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Landry denies bill enhancing attorney general's budgetary control is a power grab

By Karen Kidd | May 25, 2016

BATON ROUGE  – House Bill 105, which would provide the Louisiana Attorney General's Office more power over its budget by taking those powers away from the governor, remains in a Senate committee as adjournment looms, but the attorney general is optimistic the bill will prevail, a spokeswoman said.

“The attorney general is optimistic that constitutional officers duly elected by the state’s voters – just like the governor – will be able to manage their own budgets," Ruth Wisher, press secretary to Attorney General Jeff Landry, said in an email to the Louisiana Record. "It is unfortunate the governor is playing Washington D.C.-style politics with the legislature and the budget by issuing a hyper veto threat before the legislature finishes its process.”

While the bill has not been featured in much media coverage of the state's struggle to find a solution to Louisiana's budget crisis, Landry did testify for more than an hour on the floor of the House about H.B. 105.

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he will veto the bill should it reach his office. Not everyone is confident the bill will get that far, however, not the least because the proposed legislation would not entirely benefit the attorney general. House Representatives approved an amendment penned by Rep. Jack Montoucet (D-Crowley) that would take approximately $6 million from the attorney general’s budget and give it to Louisiana's rural hospitals.

The House voted to pass the bill by a wide nonpartisan margin.

"The measure was overwhelmingly passed in a bipartisan matter, 69 -- 17 of which were NOT Republicans -- yays and 26 nays," Wisher said.

Absent from the House vote were Neil C. Abramson (D-New Orleans), Bryan Adams (R-Gretna), Joseph Bouie Jr. (R-New Orleans), Barbara W. Carpenter (D-Baton Rouge), Gary M. Carter Jr. (D-New Orleans), Reid Falconer (R-Mandeville), Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie), Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) and Julie Stokes (R-Kenner).

The bill then was sent to the Senate, where it was referred on May 17 to the Committee on Finance, which is expected to consider the proposed legislation later this week. While the state legislature is expected to adjourn, the governor reportedly is considering calling another special session, which means H.B. 105 could have additional time for consideration.

Meanwhile, Landry and state legislators have objected to how the bill has been characterized.

"As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a lawyer, I am disappointed in the media’s coverage of House Bill 105, which deals with the appropriations for the Louisiana Department of Justice (LADOJ)," Rep. Blake J. Miguez, said in a guest column published by the USA Today publication, The Advertiser.

Miguez is chairman of the Louisiana House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

"We have a budget crisis in Louisiana, and everyone knows it," he wrote. "As legislators, we have received constituents' countless telephone calls, emails and letters of concern, and many of us are trying to urge the reforms necessary to create a more fiscally responsible budget and state government. H.B. 105 by Rep. Cameron Henry, the Appropriations Chairman, is an important step in the accomplishment of that mission."

For his own part, Landry, speaking to reporters during a Baton Rouge Press Club meeting on Monday denied H.B. 105 is a power grab.

“I have not in any way – ever – made any notion that I was trying to grab power," Landry said. "However that has been a common theme that the media seems to want to take.”

Instead, Landry said, the legislation provides a way to better manage his budget.

"Nothing in the bill confers additional power on the attorney general," Landry said. “This simply gives a constitutional officer the ability to manage his money, with the oversight being the proper oversight, that being the legislature.”

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