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Coup in the bayou: New Governor Jindal promises change in Louisiana

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With government flaws exposed by the 2005 storm, "the stars are now aligning" for deep reforms in a state infamous for having more imprisoned politicians per capita than any other, Jindal says.

"After years of scandals and jokes, it's almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy that there was this Louisiana way. Now, people are optimistic that we can actually do something about it," he adds.

Jindal won all but four parishes

Jindal used that message to win 60 of the state's 64 parishes – the biggest margin by a nonincumbent in Louisiana history.

"The storms changed the psyche of Louisiana voters and people, because they saw the consequences of corruption," he says. "A lot of the institutions that weren't working before the storm have been damaged, and it's now up to the state to decide how to rebuild, or whether to rebuild, and how to provide those services. No one is arguing the storm was a good thing, but out of that destruction there is a choice about how we rebuild."

Jindal has some advantages over previous reformers. He inherits the largest class of freshman legislators in state history and a $2 billion budget surplus.

Jindal has a "powerful mandate," says Michael Kurtz, a retired history professor in Hammond, La. "He's a fresh face, kind of a do-gooder type.... He's a whiz kid."

Jindal plans to call two special legislative sessions soon: One to implement ethics reform to curb the influence of lobbyists in Baton Rouge; the second to reform the state's tax structure, which critics call regressive because it's focused on sales taxes. Louisianans see both as crucial to turning around the fortunes of the state.

Outsiders may take a lot of convincing, however.

When Jindal met with President Bush after his election in October, Bush said, "So, Bobby, are we going to able to send money down there to rebuild without it ending up in somebody's pocket?"

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