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Edwards creates problem, takes credit for solution

On the issue of Medicaid expansion, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards hopes people forget he’s the one who created the problem of inappropriate and unnecessary payments.

The state received some good news recently when it announced it would spend $400 million fewer on Medicaid, about 3 percent less than budgeted. It identified as a major contributor cleansing the rolls of ineligible recipients, almost all of them coming from Medicaid expansion, through a technology upgrade that allows for more frequent verification. Since then, Edwards Administration officials have all but broken their arms patting themselves on the back for the discovery of (for now) over 30,000 ineligible participants to save the state money, and the public can expect Edwards to repeat that party line ad naseum as he runs for reelection.

But in all this Edwards wishes to bury a dirty secret. The reason why so many erroneous clients, who comprised about six percent of all expansion enrollees, gained illegal access to service is because of two policies that Edwards instituted, by design, that makes it easier for ineligible individuals to enroll.


Nuisance candidates set to annoy incumbents

With the Louisiana Legislature out of substantive action hopefully for at least nine more months and an election in between, it’s time for nuisance candidates to come out of the woodwork, which a pair of northwest Louisiana incumbents running for reelection this fall must endure.

Given the voting behavior of its legislators, southeast Shreveport might have the most conservative electorate in the state. That area houses Senate District 37 represented by Republican state Sen. Barrow Peacock and House District 5 with GOP state Rep. Alan Seabaugh. The former has averaged over 80 this past term (not including this year) according to the Louisiana Legislature Log’s voting scorecard and the latter has had a mean of 75 (with 100 the maximum conservative/reform score).

Conservatives statewide consider both as standard bearers, in different ways. Peacock prefers staying out of the limelight and tackling nuts-and-bolts issues, while Seabaugh vigorously pushes high-profile issue preferences detested by the political left. Perhaps most famously, Seabaugh was the leading figure in preventing a vote last year to renew a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent. When subsequently only a 0.45 percent hike passed (which he also opposed), in essence he saved Louisiana taxpayers around $240 million a year over seven years.


Race exacerbating political conflict in Webster

The circus continues its run in Webster Parish, which looks generally bucolic and peaceful but the tumultuous, racially-tinged politics surrounding it tries the citizenry’s patience.

Its largest municipality Minden has gone through turmoil since the beginning of the year. A power struggle has developed between a black Democrat majority on the City Council and the white Republican mayor, Terry Gardner elected last year, often backed by the two minority white Republicans on the Council. The town has a narrow black population majority.

The tussle has flared particularly over the police department. Gardner and the new no-party white elected chief of police, Steve Cropper, have argued the department faces a staffing crisis and have promoted the hiring of more officers. But in March, the three Democrats rejected the hiring of two apparently qualified candidates. Gardner then vetoed the rejection. Still, this led to the majority’s authoring an ordinance that interposed the Council between the chief’s recommendation and the mayor’s hiring, effectively giving it a veto power over hiring.


Make LA judiciary pay for unneeded salary hikes

The best job in Louisiana state government just got better, courtesy of some likely inhabitants of that kind of position in the future.

This past regular session, the Louisiana Legislature with Gov. John Bel Edwards created a framework to increase, yet again, judicial salaries. State judges – those on the Supreme Court, the five appellate courts, and 42 district courts, totaling 372 all in all – will receive a 2.5 percent pay hike starting this upcoming fiscal year. They could receive the same in the following four years, if the Supreme Court and the Judicial Budgetary Control Board – comprised mostly of judges at all levels of the judiciary – certify that the funding exists for another round of raises.

A pay raise next year, which includes 68 other local judges and a handful of administrators, would add $1.8 million. Supreme Court associate justices make around $159,000 annually and their appellate counterparts and district judges pull in about $149,000, while the chief justices of each earn an extra $8,000 or so.


LA criminal justice changes won't prompt savings

Even if delayed, the day of reckoning will come for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “Justice Reinvestment Initiative.”

That may be the ultimate outcome from what HB 551 started this just-concluded session of the Legislature. That bill, by Democrat state Rep. Katrina Jackson that Edwards should sign, bumps up the daily payment the state makes to local jail operators, typically sheriffs either directly or through a contractual arrangement.

Two years ago, Edwards cajoled the Legislature to provide bipartisan support into changing sentencing guidelines and lengths for a wide variety of crimes, with the effect of reducing the number of inmates imprisoned at any one time and thereby lowering direct costs. Seventy percent of the amount not spent as a result then would be plowed back into measures to reduce recidivism, with 80 percent of that going to the local facilities and community programs. With over half of all state prisoners housed at this level, the thinking was the program would let taxpayers get a bit of a break and money would go to activities discouraging recidivism.


