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Bossier govts win, lose on panhandling

If you’re a Bossier government, you win some (maybe) and you lose some when it comes to panhandling.

This spring, Bossier City passed two ordinances that have the effect of limiting panhandling. One prohibited aggressive panhandling, defined as an attempt to solicit again someone after refusal, applying the citywide. The other prevents exchanges of objects that cause drivers to slow or stop on or next to any of a dozen named roadways, associated medians, and public egress and exits to these.

While the aggressive panhandling one, commonly seen in municipalities, stoked no controversy, the other had. Authored by Councilor Tommy Harvey, it avoids any mention of begging and tries to frame itself as a public safety measure. Since a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that substantially raised the burden of proof on local government to demonstrate such laws did not restrict protected speech, governments have found it very difficult to pass constitutional measures directly addressing panhandling.


Landrieu unwisely dismisses water privatization

Maybe current New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s preference for big government for now may get in the way of privatization of the city’s sewerage and water services, but his successor should not display the same bias.

In the wake of the city’s Sewerage and Water Board’s indifferent management that culminated in failure to adequately stem recent flooding, Landrieu promised a top-down review of the agency that he largely controls through appointments. He initially implied bringing in a private sector operator during the process to implement any reforms eventually deemed desirable.

But he later walked back on any impression that a private entity actually would run things during or after the review process. The subject had come up at the beginning of the century but populist urges led the political appointees then of SWB to reject the effort.


Expectations broaden issues in treasurer's race

Talk of extraneous issues during the special election to fill Sen. John Kennedy’s former Louisiana treasurer position comes because voters see the job as a training ground for higher office.

Republican Kennedy ascended to the U.S. Senate at the beginning of the year, leaving a couple of years left on his term. Into the fray have jumped three major candidates, all Republicans: Angéle Davis, for two years commissioner of administration under former Gov. Bobby Jindal; state Sen. Neil Riser; and former state Rep. John Schroder.

At a recent local Republican Party forum, Davis and Riser found themselves answering a myriad of questions that had really nothing to do with the treasurer’s job, such as their Second Amendment views and religious backgrounds. Schroder could not attend because of a scheduling conflict.


Landrieu bears blame for flood consequences

So maybe anthropogenic global warming isn’t such a great existential threat to New Orleans after all? Instead, maybe it’s the policy and personnel decisions of Mayor Mitch Landrieu?

The Landrieu Administration found itself flatfooted last weekend when parts of the city flooded. While the heavy rains that swept the area obviously set the stage for the semi-disaster, as time went on it became clear failures by the city’s quasi-autonomous Sewerage and Water Board, controlled by Landrieu, bore the major fault.

From the time waters began rising clearly something seemed amiss. For example, an area essentially dry in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the corner of Dauphine and Esplanade, took on a couple of feet of water. (Looking out my window at that intersection 29 years ago during Tropical Storm Beryl, no water accumulated there.) Over queries prompted by events like these, Administration figures kept insisting collection and drainage mechanisms worked correctly. Then-Executive Director of the SWB, Cedric Grant, hypothesized climate change had caused the flooding.


Wage/race pay gap myths live despite facts

No matter how little factual support they have, you can count on proponents of the gender “wage gap” myth to keep peddling their buncombe. And it gets even more hyperventilated when you can throw race into the mix.

Some Louisiana media outlets regurgitated the breathless proclamation of special interests wishing to perpetuate the myth last week, when the alleged “Equal Pay for Black Women” day occurred. That means in the state that it took this much of 2017 plus 2016 for black women typically to earn as much as white non-Hispanic men did in 2016. By the numbers, the median earnings for that female was 48 percent of that male’s – something to consider as minority females made up a sixth of Louisiana’s civilian labor force in 2014, most of them being black.

Of course, the statistic is bogus from the word “go,” beginning with the fundamental recognition that average earnings differs enormously from average wage. Conceptualized as “wage,” that does not take into account a myriad of factors that affect the average amount of money per year earned by individuals and how they differ by sex and race, including most conspicuously hours worked per year, occupational choices, experience in current jobs, and willingness to work in less desirable locations while travelling more.


Denying gimmickry making Edwards hypocrite

From the governor who said he is “committed to open and honest budgeting that does not rely on the gimmicks of the past,” yet another past budget gimmick he endorsed surfaces.

It turns out that about $28 million used in the fiscal year 2018 budget does not exist yet, and may not before the close of the year. That money depends upon resolution of lawsuits favorably to Louisiana, which an additional about $8 million did come available recently.

Two sources encompass the disputed dollars: money paid in protest by medical device manufacturers over a tax on those items and by businesses contesting a temporary one cent increase in sales taxes on utilities. There is no guarantee that either will be settled in the state’s favor or even that if a settlement occurs to its liking that this would occur before Jun. 30, although the utility tax case appears very probably to end in a victory for the state. But that case has dragged out for more than a year, and those funds originally appeared in the FY 2017 budget only not to become available.


The Advocate column, Aug. 6, 2017

Cities and law enforcement offices can learn from Sid Gautreaux on immigration enforcement



Columnist critique of rival newspaper overblown

Looks like a little counting of coup has broken out concerning Louisiana’s top two newspapers over Prisoner #03128-095, now known as Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Next week he will celebrate his 90th birthday, and a number of overenthusiastic well-wishers will pony up big bucks to honor him. Headlined by admirer-in-chief Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, donors include John Georges, former Democrat candidate for New Orleans mayor and no-party candidate for governor who now owns The Baton Rouge Advocate.

This raised the hackles of New Orleans Times-Picayune/ columnist Tim Morris, who wondered why a sitting governor should laud a convicted predecessor. He also questioned Georges’ explanation of his link the event, as Georges said he personally paid for his portion but put the newspaper’s name on it to generate publicity, and understood it was a charity event. Morris noted the prominence of The Advocate’s logo on the official website for the occasion, and that the event appeared to support no identified charitable purpose.


Defunding superior option to Cassidy overhaul

Another attempt, another stalled action to pare the bad aspects of the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Where does that leave Louisianans and what does Sen. Bill Cassidy have to offer about this?

As to the first question, if you’re a more productive member of society, in a bad place. Keep in mind the law does little to improve health care access for the population as a whole, mainly achieving dramatic wealth redistribution. For Louisianans, health care insurance premiums for Affordable Care Act-compliant plans have increased on average between 10 percent to 20 percent in 2015; 6 percent to 30 percent in 2016; 23 percent to 41 percent in 2017; and scheduled for 2018 in a range from 12 percent to 36 percent.

In other words, in the worst of all scenarios, the law has helped triple non-group rates in Louisiana. Nationally, the average increase from 2013 to 2017 was 60 percent, well beyond the pace of medical inflation.


Offer shows merit of Shreveport water privatization

Maybe Shreveport should take a quick peek around the horse’s mouth on a deal that saves it hundreds of millions of dollars, and take this very seriously.

A local lawyer representing SUEZ’s North American operations pitched an idea to city government that the company would buy Shreveport’s water and sewerage operations for $508 million. SUEZ, a French corporation that also deals in environmental and energy matters, contracts for operation in or outright owns and runs about 100 municipal systems in America, making it the second largest firm doing that.

A deal like this would create a windfall for the city. Recent years have seen dramatic rate hikes endured by Shreveport consumers to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements mandated by the federal government. Not only would this relieve the city of this burden, it also could save money by Shreveport not having to run water and sewerage operations and this puts a lot of money into its coffers for other capital improvement needs.


Raising minimum wage subverts intended purpose

An outstanding argument against raising the minimum wage was delivered by one of its recipients, underscoring that this increase should not happen in Louisiana.

The Advocate recently asked Gov. John Bel Edwards about whether he still champions the idea of the state adopting a law moving Louisiana higher than the federal level of $7.25 an hour. Through a spokesman, he confirmed he did.

For the story’s introductory material, it gave comments rendered by a woman who apparently once had worked for some time at minimum wage. At age 27, she had two children and tried to go to community college while working at that wage. She eventually had to quit attending and picked up an additional job. Apparently, she has moved on to a more prosperous station in life since.


Dense LA reporter feeds distrust of media

If the attitudes expressed by the Monroe News-Star’s/USA TODAY Network’s Greg Hilburn stand in for those generally of the media, then it’s no surprise why the election and presidency of Pres. Donald Trump and the actions of the Republican legislative majorities in Louisiana flummox them.

Only the Gannett folks thought it newsworthy enough to report about the election of state Rep. Tony Bacala as vice chairman of the Republican Legislative Delegation. Undoubtedly Bacala rose to prominence for his proposals to restrain inefficient government spending, such as bills asking for minimal Medicaid patient responsibility and ending the counterproductive Earned Income Tax credit, and other measures like eliminating vacancies in state government to capture the savings.

Conservative policy prescriptions like these resonate with large minorities, if not with majorities, in Louisiana’s center-right electorate. But not to Hilburn, who characterized Bacala’s ascension as “tightening the far right's grip on the lower chamber.” One wonders if there’s some swastika tattooed on Bacala’s somewhat glabrous pate about which only Hilburn knows, or perhaps he has seen Bacala flash some alt-right signs or gear that has escaped everybody else, to explain how he could write something so opinionated in a news story.


Tax filing law culls inferior LA candidates

It turns out that a change made in recent years to qualifications for Louisiana elected office has brought a welcome order of natural selection for potential policy-makers.

Act 827 of 2010 amended R.S. 18:463 so that for all state and local candidates for office that for each of the previous five tax years, they must have filed his federal and state income tax returns, or filed for an extension of time for filing either federal or state income tax returns or both, or were not required to file either a federal or state income tax return or both. And, every election cycle, this requirement that candidates follow the law regarding their financial reporting to government trips up candidates.

Upcoming New Orleans municipal election have proven no different, if not exceptionally fertile, in this regard. No fewer than half a dozen face some kind of suit over that provision with one already ruled disqualified as a result.


Flood insurance privatization could save LA much

Louisiana’s members of Congress plus its state government can work together to prevent huge taxpayer bailouts for flooding losses while keeping premium costs reasonable.

For almost half a century the government-backed National Flood Insurance Property has dominated the flood casualty industry, which has affected no state more than Louisiana. A fifth of all losses have occurred in it, with a third of all payouts made to it.

Still, flooding in north Louisiana almost 18 months ago and around Baton Rouge about a year ago caught out a large number of properties without the insurance, adding billions more in costs to taxpayers on top of the roughly $25 billion debt the program owes. Dealing with that insolvency, which would force state regulators to close any company with that imbalance in the private sector, has become a major part of reform attempts in 2012, 2014, and in proposed legislation addressing the end of the program’s current authorization at the end of September.


Onus on Edwards to depoliticize police panel

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards found relief from a minor embarrassment that appears not so cut and dried an indictment against the quality of his leadership.

Last week Calvin Braxton, Sr. resigned from the Louisiana State Police Commission, after allegations he tried to exert influence over state troopers. The SPC acts as the body overseeing state police personnel, organized as a civil service separate from other classified state civil service employees.

A television station investigation said, beginning right before Edwards’ inauguration, he attempted to pressure troopers by making them aware of his status on the SPC. Among other things, it hears disputes over aspects of employment, meaning that a member represents one of seven votes that could discipline or discharge a sworn Department of Public Safety employee.


Edwards finds he can't give orders as in Army

If he has any hope to drive Louisiana’s policy agenda, Gov. John Bel Edwards eventually has to figure out that he’s not in the Army any more.

The Democrat seemed to receive a surprise at the close of last week when his handpicked choice for the District 2 Public Service Commission full term, Damon Baldone, registered for that race as a Republican. Recently, when former commissioner Scott Angelle took a job working for the Pres. Donald Trump Administration, Edwards with praise appointed Baldone to serve in the interim.

Baldone sat a decade in the Legislature and, make no mistake, according to his Louisiana Legislature Log voting scores from 2004-11 he fit the profile of a Democrat, the label he claimed throughout his tenure. Where 0 marks a maximal liberal/populist set of preferences on a scale of 100, he had an average of 41, although his views seemed to moderate as the years passed. His first full term he averaged almost 34 but bumped up to 47.5 in his last term. His last year saw him with a 65, more than double the score of the lowest House of Representatives scorer from that year – Edwards.


Dynamics argue for CSA objects to stay in place

The dust has settled in New Orleans, with minor dustups flaring in Shreveport, Alexandria, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. And it seems who’s depicted and how many people live around there matters when it comes to controversy stoked over Confederate monuments.

New Orleans served as ground zero for the displacement of these historical objects, with the dispatching of a pair of items listed on the National Register of Historical Places and a couple of others. Shreveport has seen lengthy discussion of another Register object’s fate, with some decision – even if to punt on the issue – coming soon. Within the past couple of years, calls to remove statuary in Alexandria, Lafayette and Lake Charles went unheeded.

So, despite all the publicity surrounding the New Orleans uprootings, outside of there almost nothing has changed, with these objects still holding forth on public property. And from this we can understand why what happened in New Orleans did, with next to no replication elsewhere in Louisiana.


Caddo must retain courthouse monument to CSA

It was one thing to remove the (Third) Confederate (Battle) flag from the environs of the monument in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse. It’s another thing entirely to move the monument itself.

Earlier this month, after a round of hearings a citizens advisory committee probing the question of whether to evict the statuary commemorating “The Lost Cause” reached a strange pseudo-climax. After a document recommended its removal circulated prior to the meeting announcing that as its decision, the committee postponed the actual gathering because of the absence of one member even though it had a quorum to proceed.

This seemed to reflect a struggle among members as to what to recommend mirroring the fate of the written product. Apparently, mimicking the most contentious and significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions, multiple drafts, all with the possibility of catching majority assent to become the final ruling, circulated among members almost up to the point of the meeting’s convening.


Evidence supports STP fire district consolidation

The controversy that flares again over consolidation of St. Tammany Parish fire districts echoes another contentious issue in local government: whether school districts should fragment, as once discussed in Caddo Parish and continues on the agenda in East Baton Rouge Parish. Reviewing both debates points to proper resolution of the issue the parish faces.

St. Tammany has 13 different districts devoted to fire protection, including Covington’s department. A few years ago, consultants delivered a plan to merge the parish’s districts eventually into three. Recently revived, this brought up arguments relevant to an idea that floated around Caddo Parish a few years ago to separate the areas outside of Shreveport into a district, as well as reminding of the saga of the past several years where people in most of the unincorporated areas of East Baton Rouge have attempted to create their own district, even going so far as trying to form a municipality to enhance that effort

Special districts such as these have differing aspects that argue for or against separation or consolidation. Much research has focused on school districts in light of the tremendous consolidation undergone by these occurring in less than a century, cutting the number of districts by nearly 90 percent. Those efforts produced a mixed bag.


Renamed shindig tests hypocrisy of LA Democrats

Perhaps inevitably, Louisiana Democrats have dumped the names of Pres. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their state party’s annual fundraising dinner. The future will tell what hypocrisy emanates from this action.

In order “to reflect the progress of the party and the changing times,” henceforth they will call it the “True Blue Gala.” Changed times indeed, as the appellation replacing the name of Jefferson, who strung together the Democratic-Republicans to challenge successfully Pres. John Adams (while in the process dispatching his fellow partisan Aaron Burr into the vice presidency given a Constitutional quirk resolved by the 12th Amendment), and Jackson, who modernized the party from a top-down to bottom-up organization that set the shape for all modern mass political parties, only came into being this millennium as attached to the party (along with associating “red” with Republicans).

It’s quite fitting in a way, since today’s party looks little like the one from a half-century ago. Back then, it still believed in the inherent desirability of U.S. strength abroad, traditional values, and in the ideas that individuals should take responsibility for their own success in a free market system that needed marginal adjustments here and there. Slavish adherence to identity politics, conspiracy theories pitting classes against each other, and blaming America first for the world’s ills belonged only to its fringe elements.


EBR voters must view skeptically room tax redux

Baton Rouge officials seem enthralled with the notion of hotel occupancy taxes. Voters necessary to approve imposition of these must take a more skeptical view.

Mixed results have resulted from the two most recent attempts to hike these taxes in the parish. Last December voters in north Baton Rouge approved a two percent levy on rooms only within that area of the city, with proceeds devoted to financing economic development there. On the same day, a parishwide proposition failed that would have done the same to hotels in Baton Rouge not in that district with proceeds devoted to funding the River Center and tourism efforts.

Tourism officials hope to try again later this year. They attribute the narrow defeat of last year to a lack of voter “education,” or a formulation that many in the electorate didn’t realize the tax supposedly affects only tourists. In fact, significantly lower levels of support registered in precisely the areas unaffected by the tax: Baker, Central, Zachary, and north Baton Rouge.


New pay system compounds LA govt inefficiency

Another alleged reform hits the books, but nothing really changes with Louisiana’s civil service system that continues to perform inefficiently.

Last month, at the behest of Gov. John Bel Edwards along with narrow backing by Legislature, Louisiana’s State Civil Service Commission ratified a new pay plan. Proponents assert it will save the state money by reducing turnover, although no evidence exists to demonstrate this.

It has two components: a salary scale adjustment and alterations to compensation related to performance reviews. The adjustment at the beginning of next year elevates all salaries two percent up to their classification’s maximum, then for lower-paid classifications bumps those scales up further. The alteration for a year abolishes the performance adjustment component – four percent paid out to all but a handful of classified employees if appropriated – then comes repackaged as a “market adjustment” with a sliding scale where only lower-paid civil servants can get a four percent increase and higher-paid ones settle for three or two percent increases, plus provides for a very few the possibility of receiving a one-time bonus. Only the tiny number of poorest performers would receive no raises.


Stokes exit leaves LA Democrats empty-handed

What’s a Democrat to do in Louisiana, where only extraordinary circumstances can get one of their own elected to statewide office? Even worse, when their preferred non-Democrat can’t follow through?

Such vexation they encountered last week when GOP state Rep. Julie Stokes just before qualifying begins later this week passed on the special election for the vacant treasurer position made necessary by the office’s former occupant Sen. John Kennedy ascending to his current post. Regrettably, Stokes discovered she had breast cancer, and while the prognosis for curing that kind is good, it will take a physical toll on her that would make campaigning impossible for the October election.

At present, no major Democrat had declared an intention to contest the office. Former minor Senate candidate Derrick Edwards, no relation to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, actively pursues the post, but despite being a black Democrat, party activists will shy away from him. He received just a smattering of votes in his previous run, and his endorsement of views close to the public’s views and therefore way out of step with party regulars, such as the state has not a revenue but spending problem, make him a non-starter in their eyes.


The Advocate column, Jul. 9, 2017

Medicaid fact check ... what's really going on with Senate bill?



Edwards violates code with false veto explaning

Just because Gov. John Bel Edwards won’t admit that he follows the past practice of governors in weaponizing capital outlay requests doesn’t mean he doesn’t do it, as a review of the fiscal year 2018 spending decisions reveals.

Edwards returned Act 4 of the Second Extraordinary Session with three dozen line item vetoes. While a few seemed appropriate, such as excising a request for a medical facility in north Baton Rouge that appeared duplicative of existing resources, many looked entirely random outside any political context.

For example, in the district of Republican state Rep. Chris Leopold, who typically votes against Edwards’ agenda, the Democrat took two swipes, vetoing a $1 million project to build a gymnasium and spending $120,000 on a park. Yet he kept on a $4,165,000 request to build a state-of-the-art athletic complex at Carver Collegiate Academy in New Orleans East located in House and Senate districts of two steadfast allies – bumping up the request by $2 million in a last second move at the end of the regular session that added a number of projects requested by Democrats. In the same move, Democrat state Rep. Robbie Carter, whose terms in office wrap around this seat Edwards once held, got $200,000 for the police station in his hometown of Amite. Meanwhile, after the bill came back from Edwards frequent education policy opponent of his Republican state Rep. Nancy Landry found Maurice lost out on $720,000 to build a new village hall.


Bossier City squanders without term limits

Contrary to what Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker asserts, that municipality desperately needs term limits.

