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11.12.18

Lack of will, not money, explains LDH failures

Go to the dictionary and look up “audacity,” and there you’ll find the Louisiana Department of Health under Gov. John Bel Edwards.

That’s the conclusion drawn from the department’s latest attempts at damage control after scathing audits of its Medicaid provision. One identified very likely at least $62 million in improper payments on behalf of the Medicaid expansion population through the first part of 2018. In fact, because the figure looked at just a fraction of all enrollees, about five percent, the figure could be much higher.

The audit illuminated that LDH’s headlong attempt to qualify and stuff as many people as possible into the program unnecessarily led to that waste. In particular, under Edwards it reversed a decision that the state verify eligibility from an “determination state” to an “assessment state,” which the state only had implemented at the end of the former Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration because of the high error rate.

10.12.18

Perkins experiment exception in NW LA results

With one huge exception, elections in northwest Louisiana’s two most populous parishes changed things little.

Last weekend culminated the election season, marked by Shreveport city and Caddo Parish School Board elections, plus the latter in Bossier Parish. The Bossier contests featured next to no excitement whatsoever; even with a few incumbents opting out (one after qualifying), all but one of those districts drew just one qualifier and just one incumbent ended up with a challenge, which he beat back. With this conforming to Bossier’s eccentric small town/apathetic dynamics, it didn’t even need last Saturday’s elections to have wrapped up the Board’s composition for the next four years, which remains in partisan terms ten Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent.

Caddo and Shreveport city council contests provided little more excitement or change. In the school district, fewer than half the seats had competition and none of the challenged incumbents lost who had won previous election. The anomalous appointed member, Durwood Hendricks, did see his district with which his views and its didn’t exactly mesh dump him in November. But when the dust settled, the Board reverted to its form for most of last term – five white Republicans, one white Democrat, and six black Democrats – with nine old faces returning.

6.12.18

Abraham poses serious threat to Edwards

If Louisiana Republican activists had seen the GOP’s Sen. John Kennedy as the toughest challenger to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham shouldn’t disappoint them.

Earlier this week, Kennedy took a pass on running for the state’s top job, disheartening some hoping to dump Edwards. Today, Abraham, after saying for months he gave serious consideration to taking on Edwards, made the plunge.

Epitomizing his penchants both for pettiness and hypocrisy, Edwards commented “[f]or the sake of the people of Louisiana, it is my hope that he seriously considers whether or not he is capable of running for governor while fulfilling his duties in Washington, DC.” Of course, Edwards ran for governor while a state representative, and he seemed unconcerned at the time about whether he could do that job while splitting time with campaigning for two years.

5.12.18

Left's hatred of America consensus fuels divide

The nation mourned former Pres. George H.W. Bush today, and part of the reason he received praise after his death a recent article illuminates, unpacking a key observation about today’s American politics.

Last week, the Baton Rouge Advocate ran a piece about how Republican Bush’s political career intersected with Louisiana. Several of its interviewees, which included officeholders and activists of both major parties, remarked on how Bush had personal friendships with Democrats and a couple lamented that they no longer saw a political environment that encouraged such cross-partisan relationships.

These still exist – look no further than the palling around between Louisiana Reps. Steve Scalise of the GOP and Democrat Cedric Richmond, who share a district fence and a number of similar interests – but in vastly reduced incidence as compared to Bush’s era of the late 1960s to early 1990s. Unquestionably, ideological polarization among political elites has contributed to this.

4.12.18

Crony capitalists predictably help fund Edwards

Is it really news in Louisiana when those who benefit from big government and/or with lengthy service in it support a tax-and-spend governor?

A recent article in the Baton Rouge Advocate listed a few nominal Republicans said to back Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards (I write a column on Sundays for that outlet). It included someone who has worked in high-ranking capacities for governors of both parties; a former Gov. Bobby Jindal cabinet appointee who now shills for an engineering firm with extensive state contracts; a nonprofit head who received tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for the building that houses his organization and has hustled throughout its history for government assistance; a former elected official whose tenure in that position spawned approbation for ethical lapses; and some businessmen whose livelihoods are shaped considerably by government policies and spending decisions (and a few of them have received plum appointments by Edwards to government panels).

That these people have a history of working for election of Republicans or giving generously to Republican candidates have pledged support for Edwards in his reelection efforts might at first glance seem surprising. Then again, most also historically supported Democrats at times, as their crony capitalism makes them swoon for anybody think can deliver the goods.

3.12.18

Lessons for LA even in flawed climate study

It may have a GIGO quality, but some thoughts relevant for Louisiana policy-making come forth from the fourth National Climate Assessment.

Quadrennially,federal government agencies collaborate to produce this document, with preparation of this one launched under the former Pres. Barack Obama Administration with its penchant for politicizing science. The first part, mainly methodological, came out last year.

Unfortunately, that effort suffered from faulty assumptions and selective use of data, with its authors enthralled in the faith of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. With this previous part containing little useful information, this left the more policy-based conclusions of the current part of suspect validity and relevance.

29.11.18

LA policy-makers must extend smoking ban

The good news is the smoking ban in East Baton Rouge Parish, including Baton Rouge, is producing the intended effect. The bad news is some renegade metropolitan areas in Louisiana still discriminate against individuals with pulmonary limitations – but state policy-makers can do something about it.

About a year-and-a-half after the ban, mirroring state law except it included casinos and bars, went into effect, air quality in a sample of those businesses showed indoor air pollution dropped 98 percent. The group that sponsored the testing hailed these results as victory for people employed in those establishments in their avoiding second-hand smoke.

But the real winners are the growing segment of adult Americans who suffer from some kind of respiratory ailment. About three in ten have one of emphysema, asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, or chronic bronchitis. A much smaller proportion have much more serious conditions that require consistent medical intervention to allow them to breathe.

28.11.18

Edwards politicizes by calling others political

Politics were on display when Louisiana’s Revenue Estimating Conference met last week ironically with the agent politicizing the process accused another member of doing just that.

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and his panel designee Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne didn’t like that the REC – which also has as members the Speaker of the House or his designee, the Senate President or his designee, and an independent economist – refused to bump up the official revenue forecast by $40 million. Both an economist from the Division of Administration and from the Legislature recommended that emendation to the forecast.

The REC sets the revenue baseline for the governor’s executive budget for next fiscal year, released a month into a calendar year, as well as affects whether government may spend more or have to cut in the current fiscal year. An extra $40 million added to the existing forecast helps Edwards politically in three ways: by making it appear the state enjoyed increased prosperity under him, by hiking the baseline thereby giving him more to distribute to favored constituencies next year, and – in an atypical budget arrangement in effect only this year – allows spending contingency funds for specific purposes that total (perhaps not coincidentally) $43.3 million.