When Treasurer John Schroder was running for the statewide-elected office he was sworn into last month, he promised voters a website where government spending could be tracked and investigated.
As Schroder was campaigning on the idea, other lawmakers and special interest groups were also looking into similar models to implement in Louisiana, with most gravitating back toward something called the Ohio Checkbook.
Now there are conservative outfits like the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity vowing to make the spending transparency website a reality.
Schroder, for his part, said in a recent interview that he remains focused on achieving his original goal as well.
“I’ll partner up with anybody, but I don’t want to be stonewalled,” the treasurer said. “We are working our way toward that already in this department.”
If the drive to establish a statewide system fails, Schroder said, he would still want to establish online access into his own department.
“I’ll do it,” he said. “I don’t need legislation to do that.”
The Ohio Checkbook was created by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, among others, and it allows anyone to use Google-style queries to track or search for spending by the state, local governments, school districts, pension systems and other entities.
Louisiana has a similar system in place now called LaTrac, but Schroder and others contend it falls short and doesn’t dig deep enough.
“Money and funding is obviously a challenge, but a transparent portal into spending could generate savings for us,” said Schroder. “People’s activities change when you make things more transparent.”
The Ohio Checkbook reportedly cost $800,000 and took two years to bring online.
A different look for Regents Board
After this week’s meeting, the Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees public higher education, has a whole new look.
Former district attorney Robert W. Levy was selected as the new chairman of the influential board, replacing Richard Lipsey, whose term has expired.
It won’t be too much of an adjustment for Levy, who has served on the board for more than 16 years, including one previous term as chair.
“I am keenly aware of both the challenges and the opportunities that are ahead,” he said. “These are critical times in higher education that call for tough decisions -- especially when we are continuously faced with budgetary challenges and limited funding.”
To increase educational attainment, Levy said, the state should “stop disinvesting in higher education” and get back to investing in students and institutions.
“To do less is to continue our rankings at the bottom of the list for every good higher education measure and the top of the list for negative measures,” he said. “We must strive to increase our access and success.”
A new board member, former state Senate President Randy Ewing, was also sworn in during this week’s meeting.
Political History: Where is Louisiana’s political capital?
Which Louisiana city has the best political crop?
Is it Crowley or Winnfield? Or is it somewhere else?
That was the question posed by an episode of The LaPolitics Lowdown video series last month.
Winnfield is not only home to the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, but it’s also home to three Louisiana governors -- Huey Long, Earl Long and Oscar K. Allen.
From this generation of politicos, there are also state Sens. Gerald Long and Jim Fannin; state Rep. Jack McFarland; and late state Reps. Mike Tinnerello and Jimmy Long.
As for Crowley, freshman state Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, spent some time during the episode pointing out a few notables, such as government relations professional Jim Nickel, late Judge Edmund Reggie, former Gov. Edwin Edwards, former Congressman Chris John and former U.S. Sen. John Breaux.
Since the episode aired in early December, state Rep. Sam Jones of Franklin has reached out and suggested that LaPolitics forgot about St. Mary, which is technically a parish and not a city, like Crowley and Winnfield.
So he got a little more specific.
“Franklin, Louisiana, was home to four governors, one lieutenant governor and two U.S. senators,” Jones added. “And I’m sure I can come up with more.”
The four Franklin governors were Mike and Murphy Foster, Jared Y. Sanders and Henry Johnson. The lieutenant governor was Taddy Aycock and the pair of U.S. senators were Alexander Porter and Donelson Caffrey.
They Said It
“I don’t think the body has the stomach to make the hard decisions.”
— State Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, describing the House of Representatives to The Advocate.
“I’m playing the nice guy.”
— John Fortunato, a candidate for Jefferson Parish sheriff describing his campaign strategy to WWL-TV.