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23.12.09

With departure, LA Democrats can put up or shut up

After attempts public and private to boot him out of office, it appears that the chairman of Louisiana’s Democrats Chris Whittington apparently is leaving the post on his own accord, departing with a mixed legacy.

On the one hand, the tide of conservatism that belatedly has turned the South Republican at last hit Louisiana and caused major retrenchment of Democrats. Out of seven statewide elected offices, seven U.S. House seats, and the pair of Senators, only three of these spots are held by Democrats, one in each category, compared to the 10 when he assumed command of the party from the hapless Jim Bernhard. Democrats also during his term lost their effective majority in the state House although giving up only a little ground in the state’s Senate. One could blame the party leader for these reversals.

On the other hand, it must be noted that perhaps the weakest state political parties, institutionally speaking, in the country are Louisiana’s, in part because of a political culture that has placed so must emphasis on candidates/personalities, and in part because of a political system whose blanket primary system for state and local offices discourages identification with and disempowers parties. And of the two major parties, because registration tides have run against them to instill further resource erosion, as an organization the Democrats are the institutionally weaker.

This has caused problems precisely because it allows Democrats to be a fractious lot. While some uninformed or self-deceived true believers remain, the bankruptcy of liberal ideology leaves only the pursuit of power as an idea to hold various wings together, so when certain parts feel left out in the acquisition of that power, there is little that can be done utilizing party resources to hold it together to compete maximally. Perhaps the best example of this during Whittington’s reign was when white liberal-in-conservative’s clothing former Rep. Don Cazayoux possibly was prevented from extending his six months in office by black unapologetic liberal state Rep. Michael Jackson running as an independent.

However, given the tension underlying the party between the liberals who would cause the party statewide electoral disaster with their unabashed pursuit of that agenda electorally and those who think the party can maximize its chances by deceiving the electorate into thinking they are supporting quasi-conservative candidates under the Democrat label, perhaps this is the best Whittington could do. Maybe only he knows how many other ruptures did not occur because the party stepped in and kept the peace.

While there are several states that have proportionally fewer Democrats in state offices, probably no state party has for now such a strong electoral current running against it in terms of progress relative to Republicans. The frustrations that will ensue will make many think this as a futile, enervating job.

But the time may be at hand for an appointment of historic proportions. With almost as many blacks as whites registered as Democrats and considering the party’s flagging fortunes, would not the appointment of a black leader allow the party to back its specious claim (argued to some degree against by Jackson as a reason he said he would run as an independent) that it truly pursues interests of the black community? Potentially this could invigorate the party and likely the only thing that can if it refuses to move towards the political center. But this would require longstanding entrenched interests in the party to give up power.

Thus, despite the relative unattractiveness of the job, look for an interesting succession process that will tell us what Louisiana Democrats really are all about and just how credible the party is for all its protestations of inclusiveness.

22.12.09

LA policy-makers must fight flawed EPA takeover

Maybe the outspokenness comes from knowing he’s moving on by his own accord, but Louisiana’s Secretary of Environmental Quality Harold Leggett sent a necessary note that should wake up the uninformed and rouse the quasi-religious, and helps to back responsible policy-makers from Louisiana.

Leggett, who is leaving his post early next year to return to the private sector, penned a letter (similar to that of leaders of two other states) to the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency objecting to its ruling that “endangerment” exists concerning emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This enables the agency to begin regulating CO2 as a “dangerous” gas and has introduced a means to do so. Leggett argues that Congress, which created the Clean Air Act of 1971 under which the EPA is claiming authority to do this and which represents the people, should be deferred to by the EPA in deciding what to do.

This position is entirely justified because of three major problems with the EPA’s approach. First, it derives its authority to do this from a 2007 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that was tortured in its jurisprudence and arrogated to itself what it thinks Congress should have thought about what could be regulated and how. Second, it does so through its own dubious interpretation of the law, unilaterally rewriting it because to follow the letter of the law would impose absurdly high regulatory costs on virtually any property bigger than a large house. Third, the “science” on which EPA based its decision itself has been demonstrated to be faulty, flawed, manipulated, and unreliable.

Thus, the logical conclusion is that if the EPA follows the law it will have such an absurd impact therefore reasonable minds must conclude Congress never intended the Act to regulate anything in the air and the genuine science to support the idea that man-made CO2 emissions cause a significant negative change in climate does not exist. Therefore, it would be entirely appropriate for the EPA not to act to preserve the integrity of the law and to allow Congress to provide guidance through legislation clarifying what it means to do, using actual science.

That, however, runs against the ideological grain of the pres. Barack Obama Administration which hopes to use the issue to increase government control over the economy to empower government and its other allies. This approach also brings power and privilege to those who disregard the questionable “science” behind the idea of man-made climate change and cling to that as a matter of faith regardless of the costs to people.