TIMED 2.0 long on pork, short on flexibility

TIMED 2.0 has a lot of northeast Louisiana upset, in some ways for the wrong reason that if understood should perturb people statewide.

The recently-completed regular session of the Louisiana Legislature produced HB 578 by Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee, which shoots out almost $700 million worth of spending over the next 15 years on various infrastructure projects. It draws that money from the state’s settlement with BP over the 2010 Macondo blowout offshore the state, the $53.3 million annual payment of over that span should have gone to the Budget Stabilization Fund and two health care-related funds. Instead, from next year until the pact’s 2034 conclusion the payment goes to these projects.

The controversy has come because originally the bill allocated only around $275 million to two projects, one with a direct impact on the energy sector in south Louisiana and another as a sop to the Capitol Region. After 2026, all of the remaining payouts would have gone to a fund for infrastructure. But the Senate amended it to designate other projects and sent the product to the House two days before the session’s end, leaving little time for conference if the House rejected that.


LA likely insignificant for 2020 nomination

Louisiana seems set to go from an afterthought to an asterisk in the 2020 presidential preference primary season.

In 2016, the state conducted its primary elections for major party presidential nominations as, by law, the first Saturday in March. That came right after “Super Tuesday,” where voters in ten states plus a caucus state selected about a quarter of Republican convention delegates while Democrats in the same number of states voted along with caucus-goers in a state and territory chose about a fifth of their convention delegates.

Lumped in with caucuses in a few other states, Louisiana attracted little attention coming after the major effort by candidates for Super Tuesday. While candidate organizations proved active the candidates themselves with the exception of next-door Republican Sen. Ted Cruz ignored the state, and then controversy ensued when future GOP Pres. Donald Trump edged out Cruz in the primary results but the apportionment math and wishes of other candidates gave Cruz the majority of the state’s delegates.


Edwards misses to cap dismal tenure

Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards not only aimed low with his 2019 legislative agenda, he also arguably missed to cap off a dismal term in the state’s top job.

With the Louisiana Legislature now out of session and pocketbooks finally safe again, we can compare Edwards’ aspirations with his achievements on this score. Spoiler alert: it’s not impressive.

What his agenda lacked in ambitiousness it made up for in unreality. Two of his top four items he has championed since the day he took office but had no chance of enactment: a watered-down minimum wage increase (because it would not have applied statewide but would have come by local option) and a watered-down “equal pay” bill (because it didn’t mandate comparable worth or similar schemes that would force artificially employers, public or private, to push annual compensation of women closer to that of men regardless of other factors, but instead would have prevented employers from keeping compensation arrangements secret). Naturally, both never made it out of their chamber of origin, the Edwards-friendlier Senate.


Hollywood, don't fling LA in that briar patch

Please Hollywood, please, don’t fling Louisiana in that briar patch.

In the Uncle Remus story “The Tar-Baby,” Br’er Rabbit escapes the clutches of Br’er Fox by tricking him through exhortation to throw him into a briar patch, into which Br’er Fox can’t follow. Similarly, Louisianans tired of wasteful government spending should hope the prejudices of film makers allow them to save big.

Recently, the state joined a growing list of state passing much greater restrictions on abortion, if U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence changes to allow their constitutionality. Act 184 prohibits abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which generally occurs around six weeks of gestation, unless the physical health of the mother is at grave risk.


Budget debate highlights dense LA Democrats

If you want to know what’s wrong with Democrats, nationally and through a Louisiana lens, look no further than debate over the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

As the failure of liberalism’s economic bromides of divide, take, and redistribute became increasingly clear through their application under Democrat Pres. Barack Obama (and, except for wild deficit spending throughout, most of foundational damage happened in just his first two years when Democrats controlled Congress), the far left that has captured the national party simply refuses delivery of these facts. Instead of discarding their discredited theories, they wish to double down on them, such as through infatuation with the “Green New Deal” with its ruinous costs that would do next to nothing to (theoretically) reduce alleged catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

Simultaneously, those elites have embraced identity politics with a vengeance, believing that creating a myth of oppression against numerous groups – principally women, racial minorities, those who act differently than their physical sex suggests, and non-Christians – with coercive policies supposedly to remand would construct a majority electoral coalition. The 2016 election results showed the jury out on that strategy, but they responded to that in the same fashion as they did on the economy by engaging in escalating shrillness.