BLUEPRINT LOUISIANA TOUTS "SUPER-MAJORITY" IN LEGISLATURE Blueprint Louisiana says it is well on its way to achieving its lofty statewide reform agenda. The organization is touting a "super-majority," or two-thirds majority, in both houses of the state Legislature following the recent elections. Blueprint announced that 32 of 39 (82 percent) incoming state senators signed a contract with the organization, pledging their support for Blueprint's five-part reform agenda. In the state House, 73 of 105 (70 percent) incoming state representatives signed the pledge.
"We've maintained throughout our existence that Blueprint is about helping to create the state we deserve. We believe we're well-positioned for progress on these key priorities for the state, but acknowledge the hard work associated with passing legislation," noted Blueprint Louisiana co-founder and Chairman Matt Stuller of Lafayette. Blueprint's five-part agenda includes the issues of state ethics, public education, workforce development, health care and transportation. The organization says it has now convened six working groups, one for each agenda item as well as a sixth dedicated to coastal restoration and hurricane protection, to develop legislation to implement its agenda. Blueprint also says it is working with legislators as well as the administration of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, who did not sign Blueprint's contract, in advance of next year's legislative session. "Our interaction with legislators during the past few weeks has been very productive," Stuller says. "So many of them are eager, and they recognize the opportunities ahead of them to build a legacy of significant improvement in Louisiana." ... DAVIS, HEBERT TESTIFY TO ACADIANA'S RESPONSE TO HURRICANES On Monday, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu held a hearing on major disasters and catastrophes at the Old State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge. (Landrieu is chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery.) At the hearing, titled "Host Communities: Analyzing the Role and Needs of Communities that Take in Disaster Evacuees in the Wake of Major Disasters and Catastrophes," local witnesses testified about how their communities accommodated evacuees following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The witness list included Cajundome Commissioner Greg Davis, Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach. ... FORMER LUS ADVERSARY NOW JINDAL'S LEGISLATIVE LIAISON The latest member of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's administration is a familiar face to city officials involved with Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home project. Tommy Williams, tapped last week as Jindal's legislative liaison, worked as a BellSouth lobbyist for 38 years and was at the forefront of heated negotiations related to the company's opposition to LUS' telecommunications venture. Williams, 65, retired from BellSouth last year as vice president for regulatory and external affairs. As Jindal's legislative liaison, Williams will be the governor's point person for advancing bills through the state Legislature.
While working for BellSouth, Williams was a primary player in negotiating the 2004 Local Government Fair Competition Act, which placed a series of restrictions on LUS entering the telecommunications business and required a public referendum on the issue. While both sides agreed to the legislation, city officials later cried foul when BellSouth used the act to file a lawsuit against LUS' bond ordinance for the project. BellSouth eventually withdrew from the suit, which was also brought by Lafayette resident Elizabeth Naquin. LUS prevailed in the case and now plans to begin offering telecom services in early 2009.
"[Tommy Williams] was always their primary contact whenever we dealt with BellSouth," says LUS Director Terry Huval. "But Tommy Williams doesn't work for BellSouth anymore, and BellSouth is no longer BellSouth; it's AT&T, so there's different management of that organization as well."
Huval says those past disputes aren't personal. "Tommy was always a fine person whenever we dealt with him," he says. "I think some of the issues that came up where BellSouth as a corporation acted in bad faith wasn't necessarily at his direction. It was folks beyond that point that I think were involved in it." Huval also praised Williams as a deft negotiator. "Tommy is very effective in dealing with legislative matters," he says, "and I don't blame the governor for choosing someone who has as good a reputation as he has had in dealing with legislative matters."
Contributors: Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler