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20.4.17

Remarks indicate LSU chief getting restless

He might as well take out a full page advertisement announcing it: my singular uber-boss (although he serves under two collective entities), Louisiana State University Pres. F. King Alexander, apparently is on the market for a new job.

There seems no other way to explain comments he made yesterday during a symposium regarding the intersection of race and public policy. The main speaker, Baton Rouge Mayor-Pres. Sharon Broome, broached a number of topics.

But at one point, Alexander interjected something Broome hadn’t addressed: the 2015 petition by residents representing most of the unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge, styling themselves as creating “St. George,” to form their own municipality. Without prompting, Alexander volunteered that “We worked together successfully about a year and a half ago to make sure the city wasn't split in half” and then, by way of mentioning a documentary that alleged racist motives behind the incorporation drive, asked Broome how to prevent a similar future attempt. By law, no such try can occur prior to this summer, an effort past organizers have signaled they will resume.

19.4.17

Bill submission shows Edwards on the ropes

No doubt as an Army officer Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards loathed ordering his men to retreat. He must not be feeling all that great today.

Today, Democrat state Rep. Sam Jones filed HB 638, which would postpone the Jun. 30, 2018 sunset date for the one cent increase in sales taxes enacted just over a year ago for five years. Jones, who shared a desk with Edwards for eight years in the Legislature, alleges he received no marching orders from the Governor’s Office to do this but did it now because bill filing ends today.

We must take that assertion with a grain of salt. Dozens of bills already existed addressing sales tax, many by Democrats, who would not have minded an amendment like this if and when the need arose. Nor must a commander give a direct order for his subordinates to intuit a course of action. No; this comes precisely because Edwards has realized the need for it has arisen, in a form most easily controlled by him.

18.4.17

Politicized report elicits climate alarmist screed

This week the Louisiana Legislature begins review of the state’s politics-infused 2017 Coastal Master Plan, just in time for the state’s dotty old uncle of environmentalism, former newspaperman Bob Marshall, to go off the rails on related matters.

Marshall now has a gig at his old stomping grounds, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, apparently to pen opinion pieces now and then about environmental matters. His initial piece indicates that, if in his personal life he has the same intensity of religious faith as he does in the belief of significant anthropogenic climate change, when the time comes he’ll head to Heaven in record time.

The piece began by proclaiming recent moves by the Pres. Donald Trump Administration to reverse the draconian environmental policies of former Pres. Barack Obama would drown Louisiana, and it went downhill from there. Allegedly everyone living within 35 miles of the coast faced a “death sentence,” while those 15 miles more inland merely had to look forward to “soaring flood insurance rates.” He expressed this not just his “opinion,” but as the “judgment” rendered in the plan, approved a few months ago by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

16.4.17

Easter Sunday, 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.

This Easter Sunday, I invite you to explore this link.

13.4.17

Bill should add taxis to rideshare state regulation

The Louisiana Legislature met me halfway. But I argue in the case of point-to-point passenger transportation it should go all the way.

Last year, this space recommended, as a number of local jurisdictions began to regulate transportation network companies (that is, rideshare arrangements), that the state move in to assume the regulatory role. At least one attempt now hasappeared, HB 527 by state Rep. Kenny Havard, which would have the state Department of Transportation and Development create standards and conduct permitting, kicking back 0.95 percent of gross receipts of the rides to the points of origins’ local governments (having taken out .05 percent for administrative expenses).

Complaints from local jurisdictions have come in two kinds. One, the language within the statute some consider not restrictive enough, in areas such as insurance, background checks, drug testing, surge pricing in case of emergencies, and determination of discrimination in provision. Local ordinances reflect some or all of these; for example, in New Orleans a detailed receipt must be generated at the end of a trip and the data reported to the city that could use it to assess whether some form of discrimination is occurring, while the proposed law allows for sending a receipt electronically with less information and no mandatory forwarding of the data to the state.

12.4.17

LA must combat populist impulses on waterworks

Lack of money only plays a small part in woes across many government-run water systems in Louisiana. Inability to keep adequate records and accounting has something to do with it as well. But the main cause of over $5 billion in maintenance needs statewide plaguing local government water utilities is the state’s populist heritage, which any corrective policy must address.

