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24.8.16

Voucher deal threatens to make Edwards look worse

Perhaps Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has outfoxed Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in the struggle to keep the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program from attenuation.

When the budget process shook out, the program that provides funding for students that attend or would attend subpar schools to enroll in an eligible private or public school took a funding hit of over 5 percent. This meant that several hundred families already accepted into the program would not receive vouchers, a program first.

But behind the scenes White formulated a deal with providers to take on the wait-listed students. He said, with the blessing of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, that the state could give through the families to schools enrolling these children around $100 guaranteed for each enrollee – more than $5,000 below the typical tuition the schools could charge the program participants – in the hopes that perhaps the Legislature in the spring would create a supplemental appropriation to pay off the balance.

23.8.16

Politicized disaster funding system to impact LA

So much anxiety over what kind of relief Louisiana can expect in response to the flood disaster surrounding Baton Rouge earlier this month would disperse by wringing the politics out of the disaster funding process.

Observers fret about the relative lack of seniority of Louisiana’s members of Congress, that at least two and possibly three of the most senior will not return, that the most powerful Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise must balance state and party interests, and that past votes against sending money to other locations may come back to haunt the state when discussing the state’s chances of landing a decent sum to assist in paying for cleanup. Without a system so infused with politics, these questions would matter little.

In brief, current law centralizes most disaster recovery funding in federal hands. Essentially, when hitting a small trigger amount – about $6 million in the case of Louisiana – federal aid of at least 75 percent of costs kicks in for almost every kind of recovery spending, with some of an emergency nature paid fully by the federal government. Potentially, by law federal policy-makers could pay for it all. Moreover, the process for making states eligible – a disaster declaration of any of several kinds – relies on almost total subjectivity. This low threshold and leaving a declaration ultimately in the hands of an elected official, the president, has led to an exponential increase over the past nearly quarter-century in declarations and amount paid out. From typically two or three dozen declarations a year under Pres. Ronald Reagan, Pres. Barack Obama now issues hundreds a year.

22.8.16

Jones CD-4 campaign built on lightning striking twice

Although invited, last week Louisiana Fourth Congressional District hopeful Democrat Marshall Jones did not attend a candidate forum at Bossier Parish Community College. Nor will he attend many, if any, of these kinds of events throughout the election season.

In this instance, as besides BPCC both the Bossier and Caddo Parish Republican Parties sponsored the gathering, perhaps Jones, the only Democrat in the contest and who declined participation, could have an excuse not to appear. But throughout the campaign expect him to dodge as many as he can unscripted events that could feature inconvenient questions.

This is because state Democrats have had their hearts fluttering thinking they can replicate the success of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards given his surprising victory last year. They see a formula to create a winning coalition: have a Democrat express social conservatism on God, guns, and the unborn as loudly and as often as possible while infrequently mumbling liberal economic bromides and other issue preferences of the left they figure will reassure enough of the hard left base while conning enough of the center-right electorate into thinking such as candidate acceptable, aided by a multitude of quality Republican candidates not paying attention to him in the rush to bash each other.

18.8.16

EBR curfew issue brings out political campaigning

Even in situations where electoral politics literally should stop at the water’s edge, their appearance seem inevitable, as events surrounding a curfew in East Baton Rouge Parish indicate.

Earlier this week, EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux issued one that looks to last only briefly, after law enforcement made scattered arrests for looting consequent to the flood disaster soaking the parish. This imposition elicited complaints from both businesses disproportionately affected by shutting down commerce early and politicians claiming to look out for the public’s ability to engage in it and for business owners and employees to earn money off of it. In at least one case, both views found representation when Metro Councilman John Delgado penned an open letter to Gautreaux asking him to lift the curfew.

Delgado owns several nightclubs and later said the order closed down a large number of establishments like his, grocery stores, and gas stations (perhaps more to the point, convenience stores that sell gasoline), making it an overblown reaction to few reports of looting. In reality, the 10 PM deadline would affect few grocery stores or any other businesses except bars and convenience stores, so the vast majority of commercial enterprises remained unaffected.

17.8.16

Politics of disaster funding headed LA's way

The good news is state and local government handled well the recent catastrophic flooding in and around Baton Rouge and Acadiana. The bad news will entail paying for it all in a precarious fiscal environment where politics surely will rear its head.

