On May 29, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law six bills strengthening the state’s laws against domestic violence — one of the largest-ever packages of bills tackling domestic violence issues in Louisiana. State Rep. Helena Moreno and state Sen. J.P. Morrell, both Democrats from New Orleans, introduced the legislation in their respective buildings. In a statement, Jindal said domestic violence “has plagued our society for too long. Sadly, too many victims of domestic violence live throughout Louisiana.” The bills also received unanimous support in the House and Senate and in committees.
Louisiana has one of the highest rates of domestic homicides in the U.S. In New Orleans, the Family Justice Center directly serves more than 1,200 people a year, and its 24-hour crisis line receives more than 10,000 calls annually. In 2013, the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children received 5,000 calls to its 24-hour crisis line.
Morrell’s Senate Bill 291 allows domestic violence survivors to be awarded punitive damages in suits related to domestic abuse, and Senate Bill 292 allows for an immediate divorce if a family member is physically or sexually abused or if there is an active protective order against the spouse. (In 2012, there were more than 3,000 protective orders issued in New Orleans.)
Moreno’s House Bill 747 includes “domestic abuse aggravated assault” as a crime of violence and requires offenders to participate in a court-monitored domestic abuse intervention program; House Bill 750 requires the immediate arrest of an offender if the predominant aggressor is in violation of a protective order; and House Bill 753 — the Pixie Geaux Act — prohibits domestic violence offenders from possessing a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon, updating state law to be consistent with federal law. That bill faced a Legislature disproportionately favoring Second Amendment rights, and thanks to a state constitutional amendment requiring gun laws to meet a “strict scrutiny” clause, it needed to pass muster with the NRA, which holds a powerful lobby in Baton Rouge. (In Louisiana, 66 percent of murders of a woman by a husband, boyfriend or ex are committed with handguns.) Kim Sport, United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s public policy committee chair, helped draft the legislation.
“When we started, we weren’t sure what reception we’d get in legislature,” she said. “We made sure the law passed does not go any further than federal law in place. Local law enforcement can’t enforce federal law — we had to have federal law on the books. As long as we kept the language identical, NRA said they would stand down.”
NOTE: This post, originally titled "The Dirty Dozen," has been updated to include the names of ALL area lawmakers who voted for Senate Bill 469, which is designed to kill the regional flood authority's environmental lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. In this update report, I include all metro area lawmakers, not just those whose districts lie in the geographic boundaries of the flood protection authority.
LATER UPDATE: After playing phone tag for more than a day, state Sen. JP Morrell and I spoke and he explained that he was always AGAINST SB 469. He voted against it the first time it was considered by the full Senate. When it returned from the House for concurrence in the House amendment, Morrell said, he was not in the Senate Chamber. However, someone voted his machine in his absence, casting a vote FOR the bill. "I went to the mic to speak against the bill when it came up the first time," Morrell said. "Had I been in the Senate when it came back, I would have voted against it again." It is not unusual for lawmakers' machines to be "voted" for them in their absence, and occasionally it leads to mistaken votes such as Morrell's on SB 469. The story below has been revised to account for Morrell's explanation of his second vote.
Twenty-one state lawmakers from flood-prone southeast Louisiana parishes (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. John, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany) voted for a bill to retroactively kill a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. Voters in those areas overwhelmingly oppose legislative attempts to kill the lawsuit, which means those local lawmakers put the interests of Big Oil ahead of their constituents’ interests.
Eighteen area legislators voted against the bill to kill the lawsuit, and four area House members were absent for the final vote. Being absent for a floor vote is equivalent to voting "no" because bills require 20 "yes" votes in the Senate and 53 "yes" votes in the House regardless of how many lawmakers are present.
Worst of all, the area lawmakers who voted for the bill more than made the difference in its passage in both the Senate and the House. Seven area state senators voted for the bill, which passed by a margin 25-11. In the House, 15 area representatives voted for the bill, which passed by a margin of 59-39.
The current geographic boundaries of SLFPA-E's jurisdiction include the East Bank of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, plus St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa. Lawmakers recently passed, and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed, a bill creating a separate St. Tammany Levee District outside the jurisdiction of SLFPA-E, but hurricanes and storm surges don't respect political boundaries or acts of the Louisiana Legislature.
The SLFPA-E lawsuit seeks to hold the named energy defendants responsible for their share of damages to coastal wetlands. Contrary to the meme put forth by Big Oil and its political lackeys (Gov. Jindal chief among them), the suit was never intended to make the energy industry solely accountable for coastal land loss. From Day One, supporters of the lawsuit and attorneys for SLFPA-E stated that several factors contributed to coastal erosion. The lawsuit was simply aimed at getting the energy industry to pay its fair share.
Thanks to a slick procedural maneuver in the state Senate — and support from some local lawmakers — that lawsuit now appears doomed, unless a constitutional challenge can restore some sense of fairness and equity to Louisiana’s judicial system. The maneuver was a bait-and-switch that allowed the original version of Senate Bill 469, by Sen. Robert Adley, a Republican from the north Louisiana town of Benton, to be gutted in a Senate committee and reconstituted as a bill to kill the lawsuit. Adley, who is an oil-and-gas businessman, ranks among the leading opponents of the floor authority lawsuit.
Since he became governor, it’s been the worst-kept secret in Louisiana politics: Bobby Jindal can’t wait to leave Louisiana and run for president. Despite his boilerplate “I have the job I want” response to early inquiries about his frequent fundraising trips to early caucus and key primary states, Jindal could never plausibly deny his higher ambitions.