Thrown into sharp relief with the problems encountered by the town of St. Joseph – crumbling infrastructure eroded water quality that necessitated state intervention – the event spurred the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to include a look at systems run by local governments as part of its performance audit of private and nonprofit water works regulated by the Public Service Commission. The results revealed a potentially large-scale crisis ready to erupt statewide.

It turns out that over half of all systems have significantly aged infrastructures, creating larger pent-up demand for refurbishment or replacement. Relatively small systems, defined as serving 3,300 or fewer properties, comprise an even higher proportion of the total, which cannot enjoy economics of scale in operation. With these higher costs, a significant number of government systems operate in the red. Mainly among the smaller, some governments operate their systems poorly, with faulty collection practices and accounting lapses, the latter preventing them from applying for state-backed loans for repairs and upgrades, as legally a government must have a clean audit to do so. They also become prone to wasting water through seepage, theft, and laxity.

11.4.17

State must take taxpayers off hook of dubious deal

In the face of far more important priorities and much more cost effective venues, the time has come for Louisiana to end its experiment with Hodges Gardens State Park, located near Florien.

About a decade ago the state assumed control of the land, which a citizen had built and ran as a private facility. For a half-century, the family developed it as a botanical garden open to the public. But times changed and with the completion of Interstate 49, it became too expensive to run and began to deteriorate. Then, political connections brought it to the attention of the state, and a sweetheart deal to have the state operate it while the family’s foundation technically still owned it blossomed.

From the start controversy surrounded this transaction, as its transfer came along with a mysterious unrelated land swap clouded in intrigue. Then-House Speaker Joe Salter backed the bill, and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed it that, even without the dubious swap, would add forecast costs to the state of $1.5 million annually in the aftermath of the hurricane disasters of the year before.  Naturally, over the years the state learned the same truth as did the owners and now along with a few others parks the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism has signaled it might close these should the state’s revenue environment not improve significantly.

10.4.17

Politicized speech earns obstinate Edwards D-minus

With equal parts pugnaciousness and disingenuousness, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ highly-politicized 2017 State of the State speech laid out a truly flawed vision for Louisiana going forward.

One could gig Edwards – who appeared to need new contact lenses – for spreading a host of specific misperceptions and mendacious arguments in his address. For example, as if trying to bolster weaker arguments to come, he started by spreading the usual selective information about Medicaid expansion, concentrating on individual stories representing the several dozen of over 400,000 new enrollees who obtained medical treatment through the program, and alleged it would continue to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Of course, he ignored inconvenient truths about expansion. He did not mention that roughly half of the new enrollees likely dropped insurance from the private sector, socializing their costs onto taxpayers. Nor that “savings” come as a result of higher taxes on insurance and hospital visits passed down to people, nor that the escalating costs of the program – which may go much higher depending upon Medicaid reform coming out of Washington – that already increase on an annual basis each Louisianan’s share of the national debt by $500 (or, perhaps more precisely, for each federal income taxpaying filer in the state $1,200 each year) and will cost state taxpayers by 2020 hundreds of millions of dollars more extra, regardless of the hundreds of millions squeezed from them from those higher taxes that prop up current expansion spending.

6.4.17

Loyola NO invite continues diluting Catholic identity

In a sense, there’s nothing inconsistent about the invitation of Loyola University of New Orleans to talk show host Van Jones for his services as its spring commencement speaker. After all, both hold themselves out as something they are not.

In Jones’ case, for the past dozen years he has positioned himself in the political mainstream, culminating in a high-level appointment to former Pres. Barack Obama’s White House Office months after Obama assumed office. Almost immediately, he found himself out of that job upon the publicizing of his past, which included association with or membership in radical and communist organizations, his support of similar individuals and articulation of communist ideology, and his peddling of 9/11/2001 conspiracy theories alleging U.S. government involvement in causing the horrific event.

Jones was smart enough by the new millennium to stop calling himself a Marxist and trafficking in its rhetoric, following the trend of post-Watergate radicals who realized to increase their influence they had to avoid labels viewed overwhelmingly scorned by the public and to jettison Marxist terminology in their verbiage, all the while restating its concepts in ways less alarming to people. But little else changed with his associations and ideology. Recently, he became host of a CNN program, just after making comments that framed the 2016 election results in racist terms.

