MICHOT NAMED SENATE FINANCE CHAIR Widespread speculation became reality last week when incoming Democratic Senate President Joel Chaisson II announced that Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette is the proposed chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in the Jindal administration. Michot, the senior ranking Republican in the Senate, will oversee operations of the state's $31 billion budget.

"I'm honored to be part of the leadership team in the Senate and Gov.-elect Jindal's leadership team," says Michot. "The process of putting leadership committees is like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle. When Jindal tapped Chiasson, he did tell me, 'You're going to get Finance; I'm committed to that.' And he really tried to balance it geographically and across party lines, racial lines, years of service ' a lot of factors play into this."

Michot landed the biggest appointment in a list that bodes well for Acadiana. In addition to Michot, other area Senate Chairman appointments include: Opelousas' Don Cravins for Insurance; Jeanerette's Troy Hebert for Environmental Quality; Lake Charles' Willie Mount for Health & Welfare; Montegut's Reggie Dupré for Natural Resources; and Morgan City's Butch Gautreaux for Retirement.

"We fared very well, in Acadiana to Lake Charles and down the bayou," says Michot. "Nick [Gautreaux] will also be serving with me on Finance, and when you put all that together, it's extremely influential representation for Acadiana."

Michot says his three top priorities and infrastructure repair and improvement, with I-49 South at the top of that list; doing more with less in government and taking a hard look at agency budgets; and paying down debt in the state retirement system to free up cash flow for other projects. ... ENERGY BILL PASSES SENATE AFTER OIL TAXES CUT Last Thursday morning, the national energy bill, already passed by the House, remained stuck in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster. When the vote to end the filibuster was counted 59 to 40, the total was one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to end debate and clear the way to actually vote on the measure. That single vote came from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, the only Democrat to break ranks with her party. Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois told the Washington Post, "The future just failed by one vote. The past was preserved. The oil companies are now celebrating in their boardrooms."

The bill included tax breaks for wind and solar projects while reducing breaks for the biggest oil and gas companies. Landrieu explained her "no" vote in a press release: "One-sided policymaking solves few problems, and America's path forward depends on a comprehensive, balanced approach to energy conservation and domestic production. We must invest in smart energy solutions for the future, but not at the expense of the states that strengthen our energy security today.

While this package included positive steps towards energy independence and efficiency, it still left Louisiana and America's Energy Coast holding the bill. Our energy producers would be severely disadvantaged against foreign competitors, and our timber, pulp and paper industries would be restricted from fully participating in the move to innovative renewable fuels."

By Thursday evening, the taxes on big oil and the breaks for alternative energy sources lay on the Senate cutting room floor. What remained were increases in fuel energy standards for automobiles, heightened energy standards for appliances and buildings, and mandated use of ethanol and biofuels. At that point, the bill passed with a large bipartisan vote of 86 to 8. It will return to the House, and if passed, President Bush has indicated he will sign it into law. ... ANGELLE STAYING PUT AT DNR Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal is keeping at least one holdover department head from Gov. Blanco's administration. Jindal announced that Scott Angelle, the former St. Martin Parish president whom Blanco tapped in 2004 to run the state's Department of Natural Resources, will remain in the post for the next four years. Angelle has been widely credited with leading the effort to pass a constitutional amendment dedicating future Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenues to finance the coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan. He also recently helped push through legislation that gives DNR oversight of environmental remediation from legacy lawsuit settlements for oilfield pollution.

Hailing from Breaux Bridge, Angelle was elected as the first president of St. Martin Parish in 2000. From 1998 to 2000, he served as the Vice President of the Huval Companies in Lafayette, managing the company's insurance risk management and overseeing the budget and strategic planning. Angelle also previously served as a St. Martin Parish Police Juror and as a petroleum landman in Lafayette from 1983 to 1989. ... VITTER TOUGHS IT OUT Sin or not, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter still has the support of the national Republican Party ' Vitter has again been named as deputy whip in the Senate Republican leadership. Vitter previously filled the role on the team of Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who recently announced his retirement. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is the new Republican whip and he has tapped Vitter to continue serving. Vitter was also appointed last week as ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics and Related Sciences. With this new committee assignment, Vitter will play an important role in determining space policy. His appointment also places Louisiana in a unique and highly-favorable position on matters related to NASA, aeronautics and related sciences. "NASA has a long history and significant presence in Louisiana," Vitter says. "Thousands of Louisianans are employed by the Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center, and the impact of the space program on Louisiana cannot be overstated."

Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Scott Jordan, Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler