Search This Blog


Even with casting error, Jindal vetoes looking good

Perhaps because he may have plans to get out of town for a period, Gov. Bobby Jindal has not wasted time in casting vetoes, but so far left unchanged his hisotircal penchant for getting these right, with one major exception.

In the past, Jindal typically has waited as long as he can before vetoing, which makes sense to maximize your decision period. But he started early in his last roundup as governor, putting his highest-profile cancellation on HB 42 by state Rep. Sam Jones, which unwisely would have accelerated a pension raise to retired state employees and teachers and beneficiaries that would have degraded further the retirement systems’ stability at taxpayer expense. Other necessary ones have come as well.

HB 370 by state Rep. Chris Broadwater would have interposed an unelected panel into human resource management decisions made by the executive branch. While Jindal pointed out the politically-appointed group from outside his auspices, which would have had the power to make the Division of Administration’s Office of Group Benefits comply with premiums rates it established for insurance products offered to state employees, lacked OGB representation and increased the possibility that politics would trump actuarial-based reasons to determine rates, a more fundamental flaw ordained this veto. It’s never sound practice to violate unity of command in the management of personnel, as this makes the manager less able to induce performance from employees. By having an outside entity interfere with this important decision, the pricing of benefits, which determines employee recruitment, retention, and motivation, this thereby makes working at cross-purposes more likely, reducing the tools at disposal to shape bureaucratic behavior in a coherent fashion. If dissatisfied with personnel policy by a governor, the solution is not to muddle the environment but to change governors through election, recall, or impeachment.

HB 137 by state Rep. Kenny Havard retreaded old ground that, while less noxious in its details than with previous versions, had not changed the fundamentals that would have made it bad law. Under the guise of oversight regarding contracting out government services, the bill would have made it easier for legislators to stifle cost-effective privatization by weighing determination criteria biased in favor of state performance in order to help them present themselves as providers of jobs and of state spending in their districts to voters for purposes of securing reelection. Facilitating the ability of legislators to put parochial needs ahead of statewide goals serves no good public purpose. What’s more, it violates good managerial practice by allowing too much legislative interference (oversight procedures already exist that allow the Legislature to pass laws constricting administrative actions) into the practice of administration. Again, if philosophically objecting to beneficial privatization of government services, using the ballot box to put into power those who agree with that is the proper solution. For his part, Jindal noted that it would obstruct cost-savings efforts.

HB 837 by state Rep. Ed Price, largely laudable in recognizing that wrongly-convicted individuals should not have their records reflect that they ever were convicted of a serious crime, goes too far, as Jindal pointed out, in also expunging records of those who had served their sentence completely and been employed for at least ten consecutive years without any further convictions. As dated as that information could be, those such as prospective employers, landlords, etc. still should have access to that data so that they could decide for themselves whether the person constitutes unsustainable risk in any contractual relationship. Knowledge that evidence of a serious crime would stay with you your entire life may act as a deterrent from commission of that crime in the first place. Regrettably, Price chose not to remove that part of the bill and leave only the innocence expungement portion, which would have removed this sound objection.

However, perhaps the veto signature the least merited of Jindal’s now-concluding terms in office came with his rejection of SB 48 by state Sen. Jack Donahue, which would have capped spending on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students at next year’s levels that would have had the practical effect of meaning money to pay for tuition would not have been available to the lowest qualifiers for it if institutions subsequently raised tuition. (A great deal of confusion surrounded the practical impact of the bill, with people as varied as state Treasurer John Kennedy and multiple media reporters mistakenly thinking that it would have continued to pay all qualifiers, just not the full amount.)

Raising standards through this means would have the salutary impacts of making TOPS more a true scholarship program than entitlement and therefore elevating performances in high school and would reduce the one-third default rate as weaker performers more likely to fail to meet retention standards for it disproportionately comprise this group that would have been excluded. The veto only creates incentives for lower high school achievement and higher rates of award loss, wasting taxpayer dollars.

Yet, depending on legislative reaction next year, in the end this action only may stall but not prevent reform. The Legislature could come back then with a similar bill, starting on the same effective date as it would have been under SB 48, Jul. 1, 2016 and just the same using this upcoming fiscal year as the base. Approve it like that, and the outcome is exactly the same. And the new governor might prove much more amenable to this kind of limitation, where Jindal had a blind spot to the program’s inefficiency.

Jindal has signed into law a couple that he should have vetoed, but as far as what was vetoed, he’s fast out of the gate and, with the one exception that may end up having no substantive impact, so far deciding well.

No comments: