Last week, a posse of Columbia Dems converged on Washington D.C. (or, more likely, got the day off from their congressional internships) to talk with legislators about New Orleans. Unfortunately, Bwog was unable to send a correpondent, so we abandoned our standards of independent journalism and asked Dems media guy Jonathan Backer to send an account of the trip, which turned out–surprise!–very rosy.
“On the briefing day, Julia Moline CC/SEAS ’08 briefed us for much of the day on the details surrounding the issue of health care in the Gulf Coast region. She, in her role as a Katrina recovery policy expert for Speaker Pelosi’s office prepared the included materials for the trip.
Congressman Melancon’s (LA-3) chief of staff, Casey O’Shea, spoke to the group for about an hour. Because of Rep. Jefferson’s legal troubles, Rep. Melancon is de facto representing the congressional district of which Orleans parish is a part. He discussed the challenges of legislating effectively when Melancon’s constituents’ needs are so different from the rest of the country. One issue he discussed was how recover block grants are structured so that small slices of the grant individually fund 90% of several projects. The state must come up with the 10% of funding in order to begin a project. Because the state of Louisiana has been loathe to commit resources to recovery, very few rebuilding projects have gotten off the ground. Melancon’s CoS argued that that block grants to the region should be distributed as a lump sum so that the federal dollars will be put to use.
Lobbying went very well the next day. The three lobbying groups had a total of 15 meetings, 2 with members of Congress, and 13 with legislative assistants who focus
on health policy. The meetings with Senators Feingold and Brown were especially exciting for us. Senator Feingold was keenly interested in the topic and asked numerous questions throughout our discussion. During our meeting, he instructed his LA to contact Rep. Melancon’s office. He expressed a desire to look into ways to improve the funding mechanisms to the region and to possibly ask the GAO to conduct an investigation on the topic.”