WRDA WRANGLING EXPECTED The long-awaited Water Resources Development Act of 2007 passed the U.S. Senate on Monday by a vote of 81-12, but President Bush is expected to veto the bill. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is preparing for a congressional override of the veto.
"We have been waiting seven long years for a new WRDA bill, and this year, the House and Senate finally came together in agreement on a bill that will authorize $3.6 billion in crucial flood control, navigation and hurricane protection projects for Louisiana," Landrieu said in a statement. "But a presidential veto threat still looms heavy over this accomplishment. I stand united with the Louisiana delegation in our effort to override a veto and ensure this bill is passed with or without administration approval." Gov. Blanco also issued a statement urging President Bush not to veto the bill.
The bill passed the House with 394 votes in April, and cleared the Senate with 91 votes in May. Should President Bush veto the bill as he has threatened, it will return to both Houses of Congress, where it needs a 2/3 vote ' 290 in the House, 67 in the Senate ' for a veto override. ... DEMOCRATS FEELING COCKY With a string of positive press reports in recent weeks, Dems in the state House are feeling froggy when it comes to maintaining control of the lower chamber. The GOP didn't recruit as many high-caliber candidates as it had hoped, and Democrats seem to be sitting pretty, if you believe published numbers. "We're absolutely going to keep a majority," says Kacie Nee, director of the House Democratic Caucus. "There's no question about it. This is the first time where we're seeing several members getting involved."
Reps. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte and Don Cazayoux of New Roads have been leading the charge on the ground. While keeping up the count has been the top priority, the recruiting efforts also serve as a foundation for the coming race for speaker of the House, which Cazayoux supposedly has an inside track on during these early days.
As for a quick update, these are a few seats Democrats contend they are ready to claim: House Districts 33 in Sulphur, 37 in Jennings, 54 in lower Lafourche and 95 in New Orleans. District 84 in Marrero, though, can be chalked up for Republicans, Nee says.
Froggy or not, some of those races could still be up for grabs. The most recent report on file with the state shows the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority has raised more than $1 million and still has about $700,000 in the bank. ... AND THERE SHALL BE ONLY TWO? When Democrat Walter Boasso, a state senator from Arabi, dropped his commercial bomb last week on the GOP frontrunner Bobby Jindal, the Republican Kenner congressman took the attack personally and responded by returning the volley with not one, but two ads hitting back at Boasso.
Boasso's ad, titled "Shame On You," features a Slidell woman who took Jindal to court when he was head of the Department of Health and Hospitals ' and won. Mental health services had been cut under Jindal's leadership and her brother ended up on the streets. In return, Jindal fired off two ads defending his record and depicting Boasso first as a "clown" and then as a friend to the "old corrupt crowd."
Jindal's obsession with responding to every charge levied against him (something he didn't do during his 2003 bid for governor) may backfire. Jindal's ads help voters frame the primary as a two-person race, which is exactly what Boasso's camp wants.
If you need evidence that the strategy may be working for the Boasso team (the campaign says it intends to keep Jindal on the defensive by using more personal-testimony accounts in the near future), just consider the first sentence from last week's initial coverage of the tit-for-tat in The Advocate: "Two top candidates for governor tore into each other's records in television ads airing across the state." As for The Times-Picayune, it published nearly 30 paragraphs on the beef without ever mentioning any other candidate by name. ... LONGTIME DNR OFFICIAL ON THE WAY OUT Attention lawmakers and lobbyists: If you are working a project through Randy Hanchey over at the Department of Natural Resources, you better find a new workhorse to carry your water. The longtime deputy secretary has served his last official day and will exhaust his leave by the end of December. Hanchey came to DNR from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and brought along that trademark pit-bull attitude with him. He developed a name for himself by taking on all comers and speaking bluntly, even to the press.
Hanchey's exit, however, doesn't mean DNR is losing its edge. One of his final responsibilities has been to help the department draft its legislative agenda for the 2008 session ' and it could be a doozy. Since Katrina made landfall, it's been an accepted fact that land (no one knows how much, still) will need to be seized by the state to carry forth with recovery. Monique Edwards, DNR's executive counsel, says land rights will be on tap for the new Legislature, but she provided no further details. "We'll keep pushing the envelope," she says. ... DEMOCRATS HOST WEEKLY ROUNDTABLE AT DWYER'S Frank Flynn and Lester Gauthier of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Party have started a weekly roundtable to informally discuss this year's election issues with party candidates and voters. The Democratic Roundtable takes place each Thursday morning at 7:15 A.M. at Dwyer's Café in downtown Lafayette. Flynn and Gauthier are encouraging all Democratic candidates, voters, supporters and activists to attend. For more information, call Lester Gauthier at 264-1783 or Frank Flynn at 291-1250.
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Nathan Stubbs, Mary Tutwiler