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27.7.17

Dense LA reporter feeds distrust of media

If the attitudes expressed by the Monroe News-Star’s/USA TODAY Network’s Greg Hilburn stand in for those generally of the media, then it’s no surprise why the election and presidency of Pres. Donald Trump and the actions of the Republican legislative majorities in Louisiana flummox them.

Only the Gannett folks thought it newsworthy enough to report about the election of state Rep. Tony Bacala as vice chairman of the Republican Legislative Delegation. Undoubtedly Bacala rose to prominence for his proposals to restrain inefficient government spending, such as bills asking for minimal Medicaid patient responsibility and ending the counterproductive Earned Income Tax credit, and other measures like eliminating vacancies in state government to capture the savings.

Conservative policy prescriptions like these resonate with large minorities, if not with majorities, in Louisiana’s center-right electorate. But not to Hilburn, who characterized Bacala’s ascension as “tightening the far right's grip on the lower chamber.” One wonders if there’s some swastika tattooed on Bacala’s somewhat glabrous pate about which only Hilburn knows, or perhaps he has seen Bacala flash some alt-right signs or gear that has escaped everybody else, to explain how he could write something so opinionated in a news story.

26.7.17

Tax filing law culls inferior LA candidates

It turns out that a change made in recent years to qualifications for Louisiana elected office has brought a welcome order of natural selection for potential policy-makers.

Act 827 of 2010 amended R.S. 18:463 so that for all state and local candidates for office that for each of the previous five tax years, they must have filed his federal and state income tax returns, or filed for an extension of time for filing either federal or state income tax returns or both, or were not required to file either a federal or state income tax return or both. And, every election cycle, this requirement that candidates follow the law regarding their financial reporting to government trips up candidates.

Upcoming New Orleans municipal election have proven no different, if not exceptionally fertile, in this regard. No fewer than half a dozen face some kind of suit over that provision with one already ruled disqualified as a result.

25.7.17

Flood insurance privatization could save LA much

Louisiana’s members of Congress plus its state government can work together to prevent huge taxpayer bailouts for flooding losses while keeping premium costs reasonable.

For almost half a century the government-backed National Flood Insurance Property has dominated the flood casualty industry, which has affected no state more than Louisiana. A fifth of all losses have occurred in it, with a third of all payouts made to it.

Still, flooding in north Louisiana almost 18 months ago and around Baton Rouge about a year ago caught out a large number of properties without the insurance, adding billions more in costs to taxpayers on top of the roughly $25 billion debt the program owes. Dealing with that insolvency, which would force state regulators to close any company with that imbalance in the private sector, has become a major part of reform attempts in 2012, 2014, and in proposed legislation addressing the end of the program’s current authorization at the end of September.

24.7.17

Onus on Edwards to depoliticize police panel

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards found relief from a minor embarrassment that appears not so cut and dried an indictment against the quality of his leadership.

Last week Calvin Braxton, Sr. resigned from the Louisiana State Police Commission, after allegations he tried to exert influence over state troopers. The SPC acts as the body overseeing state police personnel, organized as a civil service separate from other classified state civil service employees.

A television station investigation said, beginning right before Edwards’ inauguration, he attempted to pressure troopers by making them aware of his status on the SPC. Among other things, it hears disputes over aspects of employment, meaning that a member represents one of seven votes that could discipline or discharge a sworn Department of Public Safety employee.

20.7.17

Edwards finds he can't give orders as in Army

If he has any hope to drive Louisiana’s policy agenda, Gov. John Bel Edwards eventually has to figure out that he’s not in the Army any more.

The Democrat seemed to receive a surprise at the close of last week when his handpicked choice for the District 2 Public Service Commission full term, Damon Baldone, registered for that race as a Republican. Recently, when former commissioner Scott Angelle took a job working for the Pres. Donald Trump Administration, Edwards with praise appointed Baldone to serve in the interim.

Baldone sat a decade in the Legislature and, make no mistake, according to his Louisiana Legislature Log voting scores from 2004-11 he fit the profile of a Democrat, the label he claimed throughout his tenure. Where 0 marks a maximal liberal/populist set of preferences on a scale of 100, he had an average of 41, although his views seemed to moderate as the years passed. His first full term he averaged almost 34 but bumped up to 47.5 in his last term. His last year saw him with a 65, more than double the score of the lowest House of Representatives scorer from that year – Edwards.

19.7.17

Dynamics argue for CSA objects to stay in place

The dust has settled in New Orleans, with minor dustups flaring in Shreveport, Alexandria, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. And it seems who’s depicted and how many people live around there matters when it comes to controversy stoked over Confederate monuments.

New Orleans served as ground zero for the displacement of these historical objects, with the dispatching of a pair of items listed on the National Register of Historical Places and a couple of others. Shreveport has seen lengthy discussion of another Register object’s fate, with some decision – even if to punt on the issue – coming soon. Within the past couple of years, calls to remove statuary in Alexandria, Lafayette and Lake Charles went unheeded.

So, despite all the publicity surrounding the New Orleans uprootings, outside of there almost nothing has changed, with these objects still holding forth on public property. And from this we can understand why what happened in New Orleans did, with next to no replication elsewhere in Louisiana.

18.7.17

Caddo must retain courthouse monument to CSA

It was one thing to remove the (Third) Confederate (Battle) flag from the environs of the monument in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse. It’s another thing entirely to move the monument itself.

Earlier this month, after a round of hearings a citizens advisory committee probing the question of whether to evict the statuary commemorating “The Lost Cause” reached a strange pseudo-climax. After a document recommended its removal circulated prior to the meeting announcing that as its decision, the committee postponed the actual gathering because of the absence of one member even though it had a quorum to proceed.

This seemed to reflect a struggle among members as to what to recommend mirroring the fate of the written product. Apparently, mimicking the most contentious and significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions, multiple drafts, all with the possibility of catching majority assent to become the final ruling, circulated among members almost up to the point of the meeting’s convening.

17.7.17

Evidence supports STP fire district consolidation

The controversy that flares again over consolidation of St. Tammany Parish fire districts echoes another contentious issue in local government: whether school districts should fragment, as once discussed in Caddo Parish and continues on the agenda in East Baton Rouge Parish. Reviewing both debates points to proper resolution of the issue the parish faces.

St. Tammany has 13 different districts devoted to fire protection, including Covington’s department. A few years ago, consultants delivered a plan to merge the parish’s districts eventually into three. Recently revived, this brought up arguments relevant to an idea that floated around Caddo Parish a few years ago to separate the areas outside of Shreveport into a district, as well as reminding of the saga of the past several years where people in most of the unincorporated areas of East Baton Rouge have attempted to create their own district, even going so far as trying to form a municipality to enhance that effort

Special districts such as these have differing aspects that argue for or against separation or consolidation. Much research has focused on school districts in light of the tremendous consolidation undergone by these occurring in less than a century, cutting the number of districts by nearly 90 percent. Those efforts produced a mixed bag.