5.4.17

New rules on LA breweries need relaxation

Gov. John Bel Edwards has picked up a couple of nicknames in his short tenure: the Accidental Governor, because of his fluke victory, and, more derisively, Gov. Honor Code, because of his insistence during the campaign that he follows his alma mater’s version of that yet has been caught applying it inconsistently. Now might he add the appellation Gov. Blue Nose?

That may come from a decision by his handpicked Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Juana Marine-Lombard that restricts the ability of state breweries to sell their products. She provided guidance in March and clarified it at month’s end regarding interpretation of statute that defines brewery operations.

Her conclusions took a restrictive approach and will hamper these establishments’ operations, some potentially severely. Among others things, she declared that on-site prepared food sales could not exceed 25 percent of total sales on premises; that off-site food preparers selling on premises could not have a license to serve alcohol even if not serving any on the premises; no other party could sell on or bring other alcoholic beverages onto the premises; and advertising of any other event involving alcohol cannot occur unless it involves sampling on the premises, which in that case cannot advertise retail pricing. Already, state law permits on-site sales only to a ceiling of 10 percent of total sales, or no more than 250 barrels, whichever is greater.

4.4.17

Politicized request, suit witch hunt against Landry

Louisiana Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry may hope all that he wants to that he’s not subject to a political witch hunt, but he is.

Some months ago, he received a pair of public records requests right out of left field. One asked for all correspondence between Landry or any member of his office and “any representatives of companies (and/or trade associations representing such companies) involved in the exploration for and production of hydrocarbons.” The other sought a broad range of documents related to Landry's travel to conferences, speaking engagements and public appearances as the state's chief prosecutor, including records for travel, lodging and meals, as well as records “showing all contracts awarded to attorneys and/or law firms … to represent the state and any state entities in litigation,” and documents regarding vehicles bought by Landry's office. Added to it a couple of weeks later was contracts and correspondence for legal representation that have been reviewed by his office since his inauguration.

In other words, these wanted just about everything involving Republican Landry’s conduct as a public official, his office’s relations with parties to his subcontractors and anybody remotely connected to energy firms, and his office’s dealing with approval of contracts let by other government agencies. By the look of the scope involved, this fishing expedition related to Landry’s cooling the jets on the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration attempts to sue energy companies, his review and ultimate disapproval of language that courts found Edwards had unconstitutionally included in contracts, and to any manner of conduct in office that might conflict with state ethics laws.

3.4.17

Caddo schools provide test of new turnaround policy

In the resolution of what to do about its failing schools, Caddo Parish found itself at the forefront of continually evolving state practices of improving education.

Recently, the parish’s School District and the state’s Department of Education concluded a pathbreaking agreement to deal with schools previously identified as struggling academically. Extending and amplifying an approach now taken with several district schools, the deal forms a new entity governed by a district appointee, but advised by a state liaison officer and local stakeholders, that will run 14 schools, most of which in the past the state would have taken over and/or removed from district supervision with conversion of these to charter status.

Historically, as opposed to the two largest school districts in the state, with its troubled schools Caddo has largely retained control. The state vehicle for administering these schools, the Recovery School District, only ever has incorporated one Caddo school, and just a handful of others gained independent charter status, despite at any given time typically a dozen or so district schools’ performances would have merited state takeover and/or conversion.

30.3.17

Budget plan equates "stabilization" with "inflation"

As predicted, that big breeze you felt came from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards whiffing on his euphemistically-named “Budget Stabilization Plan,” which more accurately should be called a “Budget Inflation Plan.”

That’s because, without all the numbers quite in, in the aggregate it asks for tax increases in the neighborhood of $608 million. It would let lapse one penny of the sales tax, expand the reach of the remaining four cents to services and transactions currently exempted, make permanent reductions to tax exceptions scheduled to revert to full deductibility after next fiscal year, amend the Constitution to eliminate the deduction for federal taxes on income (rejected in the case of corporations by voters last year), ratchet down income tax rates a percent, and institute a new gross receipts tax euphemistically called a “Commercial Activity Tax.” It also pledges unspecified reductions or eliminations of exceptions and phasing out the corporate franchise tax.

