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11.10.12

Defending miserable schools shows inappropriate priorities

A segment of those against education reform in Louisiana flowered fully this week in protests they pitched at the Recovery School District’s office in New Orleans, reminding the state of the necessity of keeping them away from influencing educating and of the desperate need of reform.


The demonstrations, comprised of truant students, parents, teachers, and alumni of two high schools, one whose charter operator was being changed and the other that soon will get merged into another, followed on previous days’ refusals of some students to attend classes at both. They “demanded” the undoing of certain personnel changes and cancellation of the merger.

The main controversy came regarding the merger of L.B. Landry High with O. Perry Walker. Personnel, including one popular coach/academic counselor, were let go at the former because of much lower enrollments. District resources realignment had led to changing enrollment patterns away from the school, as it emphasized getting students into higher-performing schools, and population losses as a result of the hurricane disasters of 2005 have created an overbuilt infrastructure. The coach in question, who was offered the chance to stay on as an unpaid assistant, had presided over an alumni group that wanted to take over the Landry charter rather than see the merge, so opponents speculated this caused his removal from a paid position.

10.10.12

Both sides right in politically-tinged surplus funds dispute

Take an isolated passage of an arcane bill, throw in even more arcane constitutional requirements, and stir in future gubernatorial politics to get a delightful concoction of controversy over the disposition of an apparent fiscal windfall coming Louisiana’s way.


Last month, the state reported that it expected that income tax collections would be up over $212 million over what was forecast for the past fiscal year, although when netting out other things the expected excess would be $130 million. In legal terms, this becomes reality only after the Revenue Estimating Conference recognizes it, with its next meeting set for the middle of December. Normally, as long as the bonus is from recurring sources and not over the state expenditure limit, as would be in this case, the state is free to spend it as it likes.

The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration has plans for $94 million of it, to finance a gap in cuts triggered in the state health care system by a sudden decision by the federal government to stop paying the state excess Medicaid funds, just after the new fiscal year began Jul. 1. Unless $94 million materializes one way or the other, further cuts will have to be made that already have generated plenty of controversy. But a dispute has arisen over whether an appropriations bill to fund this year’s budget allows this.

9.10.12

Approving amendment reduces protection of elderly

Perhaps the most arcane, and in monetary terms by far the most significant, amendment coming up for Louisiana voters to choose whether to ratify this fall is Amendment 1. Cursory attention to it may lead to a wrong conclusion in vote choice.


Amendment 1 would prevent the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly from being “swept,” or the process used when excess money builds up in a dedicated fund that then may be used for other obligations, through a special appropriations bill. It would join a small number of the largest funds that, given the nature of their purposes, have independent and very predictable funding streams and uses to which they are put (except for the Bond Security and Redemption Fund, a pass-through vehicle for revenues that assures state debt gets paid).

This would create an outlier, for the Fund has a narrow purpose: mainly to provide a cushion to support Medicaid payments to nursing homes and for the remainder to home- and community-based services, among other things, this mix determined by department policy although the law gives nursing homes the first crack at funds from earnings. By statute, only the interest could be swept, which, given it started with a $500 million principal balance a dozen years ago, is now cushioned by less than $20 million. It has only a relatively tiny revenue stream, from the sale of specialty license plates and penalty payments by nursing homes.

8.10.12

Practically, theoretically, special session a bad idea

Bad reasons inherent to the request recommend against the Louisiana Legislature calling itself into special session under the terms set forth by state Rep. Dee Richard. Let’s start with the practical and wind up with the theoretical that by itself that should bury the idea.


In the proposed call, Richard asks:
  • To legislate relative to requirements for legislative approval necessary prior to the closure, privatization, or reduction of the occupancy, personnel, services provided, or level of funding of a state-operated healthcare facility or human services district.
  • To legislate relative to requirements for submission for legislative approval of any plan or proposal intended to result in the sale of any LSU system hospital; and relative to requirements for submission for legislative approval of any plan or proposal intended to result in signing or executing a cooperative endeavor agreement with any private provider to operate any LSU system hospital; and relative to requirements for submission for legislative approval of any plan or proposal intended to result in any level of reduction of services below those provided on June 30, 2012, at any LSU system hospital.
  • To legislate relative to requirements for legislative approval necessary prior to the closure, privatization, or reduction of the occupancy, personnel, services provided, or level of funding of a state-operated correctional facility.
  • To legislate relative to the reestablishment of correctional facilities, healthcare facilities or human services districts, and the funding thereof, as provided for in House Bill no. 1, as enrolled, of the 2012 regular session.
This would begin Nov. 26 and last as many as 15 days. That means the session could cost taxpayers as much as roughly $1.2 million, which doesn’t exactly commend itself in this situation where the items come as a reaction to cost-savings moves in a money-strapped state. Still, a supporter of these ideas could argue it would be worth it in order to get these into law.

7.10.12

LA health care change alarmism unrelated to reality

It never ceases to amaze that in the cut-out world of the left its acolytes miss one of the most glaring of the many contradictions inherent in liberalism: the simultaneous belief that the presumably embattled lower class is rational enough to succeed were it not for being disadvantaged by some bogeyman such as big business, the wealthy, moneyed interests, Christian fundamentalists, Republicans, conservatives white males, etc., yet is too irrational to make choices in the marketplace. The reaction of them to upcoming reduction of Louisiana’s state-owned health provision infrastructure illustrates their schizophrenia perfectly.


Last week, an altered plan to reduce spending in Louisiana’s public charity hospitals was announced. In response to the federal government’s sudden retraction of money erroneously given to the state for Medicaid, which constituted the vast majority of revenues coming into that system, almost a fifth of the budget or about $500 million had to be vacuumed from the system. The plan, which covered only the seven institutions in the southern system, leaves most of those institutions with fewer than 20 beds and closes some operating rooms and specialty areas.

It’s the definitive move towards getting the state out of the hospital business in exchange for it to focus more efficiently and effectively on delivering health care to the indigent, but, as is all too typical, those invested in the idea of government provision of goods and services to the point where the sky falls at the excising of a single penny from the public sector wail and gnash their teeth at the prospect. Another cause célèbre, the closure of the Southeastern State Hospital for mental health also animates their panic.