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22.8.19

LA constitutional convention dos and don'ts

From media accounts, a discussion over a constitutional convention for Louisiana summarized arguments going back decades, but perhaps missed the optimal approach.

Sponsored by the Pelican Institute, it featured panels that reviewed topics associated with the question of whether and, if so, how to bring such a thing and a new constitution into fruition. It seemed all participating joined a large, although not unanimous in missing chiefly the political left, consensus that Louisiana needs significant changes to its governing document, principally involving fiscal matters.

The event appeared to hit all of the past arguments’ highlights. Such a lengthy and detailed document makes for too much rigidity in state government, in essence locking in policy priorities of at least four decades ago if not of more distant provenance, which may not reflect today’s wishes. Further, incremental change likely will not work; i.e. with a large amount of dedicated revenues and expenditures built into the Constitution, different constituencies can mobilize into majorities to prevent varying measures from excision, so altogether nothing changes. Finally, even if a consensus emerged for revision, various issues regarding selection of convention participants could scuttle the whole effort, if not produce a document that doesn’t address the fundamental problems.

21.8.19

Mistrust in Perkins may sink bond proposals

It’s better, but voters still should have some skepticism about Shreveport’s $186 million bond proposal to go in front of voters during the fall’s runoff elections.

Last week, the City Council narrowly approved putting up to voters the three measures, which had jettisoned $34 million worth of items, some dealing with nonessential “smart” technology but the remainder suspiciously looking like a slush fund to fund a private concern’s economic development project on Cross Bayou. Now pegged at 11.68 mills to start, while the deletions improved the package, it’s still not out of the woods.

Part of the problem stems from the overtaxed nature of Shreveport. It has the second-highest city property taxes in the state (around 36 mills, but that trails New Orleans by more than half), and it doesn’t help that Caddo Parish has the state’s second-highest as well (at about 146 mills, barely behind Orleans Parish). Given the chance, an overburdened citizenry might take a step towards relief with rejection of at least one item.

20.8.19

Amend LA constitution to reveal misbehavior

For now it’s the wrong way to make something right, but eventually Louisiana policy-makers must invite the people to do the right thing.

Last week, a candidate for the Louisiana Supreme Court sued to overturn a law that prohibits making public records involved in the investigation of a lawyer. As part of his campaign the candidate wishes to discuss (perhaps against an opponent) a complaint he filed.

He argues that the Legislature can’t alter the Constitution’s grant of power to the Louisiana Supreme Court to make rules concerning the Judiciary Commission. Art. V Sec. 25 gives the Court power to “make rules implementing this Section and providing for confidentiality and privilege of commission proceedings.”

19.8.19

Kathleen Blanco, 1942-2019

As regular readers of this space know, when someone involved in Louisiana politics who I know in some personal way goes on to their reward, I write a few words about her. Unfortunately, Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco now must make an appearance here for that reason.

All readers of this space may labor under the misimpression that I chat regularly with policy-makers, conservatives in particular, compiling terabytes worth of correspondence and hours of listening time for the National Security Administration (at least under Democrat presidents). In fact, my communications with such people are extremely modest. Just about all of the time that I devote to gathering information for my posts and columns comes from solitary research, not from commiserations with insiders.

And of the time spent communicating with policy-makers past and present, among those who have served as governor of the state, you might think I’ve spent the most time chatting with Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. I have had the pleasure of chatting with him in person a few times for a few minutes each, both before and during his governorship.

18.8.19

Tarver boots Norton, benefits conservatives

Democrat state Rep. Barbara Norton discovered it’s never a good idea to be unprepared when sticking your head into the lion’s mouth.

The term-limited Norton over her three terms developed a reputation as not one of the sharpest tools in the shed, repeatedly making gaffes and not helped by her eccentric use of the English language. But having lost multiple attempts for office before winning this one, she did learn how to campaign at the grassroots level.

Thus, she had a realistic chance at knocking off Democrat state Sen. Greg Tarver when hoped to extend her legislative career by qualifying against him earlier this month. Himself a masterful campaigner after seeing it all over a four-decade career in elective office – although with an eight-year break after he beat a similar rap that took down former Democrat Gov. Edwin Edwards – that time in Shreveport politics also has brought him a number of enemies, including very ideological liberals annoyed that he sometimes aligns with conservatives on fiscal issues.

16.8.19

Interesting races on tap for LA in 2019

Just in case you have statewide election fatigue from digesting all the races shaped by candidate qualification last week, take a break by reviewing legislative and parish elections of note.

A number of parish presidencies come up for grabs this fall, with some actually fizzling compared to the intriguing ones that could have transpired. In Terrebone Parish, Republican Pres. Gordon Dove has angered big government advocates for refusing to back suits against energy companies and some blacks for his support of the parish’s judicial district’s current at-large method of selecting judges. Such opponents looked to rally around the candidacy of former Pres. Michel Claudet, but he declined to run, leaving just token opposition for Dove.

