Gov. Jindal Meets With Gov.-Elect Edwards About Transition

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal offered the Democrat who will follow him into office a collaborative approach Tuesday, pledging bipartisan cooperation in the changeover of administrations.

         The term-limited Jindal sat down with Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards for the first time since the Nov. 21 election in an hourlong meeting that Jindal said was designed "to make clear we are working closely with his team to make his transition as smooth and as easy as possible."

         Jindal said Edwards' transition team will receive full access to department leaders, agency chiefs and any other officials or information the new administration will need to ready itself to take office Jan. 11. Edwards' pick for chief of staff, Sen. Ben Nevers, attended the meeting.

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         "Today is not about partisan politics. Today is about making sure Louisiana's interests are served first and best," Jindal said.

         Though Edwards ran a campaign that heavily criticized Jindal's leadership of the state, the two men emerged from their meeting and held a news conference framed in kindness and cooperation.

         Edwards said Jindal has been gracious since calling to congratulate him on election night, "and that set the tone."

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         "I want to thank him for the access that we've had to people and to information. I believe the transition is going very smoothly. Obviously, there's a lot of work to be done in a short period of time, and cooperation makes a big difference," the governor-elect said.

         Jindal said he made a personal request of Edwards: that he meet with the families of voucher students before making any changes to the Jindal-backed program that provides taxpayer-financed tuition to private schools. Edwards agreed.

         The two men shared few details about their conversation, except to acknowledge it included talk of the state's deep financial problems.

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         Edwards defeated Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the election. Jindal, who has had a frosty relationship with Vitter, didn't endorse a candidate in the race.

         In an interview after the news conference, Edwards said he expects to begin making more hiring announcements for his administration by the end of next week. He said he's placing priority on two jobs: the commissioner of administration, who will oversee budget decisions, and the revenue secretary, who will be heavily involved in tax policy.

         "Those are the first two that I'm spending the most time on," Edwards said.

         But he also said he wasn't sure that choices for those two positions would be among his first announcements. He's tapped several transition teams to sift through candidates for cabinet secretaries, and he said they met for the first time Tuesday.

         "I've got to give my team time to work. I'm not going to short-circuit the process," he said.

         Edwards said he's been meeting with legislators and working on an agenda for a planned February special legislative session on budget and tax issues, to help stabilize the state's finances.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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