HOUSE PASSES AID FOR CAJUNDOME The U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote last week a bill that would make the Cajundome eligible for approximately $2.3 million in federal aid for its use as a shelter during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill, H.R. 3247, is now scheduled to go before the U.S. Senate. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the federal government to compensate businesses like the Cajundome, for operating losses stemming from the 2005 hurricanes. The issue is at the heart of an ongoing dispute between Cajundome and FEMA officials. In July, FEMA demanded that the dome pay back $1.1 million it had received for operating losses over the six weeks it operated as an emergency shelter, which the agency says was paid by mistake. FEMA also denied the dome's request for another $1.2 million in usage fees for the additional two months it was closed for renovations. The bill would also likely make other state sheltering facilities eligible for lost revenue compensation.

Cajundome Director Greg Davis is cautiously optimistic, noting that the bill still has "two more big hurdles" in passing the U.S. Senate and being signed by the President. The bill also aims to increase the federal government's share of the cost of relocating public buildings and other damaged infrastructure from 75 to 90 percent. All provisions would apply retroactively to areas affected by the 2005 storms. ... WRDA ON TRACK FOR VETO OVERRIDE Late last week, President Bush made good on his threat to veto the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act, which contains up to $7 billion in flood control and navigation projects for Louisiana. Within minutes, responses from the Louisiana delegation as well as legislators from all over the country, called for an override of the veto. Sens. Landrieu and Vitter and U.S. Reps. Boustany, Melancon, Baker, Alexander and Governor-elect Jindal all went on the record pledging to vote to pass the bill. Jindal says he will return to Washington this week to vote for the override.

The WRDA bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 381-40 and approved by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 81-12. This is the fifth bill the president has vetoed and will be the first one overridden, if the vote in Congress passes. Currently the bill is scheduled to be voted on Tuesday in the House and Wednesday in the Senate. ... VITTER COULD TESTIFY ABOUT SCANDAL The Times-Picayune reports that Sen. David Vitter could be subpoenaed to testify about his involvement with the "D.C. Madam." After Vitter's association with Pamela Martin & Associates was made public, he stated at a press conference that he committed a "very serious sin" and that God and his family had forgiven him. He's said little else about it since then. The Picayune noted:

"The subpoena puts Vitter, especially, in an awkward and politically damaging position. The Senate Republican caucus welcomed Vitter back into the fold after his public confession in July, but it remains to be seen how much patience Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will show if Vitter's troubles remain in the news. McConnell acted swiftly to condemn Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, after it became public that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges after being arrested in a gay-sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Craig has faced intense pressure from his own caucus to resign from the Senate but has refused and has sought to withdraw the guilty plea.

"Legal experts say Vitter has little grounds to avoid testifying, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court said former President Bill Clinton had to provide testimony in Paula Jones' civil lawsuit." ... LAFAYETTE IN THE JINDAL ADMINISTRATION Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal has tapped Melissa Sellers, a 25-year-old Houston native who grew up in Lafayette, as his administration's press secretary. Sellers recently served as Jindal's campaign communications director and attended elementary and middle school in Lafayette at Broadmoor and Edgar Martin before moving back to Texas for high school. She has a bachelor's of journalism from the University of Texas and has also worked as press secretary for U.S. Congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa and as a media coordinator on President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. In other area appointments, Lafayette native, UL Lafayette graduate and Tsunami visionary Michelle Ezell has been named vice chairwoman of Jindal's small business and entrepreneurship team. Ezell will work with chairman Kevin Langley of New Orleans' Ellis Construction and make policy and hiring recommendations to Jindal before his January inauguration. ... YEAR OF THE WOMEN? The Louisiana Women's Legislative Caucus is poised to have its largest membership in state history. If every woman candidate wins her race in the runoff, there will be 31 female legislators in the House and Senate. Right now, 18 seats are guaranteed for women, while another 13 are in runoffs for Nov. 17. For the term that ends this year, the LWLC enjoyed a membership of 25, which was likewise a historic number when it flipped four years ago. The group's present chair, Rep. Nita Hutter, a Republican from St. Bernard Parish, brought a bit of extra sway to the LWLC this year through her role of state director for the National Foundation for Women Legislators. No word yet on who might be vying to lead the legislative caucus next year, but Sen. Sherri Smith-Cheek, a Keithville Republican, currently serves as LWLC's vice-chair.

Contributors: Jeremy Alford, R. Reese Fuller, Scott Jordan, Nathan Stubbs, Mary Tutwiler