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Edwards stages bill neutering for partisan interests

The confusing end to a bill that would create incentives for Louisiana’s local law enforcement agencies to follow federal law highlights how the electoral politics of Gov. John Bel Edwards overshadowed the merits behind the bill.

In its original form, HB 1148 by state Rep. Valarie Hodges would have tried to prevent LEAs from failing to follow federal law in conveying information about illegal aliens’ presence in the country. That law requires that LEAs create no affirmative impediment to reporting citizenship or immigrant status to federal authorities. Current policy in New Orleans and Lafayette Parish appear to do that. The penalty would have been restrictions on the ability to use bonding authority.

That bill Democrat Edwards desperately did not want to come to his desk. His party’s larger strategy has encouraged illegal aliens’ presence in order for them to gain citizenship and vote legally or to vote illegally in the belief that they will support disproportionately the party’s candidates. As Edwards’ successful election rested largely on a fiction that he would not govern from the left, he needed on social issues plausible deniability of his true ideological leanings. Having to veto this bill would puncture any tenuous myth that he would govern largely as a social conservative, exposing him as a full spectrum liberal to a center-right state electorate.


Complaint shows "even if" attitude flourishes for some

Maybe because Andrew Jones’ hometown produced a high school valedictorian who showed the electorate’s rules didn’t apply to his political career, Amite High School’s current class valedictorian thought school rules didn’t apply to his academic career. Just because the kid got taught a lesson now has sent some off to shoot the messenger.

While Gov. John Bel Edwards, who defied electoral dynamics by having him and his leftist agenda elected in an ideologically center-right state, and Jones graduated at the top of their classes from the same school 32 years apart, something else crucial separated the two: Edwards, on his way to a service academy appointment, was clean-shaven at his graduation ceremony, while Jones, having won a scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana University, abjured the razor. Given that district rules specified to participate in the ceremony all males, except for those whom shaving facial hair led to documented medical complications, had to appear without a beard, Jones could not walk or give the valedictory address.

That did not come off well even within his own family; his mother asked him to conform even as other relatives supported his decision to go hirsute. However, she did get upset with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for using him and his story as a means to call for the ouster of the Tangipahoa Parish School District superintendent and some school board members. Why the group felt the need to protest on the base facts appears baffling; its leader said the district’s actions somehow unfairly discriminated, implicitly on race (Jones is black), even though the personal appearance regulations seemed applied in a uniform manner across high school ceremonies.


Underling avoids recommending anything but tax hikes

As senior members of his department drop like flies, it’s become increasingly clear why Louisiana’s Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc ended up as one of the few appointees from previous Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to get the nod from Gov. John Bel Edwards to continue in his post: because he can serve as a point person to shill for Edwards’ tax-and-spend agenda.

Even as former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary Burl Cain retired under an ethical cloud amid charges of departmental laxity in rules that favored the conduct of his that came under question, his son Nate Cain got removed as warden at Avoyelles Correctional Center, and former Deputy Secretary of the Office of Juvenile Justice (which position simultaneously reports to the governor) Mary Livers retired under criticism for handling her duties, LeBlanc has kept his perch. Whether he made a grand bargain with Edwards to stump for the governor’s policy preferences in exchange for his job, he echoes the governor's call for higher taxes rather than find better ways of doing things that run counter to Edwards’ notions of retaining outsized state government.

Somewhat mirroring previous testimony in the House, to a Senate panel last week LeBlanc bemoaned the proposed 7.7 percent cut, almost halved from the version of the state’s operating budget that began in the House, of $39 million from last year’s spending plan for prisoners under state supervision. He repeated that such cuts would create dangerous conditions, said these would cause the closure of the state’s two privately-run prisons and send those prisoners to local facilities that would overcrowd those, and slash re-entry programs designed to reduce recidivism rates. He saw additional revenue raised as the only solution to prevent these moves.


LA Cuba trade policy must avoid wishfulness

As the Louisiana Legislature reviews a bill to restart an economic relationship with Cuba, policy-makers must not make the same mistakes form over a decade ago. From the initial reaction from some senators, it does not seem that they will avoid the same errors, but the process has just begun.

HCR 37 by state Rep. Patrick Connick doesn’t ask for much, just that the state review business opportunities in Cuba and report back to the Legislature. Actually, this means little in that, since 2001 when federal law changed to allow food and humanitarian trade with Cuba, business opportunities remain unaffected even with Pres. Barack Obama’s unilateral normalization of relations a couple of years ago. But what it does not ask makes the difference between what the measure could do to invigorate desirable system evolution and it becoming complicit in a propaganda exercise that might bring some monetary benefits to businesses but do nothing to bring the country out of its totalitarian system.

