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Today it was announced that the long-time head of the LA Highway Safety Commission, Colonel James Champagne has been replaced by Governor Bobby Jindal.

Champagne is being replaced by Lt. Colonel John LeBlanc.

What’s the big deal, you say: one former LA State Police Lt. Colonel being replaced by another LSP Lt. Colonel.

Motorcycle helmet law

The significance involves the fulfillment of one of Jindal’s few specific campaign promises. Jindal promised to repeal the mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

When Jindal’s mentor, Governor Big Daddy Foster sought to repeal the mandatory helmet law, Champagne was a real headache (no pun intended) for him.

Champagne produced documentation that showed that helmets saved lives. Imagine that! He even testified against Big Daddy’s legislation in the legislative committees; one of the few pieces of legislation for which Big Daddy personally testified.

After Big Daddy got the law repealed, Champagne continued the fight to restore the mandatory helmet law. He kept records that showed sans helmets, motorcycle fatalities increased.

Champagne’s continuing efforts angered Big Daddy who claimed the number of fatalities went up because the number of motorcycles registered in LA had increased. Nice try, but Champagne’s statistics showed otherwise.

Throughout it all, Champagne never backed-down from Big Daddy despite the fact that Big Daddy could have replaced him at any time.

Subsequently, Governor Kathleen Blanco, with the help of Champagne, reinstated the mandatory helmet law.

Enter Jindal

Jindal replaces Champagne with the former head of Big Daddy’s security detail during his terms as governor. I don’t know Col. LeBlanc and don’t know his feelings about the helmet law. However, I doubt that someone who, in the course of his duties, spent a lot of time with Big Daddy would have been arguing much with him about the necessity of a mandatory helmet law.

Obviously, Jindal learned from his mentor’s mistake. Rather than have Champagne sitting in the lege committee with all of his statistics opposing repeal of the helmet law, the easiest way is to simply remove Champagne from the picture. Something, I’m sure that Big Daddy had wished he had done.

I’ve not always been happy with Col. Champagne’s initiatives; like his annual crack-down on speeding on the Interstates from which I suffered financially. However, I never questioned his motive.

Champagne, since I first met him when he was still working at the State Police Headquarters, had one primary and unwavering goal – the motoring safety of the citizens of our state and others who drive on our highways.

We’re told by the media that Bobby Jindal is bringing us “reform.” All change is not reform and all change is not good. The removal of Champagne is neither good nor reform.

C.B.