Asked a question at his inauguration for his fourth term about the value of this, Walker declared himself opposed to the concept at the local level of government. He argued that having people serve potentially lengthy periods in office led to a knowledgeable continuity in city government.

Bossier City could stand as the poster child for little refreshment in government. The current lineup of him and the seven-member City Council boasts 108 years of collective service – not including the 16 years Walker spent as chief administrative officer prior to his first election. City incumbents who served a full term have not lost a regular election in 16 years. In fact, they don’t see much of a way in challenges; from 2005, just 41 candidates ran for 32 available slots, only about two contested races of eight each cycle.


Independence Day, 2017

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 Thanksgiving Day, 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, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Tuesday, Jul. 4 being Independence Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.


Maness tries again, warranting voter scrutiny

Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Republican Rob Maness hopes the third time is the charm in his quest to fill his retirement years, with an announced run for the Louisiana House of Representatives in an upcoming special election.

With the stepping down of former state Rep. John Schroder to concentrate on a bid for state Treasurer to fill the post vacated by Maness’ vanquisher in the Senate contest GOP Sen. John Kennedy, his slot opened for which Maness has thrown his hat in the ring. With his pair of nontrivial Senate pursuits behind him, Maness has become a seasoned campaigner who knows how to raise money and his chances appear far better to win this time out.

This race suits him much better. When Maness parachuted into Louisiana at his retirement from the Air Force and only months later declared his candidacy for the 2014 contest, he appeared clumsy and forcing himself on the state. Having hardly resided in Louisiana long enough to meet the residency requirement by the time qualification rolled around, he informed anyone who would listen that U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy – possessor then of legislative scorecard numbers indicating he voted as least as conservatively, if not more so, as any GOP member of Congress – was too liberal and only political newcomer Maness could save Louisiana.


Edwards shows openness to take disabled hostage

The scorched earth road show must go on, Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated with his line item vetoes of the state fiscal year 2018 operating budget.

Edwards signed the Second Extraordinary Session’s HB 1 earlier this week, but took advantage of the governor’s Constitutional power to excise individual sections or expenditures. While the Legislature as part of a veto session could override these with majority assent in both chambers, that never has happened since enactment of the 1974 Constitution.

He excised only four items, none dealing with a direct expenditure. But two seemed clearly related to a strategy focusing on expanding government rather than budgeting on the basis of genuine needs while allowing citizens to keep more of what they earn.


Gasbags Landrieu, Richmond talk disingenuously

What is it about New Orleans that produces politicians who, especially when the national spotlight hits them, turn into such insufferable windbags?

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently took over as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, using his acceptance speech to showcase his superior ability to say one thing while actually doing another. That talent Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro previously had laid bare to Baton Rouge Advocate readers when in an opinion piece last month he excoriated Landrieu’s crime policy.

Cannizzaro cited Landrieu for placing “politics above public safety” through pursuing policies that endangered citizens, as reflected in a rapidly escalating number of shootings this year. He noted how Landrieu talked up policies that create an “illusion of public safety,” while Landrieu continued to staff the city’s police department well below optimal levels and cut funding to Cannizzaro’s office.


GOP lawamkers, not Edwards, can call fiscal tune

To Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ invitation to share in blame for his tax-and-spend agenda, Louisiana’s legislative Republicans should demur.

Edwards recently announced that he might forgo a special session of the Legislature under certain conditions. An additional meeting outside of the 2018 regular session prior to the end of the fiscal year is widely anticipated to address the disappearance of temporary taxes by then, at current spending levels leaving a gap of about $1.2 billion.

Realizing the resistance of majority of the Republican House caucus members to tax increases generally, Edwards proclaimed that he would not call such a session unless GOP leadership rallied behind some kind of raise, calling to do so in those circumstances a waste of time and money. For their part, leaders such as Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras has conceded the necessity of some kind of tax renewal/increase.


Study falters in finding significant gerrymandering

Despite a weak attempt to show otherwise, partisan gerrymandering above any minor influence does not exist relative to Congress, although whether it could in Louisiana’s Legislature is difficult to ascertain.