Louisiana is blessed to have two of the more active members of Congress who speak against the man-made climate change fraud, Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Steve Scalise. Hopefully, they will echo Leggett’s concerns in Washington and strive to correct the bull-headed Obama agenda by continuing to work against disastrous bills that in essence would ratify the EPA’s choice and to support others that would counteract its decisions in this regard.

Leggett is to be applauded for publicizing an issue gone largely unnoticed by the public and this would serve as a worthy way to punctuate his service to the state.

21.12.09

Suggested changes needed to ethics law adjudication

In cooperation with Louisiana’s Board of Ethics, the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration has come up with some changes to ethics law adjudication that deserve legal enactment, despite what one key legislator thinks.

The most significant change involves allowing the Board to appeal decisions. The present procedure has the Board acting as prosecutor and bringing cases to administrative law judges for adjudication, but then the Board legally must approve all decisions made by the law panel to which there is no appeal. Jindal and many on the Board both want to change this so that the Board can appeal a panel decision into the appellate court system and not just rubber-stamp everything.

This makes sense. As the Board acts like a prosecutor as well as grand jury, as a prosecutor it should have an appeal option. This clears up the legal ambiguity that forces it currently to sign off on all decisions, even those with which it disagrees. Also, this can clarify uncertainties of the law by having a court invested with judicial power provide a single legal interpretation of ethics statutes.

While unrelated to current desired changes, these would address another area of controversy that came in the legislation that created this system, of a higher standard of proof being needed than before for conviction. Those who favored the new, higher standard said since some of the penalties were severe it should apply, but those supporting the old, lower standard said these were civil matters under administrative law courts which should not appropriately be deciding under the higher standard. The effect of these changes would be to support the higher standard because now all cases had the possibility of going into the regular court system that deals with that burden of proof consistently.

However, state Rep. Rick Gallot who leads the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that deals with these matters, expressed opposition to the changes, saying adding an appeals process would lengthen the process and expenses for defendants. He charged it was a case of sour grapes for the Board, which has lost some cases in front of the panels.

What he neglected to add is that this procedure could cause him some personal ethics problems. Gallot was the beneficiary of a legal ambiguity in terms of statute of limitations because of the changes wrought by the previous reforms. It’s likely that if an appeals process of the kind envisioned existed, the First Circuit would rule in favor of the Board that Gallot still could be prosecuted for alleged violations concerning his work with a university foundation.

But what’s one puny legislator compared to the might of the governor? If Jindal is serious about this, Gallot nor anybody else will be able to resist these welcome changes from coming to fruition during the next legislative session.

20.12.09

Two gals' choices help two guys' Congressional bids

Lost in the recent Legislative shuffleboard has been that two legislators now can feel better about their political futures because of the unanticipated actions of two others.

If anybody had predicted some kind of announcement coming from Democrat state Rep. Karen Peterson about this time it would have been that she was making herself the favorite to win the Second Congressional District by her entry into the contest. Not only does Peterson hold the second-highest position in the state House, Speaker Pro-Tem, but in 2006 she strongly had challenged then-incumbent William Jefferson, then fighting investigation for crimes in office for which he later was convicted.

But Peterson passed on the contest in 2008 while Jefferson was indicted. It was won by present incumbent Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, largely because of the damaged candidacy of Jefferson, but with demographics favoring a Democrat and Cao’s support of a bill that would increase the cost of health care while reducing its quality souring Republicans on him, the winner of the Democrat primary in 2010 can expect election in November.

However, that won’t be Peterson, as almost simultaneously with the announcement of Democrat state Sen. Cheryl Evans’ upcoming resignation of her seat, Peterson announced she would pursue it, had a campaign organization ready to go, and had gotten scheduled her first fundraiser for the Feb. 6 election. Evans, who is leaving to stay in the same area code with her husband whose job has them moving out of state, appears to have with Peterson done a little coordination to give Peterson a head start on capturing the seat.

That Peterson has done so aggressively indicates that she does not have Congress in mind. It would be silly to go for the Senate seat, then to turn right back around and start campaigning for Congress (having delayed that for the Senate race for nearly two months). One could argue this isn’t something too far off from what Rep. Steve Scalise did before winning his Congressional seat – run for the state Senate in 2007, only to compete for the First District seat immediately after. Yet in Scalise’s case the seat came open only concurrently with his state victory – Gov. Bobby Jindal being elected – and also consider that Peterson is giving up her House leadership post. Unless she’s serious about staying in the Senate awhile, if she was just marking time until bagging a win for federal office it wouldn’t make much sense to give up that post.

Regardless of her reasons, this development must please the likes of state Reps. Cedric Richmond and Juan LaFonta, currently the main candidates for the Democrat nominee likely to face Cao. Neither could beat Peterson had she run, so one of them, probably Richmond given the increasing favors shown him by national Democrats, now is the favorite. For which, ultimately, they have to thank Evans’ sense of family togetherness and Peterson’s lack of interest (which may be for the same reason; she also is a relative newlywed who might not prefer spending so much time in Washington).