Politics 06.25.2008

The blasting of Gov. Jindal, the fury over the pay raise and more

CONSERVATIVES AND CORE SUPPORTERS BLASTING JINDAL With his repeated pledge not to veto the pay raise that will double legislators’ salaries, Gov. Bobby Jindal continues to woefully underestimate how much his lack of action is enraging conservatives and some of his biggest supporters. Last week, syndicated conservative radio host Moon Griffon pulled from his show a commercial touting Jindal, calling it “an outright lie.” The ad, bought by Believe in Louisiana, the non-profit 527 founded by Jindal campaign treasurer and Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister, featured a script that claimed Jindal was behind the effort to repeal the Stelly Tax. “This group is telling a whopper,” Griffon told The Advocate. “They’re saying the governor is doing something he didn’t do. Gov. Jindal led the charge to cut the income taxes? That’s an outright lie.”

Griffon isn’t the only north Louisiana conservative media outlet that’s blasting away at Jindal. The Monroe News-Star, the paper that enthusiastically endorsed Jindal for governor, had a scathing editorial last Thursday that questioned a “guest column” Jindal submitted to the newspaper. The News-Star printed Jindal’s column, which proclaims, “In the New Louisiana, we are introducing a new era of fiscal discipline by eliminating wasteful spending that does not address our state’s priorities.”

In its response, The News-Star wondered if Jindal has “lost complete touch with events around him. It’s possible; as a congressman, he spent much of his second term here seeking the governor’s job. Now, as governor, he spends much of his time in Washington in what many observers believe is an effort to seek higher office there.”

The paper implored readers to pore over Jindal’s column, noting: “It might frighten you. It frightens us, not only for its content but for what it doesn’t say.”

PAY RAISE FUELS ONLINE FURY If Jindal and Louisiana’s legislators think that simply ignoring the public outcry over the pay raise will simply fizzle out, there are citizens out there making sure that the iron remains hot. The Internet’s become ground zero for a number of recall petitions; at LegeWatch, the slogan is “Because all we get from Baton Rouge is the finger” and the logo is a middle finger imposed over the state Capitol. At RecallPayRaiseTucker.com, the site is seeking volunteers to help with a petition drive to force a recall election for House Speaker Jim Tucker. The group needs 9,000 signatures from District 86. Another blog from Slidell, “Louisiana Recall Them All!” states that “truth transcends political philosophy” and that both Republicans and Democrats should be removed from office. Lafayette Sen. Mike Michot and Gov. Jindal have also inspired recallmichot.com and recalljindal.com.

MULTIPLE ACADIANA LEGISLATORS DONATING PAY RAISE TO CHARITY Meanwhile, a number of Acadiana legislators are separating themselves from the pack by doing the right thing. Independent Rep. Joel Robideaux is leading a contingent of local lawmakers who voted against the bill and intend to donate their pay raises to a fund for the Community Foundation of Acadiana. Robideaux and Rep. Page Cortez say that Reps. Simone Champagne, Jonathan Perry, Fred Mills, Taylor Barras, Bobby Badon, Jack Montecet, Mickey Guillory, Elbert Guillory and Rickey Hardy are on board with the idea.

Republican Rep. Don Trahan and Democratic Sen. Don Cravins Jr. (who both voted against the bill) refused the raise outright.

Rep. Rickey Hardy has a few other ideas. “Charity begins at home, and I’ll be using part of those funds to sponsor a local Little League team I sponsor every year,” he says. Hardy also flashed a bit of his trademark humor. “Maybe I should set aside some of it in an escrow fund for the legal defense of some of my colleagues who voted for the pay raises and could be facing a recall petition.”

TWO RARE VETOES Gov. Bobby Jindal announced last Sunday that he actually vetoed two bills designed to allow exceptions to state ethics laws. Jindal vetoed House Bill 278, which would have created an exception to the limitation on food, drink and refreshment for public servants attending an “event related to recruitment, fund raising or philanthropic activities by or on behalf of an agency or for the benefit of an agency or its programs, activities or mission.” The bill was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Karen St. Germain of Pierre Part.

Jindal also shot down House Bill 947 by Republican state Rep. Nita Hutter of Chalmette, which would have allowed a public servant to accept complimentary admission to a fund-raising event held for the benefit of certain educational institutions or programs, excluding professional, semi-professional or collegiate sporting events.

“I do not see the need to create this exception,” Jindal said in announcing each veto.

Now if we could just determine what he thinks about all of the other legislation that has been piling up on his desk. As of last week, 90 pieces had become law without his signature — more than any other governors, combined, dating back to at least 1990. His closest competitor is his mentor, former GOP Gov. Mike Foster, who was a spectator on 47 bills during his eight years. The Advocate reported that former Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards took action on nearly every piece of legislation that hit their desks — signing or vetoing all but a handful of bills into law. Since 1990, The Advocate reports, Edwards and Blanco let one bill each become law and Roemer three without signatures. That’s 52 bills for the four former governors combined.

Once a bill reaches the governor’s desk it becomes law, unless vetoed, after 10 days during a legislative session. After the session adjourns, the time limit is extended to 20 days.

Contributors: Scott Jordan, R. Reese Fulle and Leslie Turk