State and local agencies, aided by citizen volunteers, worked commendably to rescue, evacuate, and provide shelter and provisions to those affected by the disaster. Compared to the dysfunctional responses by the state and New Orleans concerning the hurricane disasters of 2005, state and local governments have learned lessons. In this kind of situation, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards showed much more of the cool resolve of his Republican predecessor former Gov. Bobby Jindal than the flustered response of his Democrat predecessor and current appointee former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

But politics seem destined to enter the fray over who pays what. While about a third of the state’s parishes eventually expect to become eligible for federal disaster relief funds, almost certainly state and local governments will have to pay some costs. Federal regulation permits the executive branch to reduce three-fifths of the 25 percent match by state government provided that the total cost, in Louisiana’s case, exceeds around $579 million (although some spending in the first ten days of the declared disaster may receive full reimbursement). Even if substantial, projected costs unlikely will turn out that high, leaving the state on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.

16.8.16

Democrats' response to incidents cowardly, political

There’s nothing like leading from behind, as a number of Louisiana Democrats have demonstrated in the month since the party’s state Sen. Troy Brown racked up his second violence charge in well less than a year. Why belated remonstrations against his behavior only now have started to surface provides a lesson in partisan politics and absent leadership.

His initial arrest came last November concerning striking a woman apparently his mistress. He claimed then that he remembered nothing of the episode due to the after-effects of a car accident a quarter-century ago. Neither his legal difficulties nor his admission of cognitive impairment his Democrat colleagues then found troubling enough to conclude that he could not represent his constituents – as he had done already for four years, having just secured reelection – which would entail his resignation from office.

Then last month, not long after the marathon legislative sessions of 2016 had concluded, he reputedly went primal on his wife with family present, allegedly biting her. During the session, his Democrat colleagues, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and state party officials, self-righteously if not hypocritically found time to criticize a Republican state legislator who could not tell a joke to save his life that only served to objectify women. But after Brown’s second run-in with the law, once again they lost their voices.

15.8.16

More often LA campaign reporting adds little value

In the complicated world of campaign finance reporting, policy becomes unhelpful if misunderstanding the purpose of that disclosure in the first place.

In a piece that explicates recent campaign decisions made by front-running U.S. Senate candidate Republican Treasurer John Kennedy, independent journalist Jeremy Alford notes that Kennedy a huge amount of money from his state campaign account to a political action committee active in electing Senate candidates. This PAC presumably will spend on behalf of Kennedy this election cycle, but Alford points out that state reporting requirements, as 2016 is not a statewide election year, will not reflect the transaction from Kennedy’s account until the filing of annual reports due in early 2017.

Alford doesn’t like that lag and therefore proposes changing state law to require at least quarterly reporting in non-election years. Not only does federal law require that of active federal candidates and officeholders, but many states also do that and often even more, such as mandating monthly reporting.

11.8.16

LA needs strengthening of voter ID requirements

That the cause of elections integrity has suffered setbacks in some states in recent weeks does not mean that Louisiana should not do more to strengthen its semi-lax laws regarding voting.

Of course, recent judicial interventions overturning state laws requiring forms of photo identification to vote, done largely at the hands of appointees of White House Democrats and who tend to liberal jurisprudence, represent a political strategy. By hoping to push these cases into the Supreme Court next year, now equally balanced between justices who make decisions on the bases of activism and of constructionism, in counting upon a leftist jurist to replace the vacancy of the late Assoc. Justice Antonin Scalia they hope to find a way to create a court to invalidate such requirements. The left believes by degrading elections integrity it will gain an electoral advantage as non-citizens and less-informed citizens who would be less likely to make the effort to acquire photo identification typically are more manipulable and more prone to identifying as Democrats.

Scalia, probably the most brilliant member of the Court over the past several decades, probably would have applauded the dissent in the highest profile of these cases, Veasey V. Abbott heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which pointed out the majority’s politicized assumption that strict identification laws automatically connoted discriminatory intent. The problem is activist judges routinely commit such errors in pursuit of a political agenda, and his replacement if of that sentiment likely would send the entire Court in that direction on this and many other issues.