Louisiana: The State We're In; 420; Legislative Coverage: Election Reform, Iranian Students, and Woody Jenkins Profile
Production assistance for the following program was provided in part through contributions to Friends of LPB. Vote fraud, harassment, intimidation, vote machine rigging are not frivolous matters. Are Louisiana elections honest? Jimmy Fitzmorris doesn't think so and neither does Governor Treen who was asking the legislature to change some laws. I want to be in the front trenches defending the things I believe in. And so I guess I'm always going to be stirring up a controversy sometimes or taking a stand on a controversy where it's an important issue involved.
Louisiana: The State We're In, with Beth George and Ron Blome. Good evening. Welcome to this edition of Louisiana: The State We're In. This week we'll have an in-depth look at some proposals aimed at cleaning up Louisiana's election process. We'll also report on some efforts being made to kick Iranian students out of Louisiana universities and we'll profile one of the most conservative members of the Louisiana Legislature. But first this week's Capitol highlights. One week ago, Governor Treen told a joint meeting of the legislature that the state would be collecting $300 million in extra revenue. But this week the Legislative Budget Office was saying those figures were optimistic and that the Governor could come up as much as $106 million short. However, in an interview on Friday, Governor Treen said he was standing by his estimate, that oil and gas revenues will continue to climb. We can't know, to a certainty, that we're going to get $75 million from our lease sales. One might make a case for saying, don't even figure that into your budget projections.
We have to make guesses on what sales taxes will bring in, what income taxes will bring in, and severance taxes, of course, which is also tied to the same question of what we're going to get from the price of oil and where it will go. So the budget for next year is, is as best a guess in all of these areas. But we think our guesses are accurate. Have you decided how you're going to handle that tax cut? No. I've talked to a number of legislators. Almost every chance I get when someone comes to visit with me about some other subject, I ask them for their ideas on this. We're getting basic data and I expect to have that proposal ready this coming week. On other money matters, Governor Treen told us that he was shocked and concerned over reports that repairs cost for the Superdome over the next 10 years could run as much as $100 million. That estimate comes from Superdome Commission chairman Robert Thompson, who says new air conditioning must be
added, lights replaced, and dozens of other problems fixed. The original cost of the Superdome was $163 million and Governor Treen says he wants to investigate the repair dilemma. The 1980 legislative session is now almost half over, and this week some of the committees were working overtime to try and sift their way through the backlog of legislation. And with numerous bills on a wide range of subjects up for consideration, it was only natural that the Capitol became a popular place for citizens to drop by. We have a report on some of the week's activities. Not only were there some important legislative issues still up in the air this week, there were state troopers who decided to prove that Louisiana's 450 foot State Capitol isn't as insurmountable as it looks. But what looked like an assault on the Capitol was actually a demonstration of what the State Police Tactical Unit can accomplish in an emergency. Well, it's dramatic so that we can make a statement. The statement is that the state police is prepared. We've been doing a lot of training, a lot of preparation for high rise rescue and high rise assault. And we feel like today the Capitol is not
very crowded. We had legislators and people we like to see us, how well trained we are. And we thought this would be a good day to do a demonstration. Troopers weren't the only ones assaulting the Capitol this week. Some 250 women against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment showed up to remind lawmakers that they don't want any part of the controversial amendment that would guarantee equality to the sexes. We know that it will be up and we are here today from all over the state that we indeed do not want ERA. And the legislators are still very cognizant of section 2. They know that a vote for ERA is going to transfer power from state governments to federal governments and they don't want to do that. In addition to holding a rally on the steps, the ladies did some one-on-one lobbying with members of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee, a committee that in past years has defeated the resolution. While some lawmakers may have been watching out for their constituents this week, others were watching out for
themselves. The Louisiana Senate Wednesday approved a House-passed measure that would give lawmakers a $4,800 a year boost in salary, to $16,800 while raising their daily expense allowance from $50 to $75 a day. Also this week the Senate Finance Committee approved a hefty pay raise for state elected officials, raising the Governor's salary from just over $52,000 to $75,000 a year. The Lieutenant Governor's salary would go from $42,000 to $59,000 and other state elected officials would be boosted to $56,200. A measure that won't cost the state anything stirred up a fierce debate on the House floor this week. It happened when Representative James David Cain asked the full House to override an unfavorable committee report that killed a bill by him that would require commercial hazardous waste dump operators to test all drinking wells within five miles of their dump sites. All I'm asking y'all to do is give us a chance for those people to get their water wells tested. I don't care what they say. I had the council research it. It's not in this plan.
