crucial time when the state is desperately fighting for federal hurricane recovery funds and combating a national perception of political corruption in Louisiana, New Orleans Rep. William Jefferson has given Louisiana opponents a huge stockpile of fresh ammunition.

According to The Times-Picayune, an FBI affidavit released last weekend in the midst of an ongoing House ethics investigation of Jefferson details a videotaped July 2005 meeting where Jefferson took $100,000 in cash from a potential investor in a West African telecommunications company. The affidavit also alleges that Jefferson tried to funnel money into a separate company for his children, and notes the FBI's discovery of "at least seven other schemes in which Jefferson sought things of value in return for his official acts."

Jefferson has professed his innocence and said he will not resign. But the latest allegations are so damning and distracting that Jefferson should step down and fight the charges on his own time and dime, instead of while he's collecting a taxpayer-funded salary. ' SJ


One issue in the upcoming governor's race is starting to surface. Around the same time Gov. Kathleen Blanco released her emergency evacuation plan and corresponding maps for southeast Louisiana, Congressman Bobby Jindal issued his own 10-point plan to reform emergency response. Democrat Blanco and Republican Jindal are expected to face off again in next year's gubernatorial contest. Jindal's plan calls for eliminating fraud, streamlining communications and establishing a long-term recovery office for Louisiana. Both efforts arrive as the House Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees passed a bill to strengthen the government's response to catastrophic disasters by reforming the Federal Emergency Management Agency ' and a few of Jindal's action points are included in the national legislation. ' Jeremy Alford


Freebies may be a thing of the past for local politicians at events held at the SugArena Acadiana Fairgrounds in Iberia Parish. Newly elected SugArena board member Ryan Doré insisted in an emergency meeting in April, reported last week in The Daily Iberian, that the practice of doling out over a dozen tickets each to "higher-ups" in Iberia Parish Government "wasn't going to fly" anymore. Some government officials requested tickets to the April Hot Sauce Festival in exchange for groundskeeping work at the parish-owned, state-funded facility. "First off, that's their job (to clean the grounds). And it just seemed like they wanted free tickets in payment of getting work done," Doré says. "I'm not on the commission just to make the politicians happy." ' Mary Tutwiler