So much so that he recently admitted “everybody knows” he is “thinking” about it. Consider that a prelude to “praying over” his decision and “talking it over with his family” before officially announcing the obvious.
In typical Jindal fashion, the rollout of his budding candidacy was tightly scripted and contrived. In late March, Jindal told the Heritage Foundation’s conservative news service, “It’s something we’re thinking about. It’s something we’ll pray about.” In early April, he told an NPR interviewer, “There’s a practical benefit to having governors run for president.”
But even an eternal political optimist like Jindal must admit that he faces a long, uphill climb to win the Republican nomination, let alone the White House. At least a half-dozen other Republicans consistently poll better than he among GOP voters looking to 2016.
Jindal admirers note that he’s still young (he’s 42), and that’s true. He could factor into the next four presidential contests as a candidate or potential candidate — but so could the men who are his current GOP competitors: Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, also 42; Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, 43; U.S. Rep. (and former vice presidential nominee) Paul Ryan, 44; and Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, 53.
For now, Jindal’s best shot at the White House appears to be on the coattails of a GOP presidential nominee as his or her vice presidential running mate. No one officially runs for vice president, of course. You have to start by running for president and distinguishing yourself without alienating the eventual nominee. That’s not easy for a guy whose stock in trade is bashing other politicians.
And that’s the easy part. If the nation (and the national media) ever takes a close look at Jindal, there’s liable to be plenty they won’t like. Here are five key reasons why Bobby Jindal will never, ever be president:
Welcome to Day 4 of my countdown of the top five reasons why Bobby Jindal will never, ever be president. We started on Tuesday with Reason #5 (He's from Louisiana — Duh!) and continued on Wednesday with Reason #4 (He doesn't "look presidential").
Yesterday, we offered Reason #3 (He’s too timid to be a frontrunner, and the GOP loves frontrunners), so now it's time for Reason #2:
He’s not even the choice of the GOP’s right wing. Okay, so Bobby Jindal doesn’t look like Ronald Reagan or run like George W. Bush, and he’s from a state most Americans consider a quirky outpost. He at least is the darling of the Religious Right and the tea party, right?
Jindal trails every other potential candidate that is courting the GOP’s ideologically conservative base. U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, along with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Rep. (and former GOP vice presidential nominee) Paul Ryan and Texas Gov. Rick Perry all finished ahead of Jindal in the 2014 CPAC straw poll. Jindal got just 2 percent of the CPAC vote after speaking to the group for 15 uninspiring minutes. That makes him a long shot even for vice president.
Admittedly, the CPAC poll hasn’t been a bellwether for future nominees. How about the Iowa caucuses, then? In that crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state, Jindal didn’t even register a blip on the radar screen in an April poll of likely GOP voters, despite his forays to the Hawkeye State in recent years. In that poll, three potential candidates formed a top tier: Huckabee with 20 percent; Ryan with 19 percent; and Jeb Bush with 18 percent. The second tier consisted of Rubio and Cruz at 9 percent, Paul at 8 percent, Christie at 7 percent and Walker at 6 percent. Trailing the pack was Joe Scarborough at 4 percent, which puts Jindal somewhere at the bottom of (or just below) the third tier.
It's now Day 3 of my countdown of the top five reasons why Bobby Jindal will not be president in 2016, or ever, despite his non-stop campaigning in key caucus and primary states. We started on Tuesday with Reason #5 (He's from Louisiana — Duh!) and continued yesterday with Reason #4 (He doesn't "look presidential").
Now it's time to roll out Reason #3:
He’s too timid to be a frontrunner, and the GOP loves frontrunners. If the definition of boldness is the willingness to risk one’s political capital to pursue the greater good, Bobby Jindal is the opposite of bold. Given the choice between risking his political capital and playing it safe, you can count on Jindal to play it safe every time.
The only time in his six-year-plus tenure as governor that anyone called one of Jindal’s initiatives “bold” was when he pushed a plan to replace Louisiana’s middling income tax with the highest combined state and local sales tax rates in the nation. The plan was hatched by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and endorsed by every conservative think tank in the land, which hardly qualifies it as “bold.” If anything, it was a typical Jindal ploy; it played to the bleachers of the GOP’s most conservative chorus.
Why is this important?
Because you don’t get to the front of the pack by playing it safe. To be a frontrunner, you have to distinguish yourself. You don’t have to commit political suicide, but cheerleading louder than everyone else won’t suffice. You have to swim against the tide sometimes — as a matter of principle, not political expediency. Jindal has never done that, and he’s not likely to start. He just doesn't have it in him.
Consider the men who have captured the GOP presidential nomination in recent decades: Every one of them began the primary season as the frontrunner, and every one of them distinguished himself in some way that was not typically Republican.
Yesterday, I began counting down the top 5 reasons why Bobby Jindal will not be president — not in 2016, not ever. Reason number 5: He's from Louisiana — Duh!
Today I present reason #4: He doesn’t “look presidential.”
Admittedly, this sounds like a really shallow observation, but let’s face it: American presidential elections are basically popularity contests that focus largely on charisma and good looks, with some emphasis on philosophy thrown in for good measure. If voters (including those in party primaries) really focused on qualifications and experience more than appearances and other superficial qualities, Barack Obama would never have beaten Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008, and John McCain would have soundly defeated George W. Bush for the GOP nod in 2000. There are many other examples.
The importance of “looking presidential” infects both political parties, but let’s focus on the GOP, because that’s where Jindal has to compete. Consider the Republican presidential nominees of the past three decades:
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