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18.8.12

Candidate slates point to LA Democrats slipping further

Subtract the results of the Second Congressional District, and it is possible that the votes for Libertarian and no party candidates in all of the other U.S. House contests will exceed those cast for Democrats across the rest of Louisiana, belying the notion that state Democrats are anywhere near a sustained and successful rebuilding effort.

The final qualifying statistics registered Republicans having one or more candidates in all six districts, in five of which they are favored overwhelmingly, Libertarians contesting all but the First, and Democrats competing in just three, and in the Second their Rep. Cedric Richmond is the heavy reelection favorite. Besides those dismal statistics for the state’s former majority party, some others compound recognition of its plight.

By the numbers, the most competitive district for the party outside of the Second was supposed to be the Fourth. Instead, Republican Rep. John Fleming gets the closest thing running to a free ride in the state this cycle with only a Libertarian opposing him. Perhaps the next most vulnerable for the GOP was the Fifth, but Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander almost got off as easily, also facing a Libertarian and a no party contestant who has run for office before and has been treated by voters as a crank.

16.8.12

Politics, practicality prevent Caddo school district breakup

As if the legislative process did not prove daunting enough last session, more evidence has come to show why the idea of breakaway schools districts will be a hard sell in the future for any district in the state, but particularly Caddo Parish.

The continuing plunge of the Caddo Parish School District towards financial – whittling a $40 million reserve to $5 million in just three years that only stayed static under the current budget – and academic – nearly half of its schools are rated as failing or threaten to become so soon – disasters, has created talk of dissident geographies seceding to form their own districts. But if the procedures to do that aren’t daunting enough, the politics and history and practical matters are such to make this possibility the longest of shots to hit home.

Creating a new school district out of another takes two simultaneous steps. The Legislature must pass a law defining the new district and its governance structure while the state Constitution must be amended to carve in the new district granting it powers of any school district absent any special acts.

As background, 61 of Louisiana’s school districts are coterminous with parish boundaries. Washington Parish has the Bogalusa City School District and the remainder of the parish in its own, Ouachita has the Monroe City School District and the remainder of the parish in its, and East Baton Rouge is fragmented into the Baker City School District, Central Community School System, and Zachary Community Schools with Baton Rouge and the remainder of the parish in the East Baton Rouge School District.

15.8.12

Caldwell pass on defending rule of law brings questions

Perhaps even more interesting that the constitutional questions involved in a federal case brought by Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice Bernette Johnson against her colleagues is the political question sprung from the fact that the state’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell refused to intervene formally in it.

Johnson filed suit because the retiring Chief Justice Kitty Kimball wanted to convene a special hearing of the Court to determine who had the most seniority on the Court and therefore would succeed her at the end of the year. Johnson has served with the Court a few months longer than another member, but has been an elected member of it many fewer years because the first six years of her service came as an elected member not of the Court, but of an appellate court from which she was on loan.

Further muddying the waters is that, by the Court’s own ruling, this method of having her decide with the Court was unconstitutional. By the same token, a state law later amended to the original consent decree attempted to convey to her seniority privileges. Thus, Kimball wanted to have the Court sort it all out under state jurisprudence, but Johnson wants the federal government to intervene, abrogate that attempt, and through the power of the decree force her acceptance as the next chief justice.

14.8.12

Flak over hospital realignment shows power of populism

The wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear from the big government “conservatives” in St. Tammany Parish presents an object lesson into the sea change of thought necessary for right-sizing Louisiana state government.

Local elected officials were disappointed to learn that part of the fallout of a decision by Congress to ratchet back excess funds given the state for Medicaid meant the eventual closing of the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, one of the three state-owned facilities devoted to mental health patients. This will reduce the roughly 900 state-run beds for maladies of this kind by about a quarter, although the Department of Health and Hospitals pledges it will find space for all, even though that might be hundred or more miles away.

It’s unfortunate that the closing comes when it did, but not that the closing will come. The state has planned for that day to come, following the trend of almost every of state that are removing beds and closing facilities (some have closed all of them). This merely follows a long term secular trend starting with the deinstitutionalization movement launching six decades ago that has left state-operated beds at less than a twentieth in number of what they had been.

13.8.12

Old media finally getting wastefulness of film tax credits?

Not that agents part of the traditional media in Louisiana are very quick on the uptake on many issues of the day, but they finally may be catching on to the fact that Louisiana has spent approaching a billion dollars on corporate welfare for the film industry to get back pennies on the dollar. Or, maybe not.

Recently, the Shreveport Times ran an editorial that questioned the need for the state’s sacred cow of motion picture tax credits, editorializing on an effort by the leftist Louisiana Budget Project that reiterated from state reports about the roughly 13.5 cents on the dollar in tax receipts the state got for every dollar of tax credits they doled out to filmmakers. Clearly, the attentiveness of neither the LBP nor The Times does them much credit, for in this space no fewer than 10 times starting in 2005 the exact same point has been made again and again, every so often taking the newest data that would reveal the same old picture of wasteful spending, which now is approaching a billion dollars worth of issued credits.

Why did it take a burn-through of a billion bucks for The Times to catch on despite this space’s persistent analyses (and similar columns appearing in a publication that the newspaper receives, Fax-Net Update)? Even the LBP seemed to pick up on this faster than The Times, as it issued a brief in opposition about the issue last year. Regardless of how late it is to the party, it’s significant in that it becomes the first mainstream media outlet in the state even to question the merits of the program.