NOLATARIAN GOES TO WASHINGTON 10/31/11-11/4/11

This will be the first of a weekly column that follows the actions of US Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter as well as Congressmen Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond. I intend to summarize notable votes, actions, and hearings they take part in each week.

Senate

Not a particularly noteworthy week for David Vitter. He helped reject the Obama jobs bill, S. 1769, but also joined Sens DeMint and Sessions in introducing a bill to prevent the Dept of Justice from suing states over enforcement of immigration laws. The core of this issue is states, most recently Alabama, passing outrageously harmful laws against “illegal” immigrants. Not only do these laws actually harm the economies of the states that pass them, but they arguably overstep state ability to enforce immigration, which is really a federal issue.

Mary Landrieu spent the week getting mad at Bobby Jindal for the cancellation of a broadband grant from the US Dept of Commerce to bring broadband internet to rural areas of LA using federal tax dollars instead of private companies. Also, she and Vitter introduced an interesting bill, the American Mariners Job Protection Act (Jeff Landry is cosponsoring a companion bill in the House). The bill seeks to make it more difficult for the US Maritime Administration to grant waivers to the Jones Act. The Jones Act, enacted some 90 years ago, requires that US vessels be given priority over foreign vessels in moving cargo, unless US vessels are unavailable during a national security crisis. The bill is a protectionist bill that instead of focusing on finding the vessels offering the best deal and subsequent lower prices all the way down to the consumer, prefers to allow US vessels to not have to worry about foreign competition. Yay for higher prices, less competition and Protectionism all in the name of Jobs! I’m all for Louisiana mariners getting contracts and jobs, but if their foreign competition will do it cheaper they should focus on lowering their price and cost instead of running to the government for protection.

House of Representatives

Steve Scalise had only one real action of note last week. In the Energy & Commerce Committee he voted in favor of subpoenaing the White House for documents related to the Solyndra loan guarantee. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of that.

Cedric Richmond issued a press release on Wednesday announcing the Orleans Parish School Board received $7.2 million in FEMA loan forgiveness that he and Senator Landrieu have petitioned for. Also, Richmond has signed on as a co-sponsor to 2 bills, H. Res 452 which will “Recognize the importance labor unions play in ensuring a strong middle class by advocating for more equitable wages, humane work conditions, improved benefits, and increased civic engagement by everyday workers” and HR 3300 which will “establish the Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Poverty which will create and carry out a national plan to cut poverty in American in half in ten years.” Both have been sent to their appropriate committees and hopefully will never make it out.

Fortunately, both Richmond and Scalise voted for “the Access to Capital for Job Creators Act (H.R. 2940) and the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act (H.R. 2930), which would help open up additional avenues for small firms to raise capital, start businesses and grow..” -Sam Graves, Chairman of House Committee on Small Business.

November 19 Ballot Rundown and Endorsements

Early voting begins today for the November 19 election/runoffs. Let’s go over what will be on Orleans Parish ballots.

BESE District 2

Louella Givens is defending her post against Teach For America leader Kira Orange-Jones. October brought us news that Givens was busted for DWI in February and also has a >$1 million IRS lien on her home to which I still haven’t seen her try to explain. Aside from that, the most telling comments that Givens has made that prove it is time for her to go center on her fundamental misunderstanding of school accountability. She says that chartering takes away local control of schools. In a sense she’s correct. It takes away HER control. What chartering really does is completely empower the students and their parents to choose which school is best for them instead of being trapped in the closest school to home. A vote for Orange-Jones is a vote that continues New Orleans and Louisiana education reform.

 

House of Representatives 103

Ray Garofalo (R) vs Chad Lauga (D). Garofalo says he’s committed to shrinking government, so please go right ahead. Lets just keep an eye on those Tea Party socially conservative points.

 

House of Representatives 105

Rocky Asevedo (R) vs Chris Leopold (R) Reading over each of their websites gives you the sense that either one of them would be the typical Republican representative. The one difference is that Asevedo is endorsed by David Vitter, so take that for what it’s worth…

 

Civil District Court Div E

Nakisha Ervin-Knott and Clare Jupiter. I didn’t vote for either in October and I don’t intend to on the 19th as well.

 

Constitutional Amendment

The amendment would prohibit new taxes or fees on the sale or transfer of immovable property after November 30. Even though New Orleans already has a tax like this that would not be affected, I will be voting FOR the amendment to prevent the state legislature from voting for any new taxes of this sort in the future.

