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20.2.20

Cassidy reelection to extend GOP dominance

Welcome to the norm in Louisiana U.S. Senate elections as the state transitions fully into Republican majority-party rule.

This week, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy announced his entirely expected reelection bid for this fall. So far, he has but one announced opponent, a Democrat with little name recognition and few resources.

Possibly a bigger name among Democrats could enter, but even among the party’s most prominent politicians none likely could come within 10 points of Cassidy in the general election. Simply and especially because national issues come into play in consideration of this seat, no state Democrat is close enough to the median center-right voter in Louisiana on the entire scope of issues to triumph against a solid conservative like Cassidy (American Conservative Union rating voting score: 83).

19.2.20

No permit good for LA concealed carry

There’s no reason to oppose having Louisiana joining the 16 states at present that allow carrying of concealed handguns without having to go through a permitting process.

HB 72 by Republican state Rep. Danny McCormick would eliminate the need to qualify and pay for costs associated with a permit, making where allowed by law concealed carry legal for any legal state resident with a handgun legally obtained unless they don’t meet a long list of conditions associated with prior criminal behavior, mental instability, certain discharges from the armed forces, or drug use, or who have violated federal guns laws. It would eliminate the education requirement or a display of firearm competency, or an application statement vouching that training has occurred and that the applicant is not ineligible for the permit by virtue of one of the legally disqualifying conditions..

McCormick calls the fees connected with obtaining an existing permit a tax triggered merely by concealing the weapon. If carried openly, no permit or fee is necessary. He argues that the state shouldn’t put unnecessary impediments in the way of exercising a constitutional right.

18.2.20

LA budget contains intriguing storylines

Earlier this month, Louisiana mainstream media covered the release of the state’s faux executive budget by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Lots of surface details emerged, but they all glossed over, if not missed entirely, the deeper and more substantive stories.

Primary among these in the pretend budget – a sham because it contained revenues unrecognized by the state’s panel empowered to do so, the Revenue Estimating Conference – was without its fake revenue Edwards essentially couldn’t make any new spending commitments. The reason: Medicaid expansion expenses are eating the state out of house and home, despite over $300 million in tax increases for the program Edwards falsely alleged would save the state money.

Other consequences followed. You couldn’t swing a dead cat during last year’s gubernatorial campaign without Edwards pledging to raise salaries for educators, but even with the unauthorized money included his spending plan had no room for these. With a half-normal-sized increase in the Minimum Foundation Program Edwards suggested districts individually approve raises with that bounty.

17.2.20

Bad bills address gubernatorial succession

Some pre-filed bills for the 2020 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature take the wrong approach to dealing with the state’s most useless elective office.

Last year, lawmakers rejected a bill to amend the Constitution to tie the election of the lieutenant governor to that of the governor. This year, identical bills HB 42 by Democrat state Rep. Kyle Green and HB 50 by Republican state Rep. Mark Wright seek to do the same.

It’s still a bad idea, at two levels. It obscures accountability for both offices, especially in a blanket primary system that already devalues the important policy stand-in cue of party identification, by promoting personalistic and geographic characteristics for both candidates.

13.2.20

LDH head hire reflects Edwards uneasiness

One way of looking at the appointment of Courtney Phillips as the new head of Louisiana’s Department of Health – which swallows nearly half of all money spent by the state – is that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has realized the serious spot into which he has put himself.

Phillips comes from Texas, where she ran an operation over twice the size of Louisiana’s, and prior to that headed up Nebraska’s similar agency, which isn’t quite he size of Louisiana’s. However, she spent many years moving up the ranks at LDH before decamping to Nebraska in 2015, and headed to Texas in 2018. A Louisiana native with family in the state, she will take a pay cut when she starts Mar. 13.

Significantly, two conservative Republican governors appointed Phillips and she loyally carried out policies that reflected an appreciation for right-sizing government – an attitude foreign to the Edwards Administration. Both resisted Medicaid expansion (although a majority of Nebraska voters drank the Flavor Aid and imposed it on the state after she left), although she took over a similar kind of program for lower-income women for family planning and health services that Texas instituted.

12.2.20

LA Democrats helpless to avoid Sanders

It’s official: Louisiana will play no role in the selection of major party candidates for the presidency in 2020, absent bizarre circumstances.

Obviously, Republican Pres. Donald Trump will sweep to a nomination victory and should have things wrapped up a month prior to the state’s Apr. 4 elections. Republicans may stay home in mass because, due to the state likely having to concede the unconstitutionality of its selection method for major political party governance, for many only that election will appear on the ballot.

But Democrats may not have a reason at the top to come and vote either. As a result of strong showings in both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders – who doesn’t even call himself a Democrat, but who in the past accepted the label of communist, then recently recanted the label even as he continues to express issue preferences consistent with that failed ideology to approving noises from the Communist Party of America while calling it “democratic socialism” – now finds himself in a commanding position to win the nomination.

11.2.20

Edwards budget avoids taking responsibility

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards said his reelection would result in continued pay raises for education employees. He also alleged that Medicaid expansion and criminal justice changes (termed “reinvestment”) would produce cost savings for Louisiana. That these claims didn’t pan out explains why Edwards will keep fighting tooth-and-nail to inflate the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget, the faux version of which he released last week.

The spending plan put forward is not the version required legally because he didn’t use existing revenue forecasts, including $103 million extra dollars in the general fund forecast as well as $25 million of individual citizens’ unclaimed assets that follows past practice now in legal dispute with Republican Treasurer John Schroder. Taking that as it comes, it calls for $128 million more in new general fund commitments and $285 million across that, federal funds, self-generated revenues and statutory dedications, and interagency transfers.

Put another way, Edwards wants to increase general fund spending by nearly 3.5 percent, or half again higher than the 2.3 percent increase in inflation for 2019. Over the course of his term, such spending has increased from $9.118 billion to the requested $10.147 billion, or 11.1 percent, while inflation has gone up only 6.8 percent – which doesn’t even include the fact that millions more disappeared from this budget’s general fund total when reclassified as statutory dedications that understate the actual increase. Overall spending has risen from $29.589 billion to the projected $32.165 billion, an increase of 8.7 percent.

10.2.20

Unclaimed property suit reveals Edwards fibs

With Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards suing Republican Treas. John Schroder, he managed to validate a lie of his, flub an opportunity to keep a promise, and speak out of both sides of his mouth.

Edwards’ falsehood involves his suit over Schroder refusing to allow a funds sweep of unclaimed cash escheated to the state, an amount from 1973 through fiscal year 2019 totaling $882 million (another $237 million in unclaimed securities external entities hold and are unaffected by the suit). This running total moves up and down by tens of millions of dollars each year as claims are paid and escheats received.

But Treasury coffers actually hold a far smaller amount, thanks largely to the practice of the state taking $635 million over that span to spend on current operations. Another $50 million over the years went to administrative costs, and $180 million by separate appropriation authorized by law went to fund Interstate 49 bonding. Only a $17 million buffer actually remains, after Schroder rejected a transfer in FY 2018 of $12 million to bump up cash on hand. This he did when improved dissemination practices caused such a run that the amount returned to owners exceeded by more than $5 million the escheats collected, delaying payments.