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Ailing LA towns need added scrutiny, action

Ailing municipalities in Louisiana have caught the eye of the Legislative Auditor, but need to grab greater attention from policy-makers.

Recently, the Auditor began publicizing a list of 18 such cities, towns, and villages. It doesn’t include a half-dozen that already have had or will have the state take over their functions precisely because of an inability to pay bills or to provide services. This posting reflects the increasing number of entities that have run into trouble.

While municipalities that make the unfortunate grade fell prey to a number of factors that put them in fiscal peril, almost all of these are self-inflicted. The only one that isn’t, more than trivial depopulation, among these two dozen applies in only half of the cases.


More precise analysis needed for LA elections

Even as Louisiana’s 2019 state elections fade temporally, imprecise analysis continues to obscure its larger electoral patterns and consequences.

A previous post dispensed with the notion that Louisiana followed a supposed national trend of suburbs indiscriminately lending support to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ narrow reelection. That view presupposed that some suburbanites converted their voting preferences.

However, as previously noted, whatever new support Edwards picked up came disproportionately from the changing demographic composition of some state suburbs, almost exclusively Jefferson Parish. Compared to other less mature suburb parishes, Jefferson had substantially higher minority population while its median household income tracked more to the state average than the higher number seen in most other suburban parishes.


Senate choosing Cortez blow to Edwards

The slim hopes of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to advance his agenda in a second term became even more microscopic if one media outlet’s story is accurate.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that enough votes have lined up behind Louisiana state Sen. Page Cortez to make him Senate president for the next four years. No other independent source has confirmed this yet, nor has Cortez himself.

If this comes to fruition, it will mark the first instance in decades of the chamber electing its leader without gubernatorial interference. It did, midway through Republican former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s term, replace Roemer’s backed leader with one of its own choosing supported by Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards who would defeat Roemer two years later.


Kennedy needs comment clarification again

So, did Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy finally step off the ledge this time?

Last week, Kennedy provoked commentary on two national media appearances. In the first, he said that the Ukraine may have sponsored hacking of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton campaign computers. In the second, he said he had misunderstood the question to be one of general election interference, that he never meant to say Ukraine backed hacking, and that he would stand by a characterization that the Ukraine did try to interfere in that 2016 election.

This clarification brought partisan attacks from the media, both nationally and in the state, long on assertion but short on factual basis. In essence, meticulously compiled investigative journalism reports which never have been refuted (although recently one of the original reporting media outlet tried to downplay the information by relying heavily on semantics) support Kennedy’s stance.


Kennedy unfairly suffers media's long knives

Welcome to the big time, Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, and all the liberal media slings and arrows that come with that.

Those who have followed Louisiana politics for the past two decades know Kennedy as an entertaining quote machine about a range of subjects (some not always directly connected to the policy aspects of his job) that resonated well with the state’s public. In part because of that, he could have sent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards back to Tangipahoa Parish courthouse politicking with ease in this fall’s elections.

But in his two years in Washington, the national media have picked up on his quotability and he receives attention out of proportion to his status as a very junior senator. Probably no freshman garners as much airtime on national networks as does he, with the possible exception of Missouri’s Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.


Suburbs, not suburbanites, changing in LA

Paint political phenomena with too broad of a brush and your risk erroneous analysis, which some observers did regarding Louisiana’s 2019 gubernatorial election.

In the wake of incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards narrow win over Republican Eddie Rispone, some analysts identified voting patterns in suburbs as a key. Rispone easily dispatched Edwards in rural parishes in winning 40 of the state’s 64 parishes, while Edwards countered with an overwhelming victory in Orleans (New Orleans) and comfortable wins in East Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge) and Caddo (Shreveport).

Given that Edwards outlasted Rispone by only around 40,000 votes, it might appear that “suburbs” made the difference. Jefferson Parish, just west of Orleans, gave four-sevenths of its vote to Edwards, and in East Baton Rouge, where about half the population doesn’t live in the city, Edwards took two-thirds of those ballots.


LA reapportionment drama looms in 2021

In two years’ time will occur perhaps the most lasting single consequence of Louisiana’s 2019 state elections, reapportionment.

By the end of 2021, the state must have districts drawn representing Congress, both chambers of the Legislature, the Supreme Court and courts of appeals, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Public Service Commission, using the 2020 census data released at the end of that year. In all likelihood, this will occur by special session sometime in 2021.

Redrawing districts happens through the regular legislative process: a bill which must reach majority votes in each legislative chamber and gain gubernatorial assent defines these boundaries for each kind of government institution. If vetoed, two-thirds majorities override.