 

City Charter Amendment

The amendment would reduce the makeup of the Public Belt Railroad Commissioners from the Mayor and 16 to the Mayor and 9 appointees. I support a measure that reduces the number of politically appointable positions. Vote YES.

 

Depending on your neighborhood there are 2 other items that could appear on your ballot.

In New Orleans East is a measure to create the Pressburg East Neighborhood Improvement and Security Special Taxing District by implementing an annual $200 fee for each parcel of land for 4 years. The fee would go to “the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security and overall betterment of the Pressburg East Neighborhood Improvement and Security District.”

Also in the East another similar proposal for the Lake Barrington Subdivision Improvement District. This proposition would create an annual $350 fee for 8 years on each parcel of land.

I don’t live in either neighborhood, but in general I am opposed to increased taxes for vague purposes of “beautification and security.”

 

 

Councilwoman Palmer Shreds 4th Amendment

I think we’re all in agreement that the shootings that occurred on Halloween night were bad. Yes? We can also agree that the French Quarter, in particular Bourbon and Canal St are heavily populated not only with partygoers, but also many members of NOPD on particularly festive nights. Also, from experience, we know that occasionally some ignorant, angry person decides that the best way to avenge his disagreement is to open fire on that person in public regardless of who else may be around.

Apparently though we have different ideas about what can be done to prevent these occurrences. My District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer stated today that she would like to see us abandon even more of our 4th Amendment rights to the NOPD. The 4th Amendment of the US Constitution says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” It’s bad enough that Louisiana law already allows this right to be infringed upon inside bars, but Palmer’s proposal would allow the police to search anyone within 50 ft of a bar, or Alcohol Beverage Outlet (ABO), for firearms. First, this is ridiculous and would solve nothing. Second, this is ridiculous and could (and probably would, if history tells us anything) be extremely abused.

As the story of the Bourbon St shooting has come to light it’s obvious that Palmer’s proposal would have done absolutely nothing to prevent this shooting unless Marvin Carter had just happened to be loitering outside of a bar waiting for his victim. So please, let us avoid the spectacle of a public hearing and the city having to defend itself in court when it is sued for the unconstitutionality of this motion. Councilwoman Palmer, drop this motion and instead focus on the efforts already underway to address our city’s “culture of violence.” Thank you.

White House Responds to Petition for Legalizing Marijuana

Finally, in response to the most popular petition on the White House website “We The People,” I just received this email:

What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana

By Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.

According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health– the world’s largest source of drug abuse research – marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20’s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.

Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.

As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.

That is why the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we’ve seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We’re also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.

Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.

Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President’s approach to drug control to learn more.”

 

So basically, in spite of what was promised in Obama’s campaign, we’re going to have the exact same policy as his predecessors all in the name of health?? What would be most healthy is not raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night or closing down businesses selling marijuana in many forms that aren’t smoked or locking people away in cages. This is ridiculous and shameful to attempt to hide behind science to excuse Obama’s hypocrisy. I basically don’t see anything in the official response that makes sense or carries any water whatsoever. Thanks for nothing.

October 22 Election Wrapup

First, the good news:

Out of my 20 endorsements, 11 worked out. There will be 2 runoffs for positions I endorsed, BESE District 2 and House of Representatives District 103. I’m most pleased by the 20 mill tax on the New Orleans Regional Business Park being voted down and will be looking forward to see if growth occurs out there in the next 12 months. I’m most disappointed in the passage of Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2. We now have a “sin tax” added to our constitution and hopefully the potential unintended consequences likely with #2 never happen, but I suppose we’ll see.

Some observations on the results in Orleans Parish versus the statewide numbers: Bobby Jindal only mustered 37.6% of the vote in New Orleans compared with his victory of 66% of total votes. Secretary of State was very close overall, with both candidates holding 50% of the statewide vote and Schedler coming out ahead by a mere 8,498 votes. However, in New Orleans Jim Tucker won 59.49% of the votes. Continuing the theme, Mike Strain won the state vote for Commissioner of Agriculture with 67%, but lost in Orleans to Jamie LaBranche 42-51%. Most odd from Saturday night was the rejection of amendment 5 by those outside New Orleans.

Overall it was a pretty quiet election day absent any major surprises. Looking to November 19 we have 3 runoffs, another constitutional amendment and a proposition (or 2 depending on your subdivision) to look forward to. More on those later.