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Stuck on stupid XXVII: Unions keep preferential treatment

Unions kept their winning streak alive yesterday at the Capitol, showering disdain upon taxpayers and letting hypocrisy bloom fully among state legislators – and laying bare the real fear they wish to keep hidden from those who subsidize them.

Earlier this session, a bill that would have halted taxpayer subsidization of pensions of future union officials while they were not performing state duties was shunted aside. Yesterday, the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee took up HB 451 by state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, which would had removed public employees from processing the transfer of compensation diverted to union dues for all except public safety employees.

Seabaugh explained the bill was as simple as instead of an employee in a union or wishing to join one as part of the job hiring or change in personnel status filling out a piece of government paperwork to authorize public employees on taxpayer time to authorize deduction on a regular basis union dues from paychecks, the employee would fill out one provided by a union or bank (or one could even do this online) to make a direct debit on that regular basis. As a matter of principle, he said government should not be in the business of assisting with taxpayer resources a private entity in performing one of its duties, especially one that bargained with government over taxpayer resources.


GOP white knight unlikely to stem Landrieu battering

We can most easily understand the relationship between Pres. Barack Obama and his best friend forever Sen. Mary Landrieu as one where he proposes and she disposes, while she petitions and he ignores, testimony of crony capitalists notwithstanding that provides a backdrop to the changing political culture in Louisiana.

Last week, Obama gave another twist to the knife in her back when his administration yet again delayed (introducing absolutely spurious reasoning to do so) any decision of the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, despite the fact every administrative review that has come back shows scarcely any environmental impact and that it will have a substantially positive economic impact. Landrieu consistently has called for its approval, in tune with public opinion on the matter in the state. Refusal to allow the northern portion to be built (the southern one, identical in impact, already is operational) continues to negate her campaign narrative that she deserves another term because of her “indispensability” to the state, mocked even more now that the Democrat has assumed the chairwomanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Perhaps to counter that, recently the Landrieu campaign began running an ad featuring Donald Boysinger, a former state Republican state official and frequent delegate to the Republican National Convention – and who has donated to several Democrats in the past and whose family has given to Landrieu – repeating the narrative. Of course, Bollinger’s company gets a good chunk of its revenues from federal government orders that Landrieu no doubt can encourage from her perch – even as the federal government seeks a judgment against Bollinger Shipyards to recoup money for claimed substandard work.


McAllister, hubris gone, defers; resets CD 5 to last fall

Like a Christmas bonfire on a levee, Rep. Vance McAllister’s political career burned quickly and then flamed out, fortune not favoring the foolish and setting up for a successor more like a tortoise than a hare.

Yesterday, McAllister announced he would not run for reelection to an office he won less than half a year ago being a political unknown nine months ago, undone by as about an unforced error as can be imaginable. Common sense tells you that you keep your tongue in your mouth even if beguiled by a staffer married to one of your best friends, which he almost inexplicably ignored.

But, in a sense, it all came too easily to McAllister for him not to apply caution. Everything fell in place for him to win to make him seem to himself invulnerable – a desultory field save one Republican, that Republican not entirely fairly said part of a cabal to grease the skids for his own election that served to discourage support for him, a fortuitous network of friendships useful to maximize McAllister’s chances in a low-turnout electoral environment, and a canny ability to position himself as both anti-politician to appeal to conservatives and as anti-partisan to appeal to liberals.


Jindal CCSS switch may backfire on rest of his agenda

Not satisfied with a few knowing about his having it both ways, Gov. Bobby Jindal decided to exhibit full public migration on the Common Core in State Standards issue by coming out publicly and nationwide against this measure he had previously (years ago without any publicity) endorsed. While this has ramifications for the issue, it’s more likely the effects of the announcement will have a greater impact on others.

Jindal argued in nationally-distributed opinion piece that he turned against it because the “federal government became increasingly involved,” although he does not specify in what way nor how that is connected to curriculum, which, as the state superintendent in 2010 when CCSS was adopted by the state Paul Pastorek notes, none of the intended curricula in Louisiana had any shaping done by federal government standards. Nonetheless, Jindal claimed it was “Washington determining curriculum,” even as he admitted “it still is not a curriculum” but that it somehow would evolve into one by unspecified means because it must “teach to the test” – even as Pastorek makes clear the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the consortium that is deciding on a common assessment mechanism of which Louisiana is a member, that the only federal involvement with PARCC was to pay for the 17 states to formulate a test on their own.

The PARCC argument Jindal makes naturally extends from his recent announcement that he wanted Louisiana to withdraw from it. By his rationale, this means no “nationally shaped” exam would force a teaching to the test that automatically would slam the state’s curricula into the mold set by the alleged federal curriculum. But, the problem is, the agreement with PARCC unambiguously does not allow a governor to withdraw from it, requiring also the assent of the superintendent, John White, and the head of the body that appoints him the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Chas Roemer. Neither have wavered in support of PARCC and CCSS.


Dardenne should leverage opposition to Landrieu tax

Gubernatorial politics of the future has emerged from the Louisiana Legislature with competing opinions over a bill to raise hotel taxes in New Orleans, providing jockeying both that may determine success in the field and assist the city as it hurls towards financial difficulty.

As adverse court decisions begin to mount for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that compel the city to spend money on items he would rather not, passage of revenue-raising bills specific to the city in this session become more critical. Decisions regarding consent decrees and underfunding of pensions, even discounting a small budget surplus this year, means next year the city must come up with at least $46 million more for next year (and maybe as much as $53.5 million) and perhaps as much as $38 million more annually after that – assuming a flat budget extending from this year’s.

This resulted in a trio of bills to confiscate from the people additional money to meet that annual gap. HB 111 by state Rep. Walt Leger would amend the Constitution to raise property taxes a mil dedicated to police and fire protection. HB 1083 by state Rep. Jared Brossett (who within days will jump from the frying pan into the fire by assuming a seat on the New Orleans City Council, so someone else theoretically must shepherd this bill) would place a 1.75 percent occupancy tax on hotels. HB 1210 by state Rep. Helena Moreno would slap an additional 75 cents tax on tobacco products in the city. All told, they could raise $38.6 million a year.