The story I hear is that Gov. Blanco threatened to block offshore drilling (in Int'l waters!) if they didn't get the additional aid.
President offers $4.2 billion more
Senate scrambles to salvage land trust
By GERARD SHIELDS AND MICHELLE MILLHOLLON
Advocate staff writers
Published: Feb 16, 2006
Associated Press (AP) by LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE
Gov. Blanco, center, speaks about Hurricane Katrina rebuilding Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Behind her, from left, are New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, White House reconstruction coordinator for the Gulf Coast Don Powell and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
The Bush administration offered Louisiana hurricane victims another $4.2 billion in housing aid Wednesday, but Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s plan to get people back in homes nearly collapsed at the State Capitol.
If approved by Congress, the new aid would give the state $9.8 billion to fix and replace homes for hundreds of thousands of residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“This is awesomely good,” said Walter Isaacson, vice chairman of Blanco’s Louisiana Recovery Authority. “It shows that the president was committed …”
But back in Baton Rouge, the governor’s floor leaders had to use a parliamentary maneuver to save a stripped-down version of her plan to create a Louisiana Housing and Land Trust Corp. to use the money.
“We’re going to feel real good about ourselves,” said a bitter Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, after the legislation failed on a first vote, two days before the end of a special legislative session.
The corporation would help homeowners through home buyouts, loans, house repairs, gap financing, grants and mortgage payment assistance. An 11-member appointed board would oversee the trust.
Senate Bill 49 passed the Senate on a second vote — with several senators absent — but it lacks a staff and would have to get permission from the Legislature to spend any of the money.
Blanco joined Louisiana congressmen in Washington, D.C., to be on hand for the announcement that Louisiana will receive more money than expected in the $18 billion supplemental recovery bill that President Bush is sending to Congress today.
Blanco already had allotted $5.6 billion for housing from previously allocated federal funds. She said all the new money will go to housing as well.
With the new housing funds, state officials said they would be able to match Mississippi’s plan of offering homeowners a maximum of $150,000, minus whatever they receive from insurance or other federal programs.
“This is going straight to the people who need to be back in their houses,” Blanco said. “I’m here to say a very special thank-you to the president.”
Back in Baton Rouge, however, the housing corporation bill ran into problems when it came up for debate in the Senate. Lawmakers complained about the $3.8 million administrative cost of the trust and about the complexity of the legislation.
The Senate recessed while the bill’s author, Sen. Ann Duplessis, hurriedly rewrote the legislation with the help of other lawmakers and the governor’s staff. The new bill would strip the trust’s staff, leaving the 11-member board intact.
The bill failed to pass by one vote after at least one senator left to attend an LSU baseball game. One of the governor’s own floor leaders also left the chamber.
Fireworks ensued when the Senate voted to suspend its rules and take another vote.
“In my 23 years, I’ve never seen us do this,” complained Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie.
On the second vote, the bill passed with the minimum 20 votes for it to 11 against. The Senate has 39 members; eight were absent or did not vote.
Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Harvey, switched his vote to change the outcome.
Duplessis, D-New Orleans, let out a whoop. The bill had to pass Wednesday in order to go over to the House and pass the Legislature by the time the session ends Friday.
Ullo said he changed his mind because of the urgency of the bill. However, he warned the Blanco administration that he’s uncomfortable with the legislation and may vote against it if it returns to the Senate.
Duplessis blamed politics and the complexity of the issue for the bill’s near demise.
She said she believes the legislation will make it to the governor’s desk for her signature.
“I think we have the time and the support to get it through,” she said.
In Washington, even with the money proposed by the Bush administration Wednesday, the funding falls short of the $20 billion that U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, requested to start the Louisiana Development Corp.
Baker’s plan was to use treasury bonds to buy hurricane damaged properties and repackage the parcels for redevelopment. Profits from the sale would go back to the government.
The White House opposed the move. Earlier Wednesday, Donald Powell, the president’s storm recovery coordinator went before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and testified that the president didn’t want “Uncle Sam in the real estate business.”
From the outset, Powell and the White House have called for using direct payments to homeowners as the most effective solution.
“This is another event that gives evidence that the president is committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast area,” Powell said of the new money.
Four members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation attended the announcement, with Baker being absent. Earlier in the day at the Senate hearing, Baker said he hoped that there would be a breakthrough in negotiations over his bill, which was approved by a House committee 50-9.
”People need hope. They need to know that something is being done,” Baker said.
After the new-money announcement, Baker issued a statement saying the funding “represents the beginning of progress” toward his goals.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who also didn’t attend the announcement because of a scheduling conflict, welcomed the housing money but questioned whether more funding will be available for needs such as universities, schools, health care and economic development.
“While an additional $4.2 (billion) in federal funding is vitally important … many of these other needs remain unmet,” Landrieu said in a statement.
Others, however, said the new money will allow the state to get started in helping homeowners with hurricane damaged properties.
Blanco’s Louisiana Recovery Authority will release a preliminary housing plan for the state on Monday. Blanco wants the Legislature to form a state housing corporation that has similarities to the Baker plan.
At the Washington news conference, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he met earlier in the week with surrounding parish leaders to map out their housing needs.
“I feel like I just won the Super Bowl,” Nagin said of the new money. “We think it is going to be sufficient to get the job done.”
The combined money will address the state’s housing woes, said U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
“This is very, very significant,” Vitter said. “It will help meet the crucial needs of people who have lost everything.”
If we buy everyone affected a mansion SOMEWHERE ELSE, would it be cheaper than rebuilding?
Under the current system I think so.......
so are these like mortgages? that have to be paid back, or is everyone just getting a free house?
We owe those people nothing. Homeowners and other building owners should have had flood insurance, business insurance, or homeowners insurance. Renters should have had renters insurance. This is a taxpayer ripoff.
Notice Mississipi that suffered as bad or worse in not at Congress bitching.
Not if you're white . . .
Gov. Blanco said she was going to block LEASE SALES. Well, she does not have any control over lease sales in FEDERAL waters, that is, beyond the 3 mile limit. Within 3 miles of shore, which is STATE waters she can block lease sales... but that only hurts Louisiana.
And she can't stop drilling beyond the 3 mile limit because she doesn't have the power to do so... no Navy. And it would put a lot of Louisiana energy workers out of business.
Again, she is letting her mouth write checks her a$$ can't cash.
nah, he is just stating facts....
Ya know, if SOMEONE, would accidentally invade this state and do a little "house keeping." I really wouldn't mind.
I might be obilged to help with weapons and ammo if need be.
Once upon a time this was probably a wonderful place, and then people moved here and fucked it all up. Blanc needs to shut her fucking trap and resign, NO ONE likes that stupid dyke anyway
Am I reading all of this correct that it is going to cost $3.8 billion to spend $18 billion?
Sure am glad my house isn't run like that.
Maybe the recall petition will gather some steam when the populace realizes just how hopeless and ineffective Blanco is. Don't forget. The very first thing she did when she took the oath of the governor's office is to make MLK Day a state holiday. She is bought and paid for.