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2.6.12

Libertarians join conservatives in LA GOP nominee madness

There's a budget still unresolved, a potential constitutional clash over school funding, and what am I writing about? The silliness that has overcome Louisiana Republicans, especially among its libertarian cohort, on display earlier today in Shreveport at the party's statewide convention.

During the nomination season for the state GOP, the popular vote in the primary phase gave a big victory to former Sen. Rick Santorum, and a smaller win to presumptive nominee (by party rules) former Gov. Mitt Romney. But party activists during the caucus phase gave a majority to Rep. Ron Paul. As noted, any whining by the conservatives in the party was unwarranted by the fact they had the chance to follow the rules as did the libertarians.

Yet with the shoe on the other foot, now it's the libertarians who complain about the rules of the process. Statements from their leaders moan about unfairness with rules promulgated only days before the convention was to meet by the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee that would allow the convention to meet with only a third present (Paul forces had 62 percent of the delegates), which is not unusual (I have served on bodies where that proportion served as a quorum) and others in order to maximize the chances that only genuinely-committed delegates for candidates other than Paul are selected for those candidates.

31.5.12

Bill deals with higher education inefficiency inadequately

The first was an error of commission with the failure to create greater efficiency in Louisiana higher education delivery through the merger of Southern University New Orleans with the University of New Orleans. The second would have been an error of commission by inducing more inefficiency into the system by forcing together Louisiana State University Shreveport and Louisiana Tech University. Perhaps the third time is the charm although the actions and rhetoric involved signals the lesson could use a lot of reinforcing.

SB 284 by state Sen. Page Cortez would merge several disparate technical school campuses into South Louisiana Community College, located in Lafayette. While the number of campuses that would be consolidated under SLCC appears impressive, seven, in fact they are all governed under one administrative superstructure anyway, Acadiana Technical College, located in Lafayette. The other six are in Abbeville, Crowley, New Iberia, Opelousas, St. Martinville, and Ville Platte – none more than 40 miles away from the main campus. The total number of students spread among these campuses this academic year was 3,852 (SLCC enrolled 3,910).

In fact, a major problem identified years ago in the system was the presence of too many campuses with too few students. Well over half then had fewer than 250 students, and while state data do not permit breaking this down by campus, at least a couple of ATC likely qualify on this account. This mirrors the larger problem of too many campuses in the state; Louisiana ranks among the top four in smallest enrollments per two-year schools, behind other states with populations about half its size or smaller. So it might appear this bill would help out to decrease system inefficiency of too many buildings and locations and not enough people.

30.5.12

Bills, debate show statist attitudes die hard in Legislature


Two bills, minor in and of themselves, when opened to debate the rhetoric concerning them that flows shows that, despite recent progress in extinguishing this attitude among public servants, the statist mentality still hampers Louisiana public policy-making.

SB 479 by state Sen. Mike Walsworth would allow the state to trade out as economic incentives surplus property. It would follow the current legal procedure of the Department of Natural Resources reviewing whether property is surplus and, if so, getting it appraised, but then instead of auctioning it, the Department of Economic Development with the approval of the Commissioner of Administration would get to use it as an incentive to attract a business and its concomitant economic boost as a result of successful recruitment.

The House Natural Resources and Environment Committee approved the bill but not before tacking on an amendment that would require any specific project utilizing this feature to return to it and its Senate counterpart for vetting. DED opposed it, arguing this could take agreements made with confidentiality out of the running by use of this tool.

29.5.12

With chicken hawks checked, real fiscal debate may start

The majority rules in our system of government, and with the governor and one chamber of the Louisiana Legislature cornering the other, the only overall question is whether how quickly and how much resistance will be encountered in dealing with both a current year budget deficit and production of one for the next fiscal year – and whether this resolution starts a meaningful conversation about the proper role and scope of government for the future.

On Memorial Day, the Senate by way of one of its committees restored much of the spending from the budget originally forwarded by Gov. Bobby Jindal to the House. This action signals to the House that it cannot pass its version, and must acquiesce or continue to drag out a process that only will discomfit those wedded to opposition. The panel did so in a manner designed to give the House majority maximum cover – because the argument all along has been symbolic, not substantive.

Had the argument been one of substance – what is the appropriate amount of revenue to be raised by state government and the appropriate things on which to spend it, with an equilibrium point established by the value of an incremental function of government being performed equaling or exceeding the injury done to the people by removing their property in order to pay for it – things would have turned out very differently than what occurred in the House. Instead of taking an artificial concept – “one-time money” – and making that the baseline on which to establish a spending figure in addition to official recurring revenue forecasts, followed by abdicating the responsibility to specify and justify areas of  low priority to eliminate to the executive branch with only vague, if not unrealistic, guidance on how to do so, the substantive approach would have been to collect all recurring monies, match them in accordance to functions by need by whatever legal means necessary, and then during debate explain what things previously funded were not going to be and why.

28.5.12

Memorial Day, 2012

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

With Monday, May 28 being Memorial Day, I invite you to explore the link above.

27.5.12

Newspaper cutback creates opportunity to help taxpayers


The decision by the New Orleans Times-Picayune to cease daily publication invites a review of the state’s corporate welfare laws benefitting large publishers at taxpayer expense. Unfortunately, that review is likely to track past efforts that put special interests over taxpayers.

The presumed problem stems from R.S. 43:141 et. seq., which mandates certain qualification for newspapers serving as “papers of record,” meaning it prints official government notices. Legislators from the area seemed convinced the law would have to be changed, and quickly, to allow the paper to continue as the paper of record for all things Orleans in the near future.

Actually, under current law initially the change still would allow many units of Orleans government to continue using the paper, because for many jurisdictions the law does not specify any publishing frequency. However, R.S. 43:202 specifically requires judicial notices be published in a daily paper for Orleans. Further, to be eligible for any jurisdiction to award an annual contract, the paper in question must have published “at least weekly” during the previous five years. This means legislators must feel that the Times-Picayune, as some have suspected in the wake of the announcement, plans to cease publication of a print edition sometime in the future, if change is felt to be needed for all instances of government record publishing in Orleans.