Representative Manny Fernandez, who wrote much of the state's new environmental laws, argued against Cain's proposal, but the House agreed to consider the bill at a later date by a vote of 41 to 38. A legislative attack on juvenile crime got a start this week when a Senate Judiciary Committee took a proposal aimed at taking young people off the streets after dark. The curfew proposal comes in the wake of several highly publicized murders in New Orleans this year by young teenagers. The proposal would establish an 11 p.m. curfew on juveniles 16 and younger on Sunday through Thursday and a midnight curfew on Friday and Saturday, a curfew that bill author Senator Nat Kiefer calls essential. Parents are not doing the job like they used to do when we were children. You have young people in our city, and I presume in other areas of the state, who are 12 and 13 and 14 years old who are out on the street at 3:00 and 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. Now, youngsters
who are in the streets that late at night with nothing to do are going to get in trouble. And more than that, more than that, juvenile delinquents are killing people, raping people, robbing people, etc. These curfews in my view are absolutely essential, at least in our city, to cut down on this major crime wave. The statewide curfew law was given unanimous approval in committee. But when it reached the Senate floor Wednesday, there was a rush by lawmakers from outside New Orleans to amend their parishes out of the law. In all, 46 of the state's 64 parishes were amended out of the measure which now goes to the House for further action. Briefly in other legislative action this week, a Senate committee approved a bill that would allow a man to divorce his wife if she has an abortion without his knowledge or consent. And the House Education Committee approved two controversial measures this week. One would make the state Superintendent of Education appointive instead of elective and the other would require testing companies to disclose questions and answers
after examinations are administered. State education officials say the testing bill would gut the effectiveness of the National Teacher's Exam which is used to certify teachers in Louisiana. Election reform has been one of the chief issues discussed in this legislative session. This week the Legislature began the process of doing something about it. The administration has a package of bills and the first one was heard in committee Thursday. It calls for 31 changes in the state's election code, including changes in the way an election outcome can be challenged in court. And in fact court suits in the last governor's race may be part of the reason the laws governing elections in Louisiana may be changing. We have this in-depth report on election reform. Vote buying, vote fraud, harassment, intimidation, vote machine rigging are not frivolous matters. Are Louisiana's elections honest? Jimmy Fitzmorris, an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, doesn't think so. And neither does Governor Treen, who is asking the
Legislature this year to overhaul the state's election laws. Fundamental to the attainment of confidence in public officials is that the public be assured of the integrity and fairness of the election process. To that end I am proposing the establishment of a state Elections Integrity Commission. It would have the authority to monitor... If politics in Louisiana have enjoyed a colorful reputation, elections in Louisiana have become increasingly a source of embarrassment. High stakes races for statewide offices produced among other things a 20 million dollar battle for the governor's seat. But all the battles were not waged at the polls. The court suit over who would be in the gubernatorial runoff produced charges of vote buying and vote fraud. The attention given to this suit and federal investigations into recent congressional races in Louisiana have led to a new push for election and campaign reform. A special legislative committee on election reform spent four months hearing
testimony from those involved in the election process. Senator Tommy Hudson, who chaired that committee, said they found no easy solutions. When we undertook this task, you know, I guess your immediate gut reaction is where you clean up a few laws here and you take care of some problems there. I don't think anyone knew how extensive and pervasive many of the problems were and to correct one, you merely created a problem on the other hand. The recommendations for change in the state's election laws fall into three major categories: the political campaigns themselves, how they are financed and how that financing is reported to the public. The voting: how it is supervised and how the votes are counted. And finally the election results: when they are made official and how legal challenges may be conducted fairly. All this adds up to ensuring the integrity of an election and the vote of a citizen. But one of the major stumbling blocks has been deciding just who is in charge.