Because income taxation happens on a calendar year basis, the income tax portions would occur in the middle of next fiscal year. To make up for that, repeals of exemptions would take place at the beginning of the third and fourth quarters of 2017 while the extra cent of sales tax would stay on until it scheduled expiration.

29.3.17

Except on roads, spending cuts wanted over tax hikes

The Louisiana public gives a green light to somewhat higher gasoline taxes but appears skeptical of tax increases as a general policy, according to a survey that also indicates the people’s preference to cut state spending before raising taxes in general.

Yesterday, the Louisiana State University Public Policy Lab released the first installment of its annual survey. Just over 1,000 respondents produced a margin of error of a little over three percent, although the low response rate (which tends to induce bias in measuring a select set of behaviors) and extended period (a month long) over which it collected data presents a little caution concerning whether the results capture accurately attitudes on the eve of the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature.

One thing clearly comes through from the rich array of data presented: their reaffirmation of the tendency of Louisianans to identify by perceived in-groups and out-groups and citizens’ willingness to cast blame or foist solutions on out-group members. This resonates as a legacy of the state’s populist political culture, which encourages a Manichean worldview that see politics as a zero-sum game: policy must favor your group at the expense of others alleged to get the better of you in order to even things out, leading to countenance of government-led redistribution.

28.3.17

Same concerns then scuttle broadband project now

It’s déjà vu all over again for a broadband access project in Louisiana that saw the same mistakes repeated, leading to its demise both times.

Recently, the Louisiana Board of Regents announced that it would not proceed with a plan to extend its high-speed broadband network into the state’s school districts. It would have used its own funds, leveraged with a 90 percent federal government match, to do this, but only a handful of districts responded affirmatively to the offer by a deadline, so it withdrew the offer.

Higher education and Department of Education officials expressed uncertainty, if not disbelief, over why too few districts seemed interested. But representatives of the districts argued that a lack of information and compressed schedule made many districts hesitate.

27.3.17

LA Sea Grant cut illustrates undue alarmism to come

Look no further than Louisiana’s Sea Grant program for a microcosm of issues involved in the battle to restrain government spending growth.

Based in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 33 universities allied with states and territories oversee these programs that award funding meeting various criteria and provide other support services. The program’s mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. Louisiana State University runs Louisiana’s version.

The Pres. Donald Trump Administration’s initial budget zeroes out federal funding for these, as it seeks to curtail spending and to shift monies from domestic to defense concerns. By the beginning of the federal fiscal year’s midterm U.S. debt will exceed $20 trillion.

23.3.17

Expanded parole for cost sake endangers lives

In the rush to make Louisiana’s correctional policy more efficient, policy-makers cannot forget the larger goal of preventing crime. How the state’s latest reform recommendations address parole of those with lengthy prison sentences illustrates the tension between these two desires.

The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force’s conclusions, formulated after over a year of study, largely have met with stakeholder approval. The only real controversy has come over a set of recommendations that would make lifers eligible for parole after serving 30 years in prison and reaching age 50, unless they were convicted of first-degree murder, and also recommending those serving long but less-than-life sentences gain parole eligibility after 20 years in prison and reaching age 45.

Proponents of these changes – Louisiana joins Mississippi as the only states denying such eligibility to those convicted of second-degree murder – argue that older prisoners exhibit far lower recidivism rates than the younger prison population. They also note that eligibility does not automatically means release; in fact, only a small portion of inmates granted parole come through the discretionary process where the subject must demonstrate contrition, good character, and ability to live outside the walls that may include having a support system in place.

22.3.17

Strengthen, don't weaken, laws against felons voting

Contrary to the sentiments of a state judge, if anything Louisiana needs to make more stringent its jurisprudence addressing the ability of felons to vote.

Last week, 19th District Court Judge Tim Kelley reluctantly upheld a state law that prohibits felons from registering to vote so long as, according to Art. I Sec. 10 of the Constitution, they remain “under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony.” The subsequent law clarified this to include people under probation and on parole, as technically they may return to prison if they violate any conditions attached to these.