That latter outcome describes the 2005 trip made by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and several legislators to Cuba, then led by the Führer of the Caribbean Fidel Castro. Blanco went there also looking for business opportunities during the existing near-total embargo and during a highly-publicized propaganda war between the two states. With her previous 2004 trip and this one paid for by Cuba, her demonstration of political naïveté went from average to exceptional when she allowed Castro to accost and harangue her about her national government, in a former church forcibly desacralized by Castro, and then before leaving the island did not accept the request of her own national government to meet with a Nobel prize-winner dissident.


Eliminate, don't expand, LA hate crime protections

Louisiana lawmakers should want to create disincentives to attack first responders. But it won’t work using the flawed concept of “hate” crimes legislation.

HB 953 by state Rep. Lance Harris would add to the list of hate crimes already in statute law enforcement officers (including retirees), firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel, including people not of these professions but whom attackers believe them to be. In state law, the hate crime concept adds extra penalties when victim selection for a number of serious crimes comes from some characteristic imputed towards the individual.

However, the concept itself seriously threatens personal liberty and empowers the state beyond legitimate needs. It introduces the notion that certain thoughts and motives become criminal when acted upon in addition to the inherent immorality of the act itself. That might make philosophical sense if violent acts disregarding motives received no punishment under the criminal code, so only motive counted in assessing the criminality of the act; thus, punishable acts only would emanate from impure motives, while acts from other motivations receive a pass.


Booze livens up Bossier City mayor's race

In the big small town known as Bossier City, booze keeps washing over mayoral politics, almost a year out from municipal elections.

Last month, Mayor Lo Walker ran into controversy when at first the city would not terminate an employee found to have alcohol in his system, but below the legal level of intoxication, after an accident on a city-owned vehicle while on the job. The employee claimed he had not drank on the clock, meaning he must have experienced quite a bender the night before.

City policy did not dictate the automatic firing of employees under those circumstances, a policy initially defended by Walker who claimed the guy on the job for two months was a “good employee” and did not deserve an ignominious end to his brief tenure. But when Bossier City Councilman Bubba Williams introduced an ordinance that would introduce a zero-tolerance policy to seemingly-receptive colleagues, Walker backtracked and canned the partier as part of a reinstitution of zero tolerance.


GOP House members wisely solicit order clarity

Necessary questions asked about a recent executive order issued by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards should prove useful in keeping Louisiana adhering to the rule of law.

Executive order JBE 16-11 promulgated last month mostly reinstates a much older order that “[a]ll state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, entities, or officers of the state of Louisiana” shall not “harass or discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities” in the provision of services, in personnel practices, in contracting, and that contractors must do the same. Also mirroring the past order, this one mandates cooperation from “any political subdivision” in Louisiana. It differs from the past one in that it specifies two additional protected classes, “age” and “gender identity.”

In response, a number of Republicans from the House of Representative petitioned Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to review unclear aspects of the order, both of those parts copying the older version and the newly introduced protected classes. Legislators may make such a request on an aspect of state law, and in this instance they ask several good questions about how the order impacts how several parts of government may carry out their constitutional and statutory duties. The opinion issued serves as the definitive interpretation of the law until such time the Legislature enacts or a judicial organ rules something different.


House must not discard winning hand on LA budget

The breathless reporting occurring over Louisiana’s fiscal year 2017 budget seemed to lose sight of what Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration functionaries alleged as a $600 million deficit compared to a standstill FY 2016 budget that went to zero with only one main area of contention.

At the end of last week Louisiana’s House of Representatives delivered a budget where the only controversy came over supplying just 76 percent of the projected funding for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students program that otherwise would pay tuition for any high school student with mediocre scholastic achievement to attend college. That $72 million shortfall under current law means that to qualify for TOPS only students with decent-to-good performance on the American College Test would have taxpayers foot their tuition bills.

Meaning that the other $528 million supposedly so vital for the health and safety of Louisianans found resolution. About $100 million of that would come through a funds sweep redirecting fee proceeds into funding programs not tied to those fees, but the remainder came out of operating budgets of a large cross-section of bureaucratic agencies. And it came with resounding support of House members: only three of 41 Democrats voted against it, with 14 Republicans of 61 actually against it.