I think, to the surprise of most of the people on the committee, we found out that in statewide elections from the time the state drops off the voting machines to the time they pick up the voting machines, the state really provides no leadership, guidance or oversight in the election process. Consequently, you have problems with tabulation. You have problems with just implementing an election. I think what will end up happening or, at least that is the plan right now, is there was an original proposal to have an Elections Integrity Commission. In that legislation, it will abolish the state election supervisors. I think what should be done is, there are two different functions and I think what will end up happening is that we will divide the functions, allow the Elections Integrity Commission to investigate elections and investigate complaints regarding races and then allow them to pursue a candidate or to get into a race to ensure
the integrity of an election. But on the other hand, you have the elections board which will deal with the administration of election -- the delivery of the machines, the... If a compromise has been reached by Governor Treen and the special elections committee about what groups will be supervising elections, one man is not happy with that result, Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler. Fowler, recently elected to the post vacated by his father, says he has not been consulted about any changes. I think that, I think, you know, we know something about elections. This department does. You don't run elections that length of time, as we have here and not know something about elections and that's just like I think, you know, I can't understand any committee being formed to buy voting machines and not include the office of the commissioner of elections on the committee. There is a proposal in the Legislature to make the commissioner of elections an appointed position. But whether that will be pushed is still not clear.
One thing is certain. There will be a concerted effort to buy new voting machines. And although no one has asked Fowler, Governor Treen has pledged $16 million to pay for them. The recommendation, unanimous recommendation, of the House-Senate committee was that the State of Louisiana make an investment in the integrity of elections in the state, not just by passing new laws, but by doing something very basic that can perhaps be more effective than any law dealing with this particular subject matter could be. And that is to make an investment in better equipment and precisely what I'm speaking of is voting machines. Not all of the state's election problems can be solved by spending more money. In fact, some are suggesting that spending less money on campaigns might be a solution. Representative Forrest Dunn says limiting the amount that could be contributed to a candidate would be a start. About 50 percent of the states in the union have a limit on the contributions that candidates can receive and Louisiana does not have any at all. It was
my hope that we would be able to establish some type of criteria as to what funds the candidates could receive. Consequently, it would have an effect on what they spend. Because if they did not receive as much, they couldn't spend as much. Representative Dunn's plan, patterned on federal law, was rejected by committee this week as was another proposal concerning campaign monies, this one by Senator Allen Bares, that paying workers to drive voters to the polls should be outlawed. Election Day, if you pay for it by check, which you can hire people to haul voters to the polls. In my humble opinion, that is very near first cousins, maybe or maybe double first cousins, to vote buying. And that goes on all across the state. It goes on certainly in the southern part of the state where I know about it. I think that ought to be outlawed. I think that ought to be illegal, not to be permitted.
The Bares bill was defeated in committee, showing once again that solutions to solving the state's election problems do not come easily. Part of the problem is that every politician must be an expert in the field and therefore has his own opinions. And some would say that attitudes, not laws, make the difference. But this year there is momentum for change, and it may come as much from outside the state as from within because the Louisianians are concerned about their national image. We laugh about politics that it's fun and that we pay a lot of attention to it and certainly there are more players probably than any other state percentage wise because we enjoy politics. But it can also, you can become callous to the fact that unless it's run properly, then it can do a great deal of damage. And I think it had reached a point, I think people, instead of laughing at the accusations and allegations, they said well this is my state and I'm proud of it and I'm not proud of the way the elections are run and I think that's why people are insisting on cleaning up the
elections. I think it needs to be done this year because I do think, as a practical matter, that the further you get away from the celebrated cases of vote irregularity, the less interest there is. So that you need to strike while the fire's hot. And I think we need to strike this year and to do something about it. Do you think the country then will have a different impression of Louisiana or will they even notice? Do they only notice when you... I don't think that yes. I think the point is that they won't notice it until, until we have another case and I hope we don't. But over a period of time, if we can avoid these sort of scandals or alleged scandals, then I think that our reputation will be enhanced. But, of course, it takes a long time to overcome the damage created by a scandal such as we had in the congressional elections. But I think that, I hope that the country will take note that Louisiana has created its own mechanism for handling these