In Jefferson Parish, a much-anticipated free-for-all among Pres. Mike Yenni, former Pres. John Young, and Councilor Cynthia Lee-Sheng, all Republicans, lost luster when Yenni didn’t qualify. Early in his term, the rookie faced widespread embarrassment over the revelation that he had texted racy messages to a male minor and perhaps committed even greater folly along those lines, but refused to resign. Undoubtedly the Young/Lee-Sheng matchup will provide fireworks, but as the two didn’t differ all that much on the issues in the past (Young left for an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor) and were allies, the battle should be petty and bloody (precisely because they didn’t differ much and were allies) that leaves one faction supreme, but won’t have great ramifications for policy.

14.8.19

Morons both run routes and for president

Two ex-New Orleans Saints over the past few days by their comments just gave the public another reason to believe the IQ scores of football players don’t much exceed their shoe sizes.

Wide receivers Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills offered up their opinions on the nexus of sports and race relations, in truly unfathomably ignorant form. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both players have a history of insulting their country by refusing to honor America’s flag and National Anthem prior to games.

This week, Matthews quit the Saints, asserting he would retire from football. In a social media post after he abruptly left the team this week, he indicated he felt exploited. In particular, he rambled, “Beating your body up over and over for groups of people to give out a small % of the earnings that they don't even need for me No Longer Exist …. Being around too much Ego to even understand that someone has the same skin as you No Longer Exist ... People using me for Entertainment and not understanding that i Am a Black Man in America No Longer Exist.” (Of course, it was tenuous at best whether Matthews would have made the squad.)

13.8.19

If reelected, Edwards to face headwinds

Even if Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ uncertain reelection chances come to fruition, he seems set to face a Legislature and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education if anything more hostile to his agenda in the next four years.

Qualifying for this fall’s elections for these offices closed last week, and put Edwards behind the eight ball immediately. Unless some very unanticipated things transpire, he’ll repeat facing Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. In the House, 56 seats either have all Republicans running or Republican incumbents facing single opponents; in the Senate, that number is 20. That means before an expected gubernatorial runoff Republicans already will have secured majorities, and then in runoff races they’ll add more.

The Hayride’s MacAoidh, using vote for GOP Pres. Donald Trump in 2016, sees supermajorities of 70 and 26 seats within reach for Republicans. Using that metric is a bit tricky, because of Louisiana’s culture of personalistic politics that devalues ideology which detaches state- and local-level politics, often evaluated on the basis of candidate personality, from national politics seen more through an ideological lens. In other words, Republican proportion of the vote in those districts will trail the 2016 numbers. More likely, Republicans will add a few House seats to get in the range of above 65, while in the Senate they probably can add at least one to hit 26.

12.8.19

No surprise: lively Caddo, boring Bossier races

It wouldn’t be northwest Louisiana electoral politics if intrigue hasn't engulfed Caddo Parish offices and apathy didn’t reign across the river in Bossier Parish.

Elections this fall for parish positions in Caddo feature spirited competition. In the case of the Parish Commission, this came from a combination of some members reaching terms limitations and the increasingly wacky policy direction to which the body has swerved. In recent months, it decided it may shovel $48 million to help a private developer, stupidly decided to limit the number of payday lenders, and engaged in bad theater by an immature walkout over whether the parish should give money to private organizations, which may have prompted more interest in posts on it.

It led to some interesting matchups, often instigated by retread candidates and former elected officials, after qualifying. Reviewing the term-limited seats, in District 1, former congressional candidate Patrick Harrington will square off against former Oil City mayor and retiring Commission Clerk Todd Hopkins, with newcomer Ken Brown as well; all are Republicans. District 4 features James Carstensen, a former Libertarian who ran for Shreveport City Council last year, up against John-Paul Young, son of Democrat Juvenile Judge Paul Young, and Christopher David; all are Republicans. District 11 has another former Libertarian, Parker Ward who has run for several offices including mayor, facing off against Ed Lazarus; both are Republicans.

11.8.19

Qualifying dynamics hurt Edwards' chances

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t get much of a break in his reelection effort when Louisiana state elections scheduled this fall closed qualifying last week.

Edwards’ best hope lay in the two major Republican candidates qualifying, Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, while having no other Democrats enter the fray. Not only did two from his own party show up, but one is black and the other Hispanic. Worst of all, he has a Landrieu with which to contend.

True, it’s “Go” Gary Landrieu, the wacky cousin of the main members of the former state political dynasty who has had his share of legal problems and multiple failed attempts at gaining elected office. Running as an independent, his platform sounds more like that of GOP Pres. Donald Trump than it does of Edwards’.