The Associated Press breathlessly reported that “Republicans had a real advantage” for 2016 elections in both statehouse and the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of drawn district boundaries. Combining its own analysis with some academic literature, it concluded that in both arenas the GOP won more seats than the distribution of votes among parties in states would have suggested, alleging that this came as a result of partisan gerrymandering.

That politicians have engaged in this strategy for two centuries certainly is not new, and unquestionably, as past studies have shown, at the margins it influences seat distribution. But in claiming a more significant role for partisan gerrymandering, the AP study resorts to dubious assertions and makes the classic error of confusing association with causation.


Slidell begging law can survive court challenge

It’s back to the drawing board for Slidell and its anti-panhandling ordinance, as both flaws in a decision negating the measure and in the city’s procedures for enforcing it allow for a retooling and a retry into its becoming constitutional.

Earlier this week Eastern District of Louisiana Court Judge Lance Africk sided with the American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the law. It requires those wishing to engage in begging to obtain a temporary, free license good for 72 hours, during which time the city can perform a background check on the applicant, and unless certain information comes to light such as a felony conviction in the prior two decades, the city must award the permit that includes an identification badge of the individual worn during expression in public.

Africk’s ruling argued that the ordinance would not be content-neutral since it treated begging differentially than other forms of expression, and that Slidell could not hurdle the high burden of proof necessary to justify its regulation. In particular, he noted that similar forms of speech the city regulated for interests of public safety, peddling and solicitation, had less onerous registration requirements, and even an exception to any registration for the latter if it involved political and religious views. Thus, given the number of complaints about and declining number of arrests for panhandling over the past couple of years, Africk asserts this does not present compelling enough evidence that the Slidell approach addresses a public safety problem.


Tax increase small part of cliff solution, if needed

So, the Louisiana Legislature is out of session – any kind – and thus it cannot threaten to take more of what we earn. That won’t last.

With a modicum of tax increases – and also factoring in a second straight year of paying June Medicaid bills in July, hence pushing these into the next fiscal year not covered in the budget about to launch – that means from current spending levels the state faces a deficit of around $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2019, as a number of temporary taxes roll off after June, 2018. Use of tax increases to deal with this would require a special session as regular sessions in even-numbered years can’t process tax increases.

That makes such an extra session inevitable, for Democrats from Gov. John Bel Edwards all the way down to the party’s legislators stubbornly refuse to consider tax reform, that might alleviate the mismatch of money to priorities that makes fewer funds available than could be for genuine needs, as something independent from tax increases. Further, concerning the increased taxation they doggedly insist the citizenry must suffer, they dictate this must come on income and progressively.


New law may nail shut Elio Motors' coffin

If Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody didn’t plan on nailing shut Elio Motors’ coffin, he could have fooled Caddo Parish.

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed SB 107 by GOP state Sen. Bodi White that unambiguously would prohibit bulk sales of motor vehicles in Louisiana without a dealer’s license. State law promulgates a long list of qualifications necessary, such as one has a fixed location with adequate space, that the dealership has a positive effect on the economic well-being of the state, and specifies what it sells. However, statute created an exception to a violation of direct sales for “operating a dealership” without defining “dealership.” SB 107 changed the language to grant an exception only to “an existing, licensed, and franchised motor vehicle dealership.”

The Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association stumped for the amendment to the bill to facilitate these changes, trying to fight the tide of deregulation in car sales that continues to spread. The extra costs forced upon them through regulation that they must pass on to consumers puts them at a competitive disadvantage to the direct sales model that more and more states have legalized. Having government protect them by disallowing such sales only can stave off this threat to shrink the impact of their business model.


Legislators correctly sidelined pair of bad bills

You win some and you don’t lose some describes the fate of a couple of meaningful bad bills from the Louisiana Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Much discussion that session revolved around an unnecessary hike in the gasoline tax, which eventually went nowhere. Motorists didn’t need such a measure because over the past two years the state already proved that by boosting such spending by tens of millions of dollars.

That happened as it stopped diverting money paying for state police operations, which constitutionally allows up to 20 percent of gas taxes to go towards that function. The same can happen for sloughing off money to local government and subsidizing roads and facility operations for which users can pay, to use instead for roads work that benefits the state as a whole.