in the future. Ron, next week the Legislature will be considering a number of other bills involving campaign reform and we'll have a report on that, I suppose, in next week's show. Beth, the frustration over the Iranian hostage crisis spilled into the Louisiana Legislature this week as first the House and then the Senate approved resolutions calling on Louisiana's universities not to admit Iranian students as long as the hostages are being held. It's the subject of this week's pro/con. At issue is whether Iranian students who are in this country legally can be denied the same rights accorded to U.S. citizens. Last week, the LSU Board of Supervisors voted 12 to 5 to prohibit the Iranians from attending LSU. The Louisiana House followed suit Monday, calling on all universities to keep Iranians out. And Thursday the Senate took up the debate. Tell the people of this state and the people of this country and the Iranian people how you feel. Say are we gonna pussyfoot around or are we going to get tough? I've been sitting in my chair trying to refrain from getting on the mic and talking
about this thing. When is a citizen of a country that is the enemy of this nation entitled to the same privileges and rights as an American citizen? They just aren't. I don't believe they are. There's some in here that, who believe they are. So, let's just get it get out of the way, you know? Everyone now agrees that in World War II, when detention centers were established in this country and Japanese-American citizens were forced into those detention centers and their property was confiscated. We look back upon that and we all say unanimously that was one of the most sordid acts ever conducted under the auspices of government in this country. And many of us have asked the question: Why wasn't the same thing done to the German-American citizens in this country? Why were the Japanese citizens singled out for detention centers? And the universal thinking on that is because perhaps it smacked a little bit of racism. And I
submit to you. I doubt very seriously whether if we were engaged with France or Great Britain or Germany or any other country the way we are with Iran right now, whether anybody would be standing up making a resolution to deny admission to German students at LSU or Italian students at LSU or British students at LSU. I submit to you that this also smacks of racism and I'm totally opposed to it. After lengthy debate, the Senate adopted a somewhat softer resolution calling for the expulsion of only those Iranian students who support the taking of the hostages, burn the American flag or otherwise break U.S. laws. There are approximately 600 Iranian students in Louisiana's universities and on Thursday 67 students at LSU's Baton Rouge campus went to court to try and stay in school. The students sued the Board of Supervisors in federal court, charging that the resolution keeping them out of school was unconstitutional. Everything we report on in our legislative coverage from the struggle for reform to the personalities and individuals involved is tied by the common thread of politics. Politics, the real life game,
that holds the fascination of so many Louisiana spectators. Tonight our profile is about a man who has learned to play the political game about as well as any man, State Representative Woody Jenkins. Thirty-three-year-old State Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge is a popular man on the steps of the State Capitol. He is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the Louisiana Legislature and he is often found addressing citizen rallies on the capitol steps, rallies held to protest against such issues as the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion and the repeal of the former ban on sex education. Being an advocate is very important to you. You speak out on a lot of issues. You speak at a lot of the rallies on the steps. The other day you spoke out at the rally against the ERA. Some might say that you're being a bit of an opportunist to do that. Or is it? Well, people can evaluate what I do in any way they want to. I've been in the Legislature nine years, and I've spoken out consistently all
that time on, on what I consider to be important. And the reason I speak out is because I have felt over this time that our country and our state are in a lot of trouble. We're in trouble politically, economically and even morally, for that matter. And I think it's time we turn around the direction of government at all levels and I wouldn't want to be in a position someday if our country ever falls and our state falls that when they asked me, "What were you doing during times of crisis?" that I was on the backbenches somewhere. I want to be in the, in the front trenches defending the things I believe in. And so I guess I'm always going to be stirring up a controversy sometimes or taking a stand on a controversy where it's an important issue involved. And if we pass the ERA, the only certain thing is that we'll be granting a blank check to federal judges to rewrite
every state law we have on the books that in any way deals with sex, men and women, the family or other related matters. If a scorecard were kept on the eight years that Woody Jenkins has been in the Legislature, it would show that he has spoken out against administration proposals on taxes, far more often than he has spoken in favor of legislation. Former Governor Edwards classified him as a part of the negative faction that is always against the administration, no matter what the proposal. But Jenkins, who has helped lead the independent conservative caucus for three years, says he and the group have played a positive role. Well, you know, our independent legislative study group has offered a legislative program every year for the last five or six years. That program consists of anywhere from 15 to 25 major points. Every year we've passed a majority of those points, such as the requirement for new teachers to pass a National Teachers' Exam, the requirement that we have presidential primaries, the free enterprise course in the schools and many, many other things that are now
