Politics 03.26.2008

Langlinais seeks $20,000 in vacation pay, bills seek to raise college tutition and more

LANGLINAIS SEEKING UP TO $20,000 IN VACATION PAY Former Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, who resigned from office in July 2007 after pleading guilty to malfeasance in office, is seeking accrued vacation pay accumulated over his 14-year tenure. Langlinais’ attorney, Wade Trahan, recently sent a letter to the Iberia Parish District Attorney’s office, requesting vacation pay. The Iberia Parish Council directed Assistant District Attorney Eric Duplantis to look into the matter.

According to the parish’s Home Rule Charter, the parish president is entitled to accrued vacation and sick leave. Aside from the eight-month hiatus since Langlinais left office before applying for sick leave, there is a black hole when it comes to records. Duplantis says that during Langlinais’ time in office he never notified anyone where he was — and whether he was on parish business or his own time. Iberia Parish employee vacation and sick leave policy states: “Leave records must be maintained for employees eligible to accrue vacation leave.”

Iberia Parish Human Resources Director Donna McDonald says that she has no way to calculate how much vacation pay Langlinais might be entitled to because she has no paperwork. “I do not know how much vacation time he took, because there’s no documentation,” she says. “Everybody has to follow procedures,” says Duplantis. “Under the parish’s policy he had a duty to notify when he was out on vacation. We’re treating Will like any other employee. He has to document what he is entitled to.”

Langlinais currently receives state retirement and health insurance.

MUDBUG MADNESS IN THE LEGISLATURE  If crawfish farmers and crustacean aficionados are looking for a banner-bearer, they need look no further than rookie Rep. Fred H. Mills Jr., a Democrat from Parks. The spunky Cajun is sponsoring what promises to be two of the most controversial mudbug-related bills during the upcoming regular session that opens March 31.

For an appetizer, Mills is serving up House Bill 501, which would transfer the management and regulation of wild-caught crawfish from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The latter already oversees pond operations and spearheaded an international trade suit during the 1990s, which has long left many in the industry wondering why the ag folks don’t oversee the whole shebang.

Mills’ main course, however, can be found in House Bill 266, which would force restaurants to notify their customers if the crawfish they’re serving is from a foreign country. If the law passes, all eateries — from Commander’s Palace to the mom-and-pop shop down the street — would have to update their menus.

Shrimpers tried the same trick a few years ago but were aggressively shot down by the influential Louisiana Restaurant Association. Mills should expect more of the same, especially since his bill calls for fines of up to $500 or jail time of 90 days for first-time offenders.

BILLS SEEK TO RAISE COLLEGE TUITION A trio of bills in the state Legislature would allow UL Lafayette to raise its student tuition for the 2008-2009 school year. The primary measure will come from the Board of Regents’ tuition proposal. As a backup, state Rep. Don Trahan has filed two separate measures, one of which calls on direct legislative approval for a 4 percent increase to UL Lafayette’s tuition — a rise Trahan says would be covered by TOPS. Trahan, who chairs the House education committee, also has filed a separate bill to give postsecondary management boards greater autonomy in setting tuition rates.

Trahan says UL’s tuition has lagged below the state’s other Doctoral II universities (UNO and LA Tech), in addition to smaller schools within the UL system. “[These bills] would help UL tremendously,” Trahan says. In addition, Trahan has filed a resolution on behalf of the governor to appeal to the Board of Regents to re-examine its funding of higher education. Traditionally, university funding has been based primarily on enrollment numbers. The governor wants to see other factors, including number of doctoral programs and level of faculty research, have more of an impact on funding levels.

YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING: AN OFFICIAL STATE DRINK? Believe it or not but the Sazerac may be designated the “official state cocktail” at the regular legislative session that starts March 31.

An apparent fan of the concoction, Democratic Sen. Edwin Murray of New Orleans filed in advance of the session Senate Bill 6 designating the Sazerac the official state cocktail, claiming it is the first mixed drink invented in New Orleans and one of the first in the country.

“We will probably have a little fun with this bill” as a diversion from the heavy issues lawmakers will face at the upcoming session, Murray told The Times-Picayune. “There will be a very aggressive effort to get it done.”

The paper reported that Ann Tuennerman, founder of the annual New Orleans Tales of the Cocktail activities, has written Murray to urge passage of the bill because the Sazerac has “evolved over time and represents history in a glass... When folks come to New Orleans, they want certain things authentic and original to the Crescent City, be it a beignet, a po-boy, a cup of chicory coffee, oysters Rockefeller, bread pudding or Bananas Foster.”

The drink in its original form was invented in the 1830s in New Orleans by pharmacist Antoine Amedee Peychaud, who fled Haiti and opened an apothecary on Royal Street in the French Quarter, according to the Picayune. To create the drink, he added his own blend of bitters and Louisiana cane sugar to a French brandy.

Murray’s bill asks that the state to use the official cocktail on “official documents...and with the insignia of the state.”

Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Mary Tutwiler and Nathan Stubbs