Little Bang In Gun Laws
A national advocacy group describes Louisiana's gun laws as "weak or non-existent." The Brady Campaign gave the Bayou State two out of 100 points in its annual survey of U.S. states, in which Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma are tied for the bottom spot. The Brady Campaign is named after Jim Brady, who was partially paralyzed from gunshot wounds during a failed assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan in 1981. The group's new report suggests that most states, including Louisiana, have actually helped feed the illegal gun market and eliminate safety measures. "Once again, the scores for most states are abysmal," says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign. "Most people don't realize how few laws we have on the books restricting easy access to guns. As a result, we continue to make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons." Helmke says Louisiana's score actually dropped this year, which can be directly attributed to the state's new, so-called "take your guns to work" law. Since August, employers have been prohibited from banning guns that are kept in their employee parking lots. Act 684 from the 2008 regular session was sponsored by Sen. Joe McPherson, a Democrat from Woodworth. The report also shows Louisiana has no laws regarding a waiting period on gun sales, reporting lost guns, limitations on "junk" handguns, background checks on all sales and for several other areas. To read the full Louisiana scorecard, visit http://www.stategunlaws.org/viewstate.php?st=LA. — Jeremy Alford
Ethics ... Or Not
In the wake of the big splash Gov. Bobby Jindal made with ethics reform bills last year, some might expect a follow-up of sorts this spring. So far, though, things are quiet. Even internally, there aren't many earth-shattering resolutions (the low-hanging fruit of legislation) to serve as feel-good sequels to 2008's touted reforms. "There are a few things that we might do internally, but it's just coming together," GOP House Speaker Jim Tucker of Algiers says. "I just met with my 16 chairmen, and we're deciding who's going to do what." Last year, Tucker pushed resolutions that required recordings of floor proceedings and committee meetings to be maintained for at least three years, forced nonprofits to supply detailed information if they want state money, cracked down on lawmakers changing their votes and threatened to remove members of the House Appropriations Committee if they're under indictment. — Alford
Energy Leases Remain Sluggish
This month's oil and gas lease sale showed a slight improvement over the record lows seen in December and January, but there are still signs the industry is waiting for the national economy to rebound. The state Mineral Board collected more than $604,000 from leases sold at its February meeting, which represents roughly a $200,000 increase from the February 2008 sale. That boost, however, doesn't amount to much when you consider the average February sale from 2003 to 2007 was $4.6 million. Offshore leases are likewise still struggling and this month's meeting yielded no offshore sales at all. Even during the beginning of the calendar year, which is traditionally slow, the state has always managed to squeak out a few offshore lease sales — 17 were moved during the February sales of 2007 and 2008.
Yet, there was a silver lining for coastal parishes. The lion's share of onshore leases awarded during this month's sale was in south Louisiana, with 14 of the 16 tracts located below I-10. That includes five tracts in Terrebonne Parish and four in Plaquemines Parish. Lafourche, Cameron and Iberville were also on the board, but the activity in Plaquemines Parish — more than 1,000 acres leased — accounted for about two-thirds of the entire sale, including one tract of about 900 acres. Overall, the state awarded 16 leases this month covering 1,612 acres. In all, there were 28 nominated tracts for February, covering 34,140 acres.
It's been a tough run. Last month, the Mineral Board collected only $881,000, the weakest January sale on record for at least the past 13 years. The December sale, meanwhile, came in at roughly $1.4 million, representing the lowest year-end sale since 2004. Nonetheless, the ongoing year had its perks. More than $192.7 million has been collected during the current fiscal year (ending June 30), making it one of the best collection years in recent history. It's all due to an impressive showing in the Haynesville Shale area from June to October. Each monthly sale ranked among the top six collection days on record, bringing in $35 million to $93 million each time.
The Mineral Board's next meeting is scheduled for March 11. For further details or historical lease data, go to http://dnr.louisiana.gov/min/minboard/minmeet09.asp. — Alford