law. So we've been very successful as a group, and I personally passed more than 100 major bills into law. So we passed things. And, but, yes, I won't hesitate to rise and oppose something and I won't worry about being called negative because to me what's negative depends on your philosophy. To me it's negative to raise taxes and take more of our hard-earned cash. It's negative to impose more regulations on the free enterprise system. It's negative to take away some of our property rights or establish a greater and larger state bureaucracy. Those things are negative. And when you oppose proposals to do those things, you're not being negative. You're being positive. So a lot of that, I think, is great propaganda on the part of Governor Edwards and but there's not much substance to it. I didn't hesitate to oppose him when I thought he was wrong. I support him when I thought was right and I intend to do the same thing with respect to the Treen administration. Governor Treen is a Republican, a conservative Republican. I consider
myself a conservative Democrat, but I'm not going to be someone who's going to be controlled by any administration. I'm going to be speaking out and trying to be an independent voice because I think the Legislature and individual legislators should be independent if they're going to represent the people that they were sent here to represent, namely the people in their own districts. Your record has been something of a civil libertarian in the House. You were involved in the rights of persons who are committed to state mental institutions several years ago. Just the other day, you argued against a resolution that wanted to kick the Iranian students out of Louisiana universities. Yet on some other issues, on sex education you were in favor of continuing the state ban on the teaching of that. You've been in favor of extending more state controls over abortion clinics, things that are moral and social issues. How do you equate those two? It almost seems a paradox at times to see you on one side here then on the other side over here. Well, I could take issue with how you characterize my positions on those different
things because I don't think I would characterize them the same that you did. But basically I think there's a limit that the government should not transgress when it comes to infringing on the rights of individuals. Let's take in the case of abortion. Yes, I'm against abortion. And to me that is a way in which I'm able to stand up for people's rights. To me the person who's being transgressed there in a case of abortion is the unborn child. To me that's a way to protect people's rights and I'm out to protect people's rights. Sometimes we don't agree, of course, on what people's rights are in a given case. You have a lot of ties to the Democratic Party. You've been a delegate to two Democratic conventions, yet the Democratic Party is often seen as being more liberal than where your own somewhat conservative philosophy is. Do you find it uncomfortable at times? Do you think of switching parties? Well, what I'm trying to do in the Democratic Party is help move it away from the far left and more toward the center and maybe to the right, because I feel like that the average Democrat
in our country is a pretty conservative fellow. And I don't think he believes in the same philosophy as a Ted Kennedy or even a Jimmy Carter. But they don't have leaders at the national level that they can identify with and vote for. I'm afraid that someday the Democratic Party will become just like the Labour Party in Britain, an out and out Socialist Party. The only thing that will prevent that is the conservatives who work within the Democratic Party to help pull it over to the right. So that's what I'm trying to do. I might be more comfortable in the Republican Party, I guess, if comfort were my goal. But in terms of being effective in helping to change the direction of our country, right now I think I can do more good in the Democratic Party. As to his own political future, Woody Jenkins would like to serve in the U.S. Senate. He gathered 41 percent of the vote against Bennett Johnston two years ago in a Senate race and he is now considering a challenge to Senator Russell Long this fall. Jenkins says he already has a statewide organization in place, and he says he will make his decision on the race in the next four to six weeks.
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- Beth George and Ron Blome host this episode of "Louisiana: The State We're In," which includes an in-depth report on proposals for election reform in the state, a story about Senate and House resolutions to exclude Iranians from universities in the state during the Iranian hostage crisis, and a profile on State Representative "Woody" Jenkins, one of Louisiana's most conservative politicians. George and Blome begin the episode by introducing "capitol highlights," and cover stories on Governor Dave Treen's projected state revenue figures, a police tactical unit emergency drill demonstration on the State Capitol Building, an-anti ERA rally, a curfew proposal, and other legislative news.
- Louisiana: The State We're In is a magazine featuring segments on local Louisiana news and current events.
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