Kelley reaffirmed, yet expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs challenging the law who called it unfair. But, in fact, the law serves a vital purpose as both a deterrent to crime and a means to improve the quality of decision-making in a democracy.

21.3.17

Edwards follows pattern with state debt downgrade

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Louisiana has endured adverse credit rating changes since Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards assumed office, completing a downgrade trifecta last week.

Over a year after Moody’s Investors Service started the trend – just over a month after Edwards took office and had led the Legislature into special session to deal with fiscal issues – followed by Fitch Ratings months later, S&P Ratings completed the sweep of lowering the state’s credit rating. Additionally, Moody’s reaffirmed its negative outlook, meaning it anticipated more likely a downgrade to come in the future than the rating maintaining, which at present makes Louisiana one of the lowest rated states in the nation. Ratings assess the overall fiscal health of an entity, where the healthier a government’s finances, the lower interest rate lenders demand.

Moody’s commentary explicates well Louisiana’s underperformance. Last year, it noted reasons for the downgrade as “rapidly deteriorating revenue collections due in part to the continuing low oil price environment, a looming fiscal 2017 gap that could be as large as 20% of general fund revenues, and the effects of years of structural imbalance on the state's reserves and liquidity.” The negative outlook then came from “the state's continued budgetary risks and the likelihood that movement toward structural balance is likely to take time … also … revenue forecasting risks, Medicaid cost containment implementation risks, and uncertainty over attainability of budget balancing initiatives.”

20.3.17

Confirmed: broken LA recall rules need repair

If we needed any more confirmation about the necessity of changing Louisiana’s recall law, it came with the surrender of a high-profile campaign against Jefferson Parish Pres. Mike Yenni.

In 2016, not long after his election, news reached the public consciousness that Yenni had engaged in inappropriate exchanges with a male minor willing to go on the record that prompted Yenni to deliver a vague apology. Subsequently, both parish and Catholic schools banned his appearance on their properties. The Parish Council also asked formally for his resignation.

This led to a spirited attempt at a recall petition against Yenni, requiring signatures of a third of qualified electors in the parish within six months of registering the attempt. However, last week organizers admitted failure with the deadline fast approaching, apparently well short of the roughly 90,000 signers needed.

16.3.17

Bracelet bill currently not likely cost effective for LA

While possibly electronic monitoring of transitional work program participants could reduce backsliding and even tragedy, its form envisioned in a pending Louisiana Legislature bill likely would have little or no payoff.

State Rep. Stephen Dwight has authored HB 50 for the upcoming session, which would require electronic monitoring of offenders taking advantage of the opportunity to work outside institutions from six months to four years away from sentence completion. The legislation aims to prevent such inmates from walking off the job and causing the use of resources to track them down or, worse, having them commit subsequent crimes.

Although nationally still relatively small in implementation – only an estimated two percent of all convicts participate in some kind of electronic monitoring – use of the technology has grown rapidly over the past decade. Attention to it has increased as jurisdictions look to reduce corrections cost, an exercise Louisiana has undertaken with a task force report on the subject due today.

15.3.17

When pressed, LA higher education can restructure

Maybe Louisiana’s Board of Regents should act more like one of the panels over which it has authority to show that the state’s higher education establishment has gotten the message.

Just days after the Regents released a mandated report that treated its legislative intent as little more than a joke, one of its subordinate management boards did something showing at least some seriousness on that account. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System announced plans that it would consolidate campuses by Jul. 1, realigning eight that would save about $10 million annually.

Monty Sullivan, the system president responsible to the board, recommended the move in facing the reality of higher education funding in the state. Over the past decade spending on community colleges actually has risen slightly, from around $311 million to $325 million, although these now serve about 13 percent more students in terms of credit hours. However, the mix of state funding and self-generated revenues has reversed so now most funding comes from tuition and fees.

14.3.17

Poor judgment sinking Robbie Gatti candidacy

Instead of state legislator, Republican candidate for House District 8 Robbie Gatti has a more realistic chance of becoming a textbook author – writing about how to sabotage your own political campaign.

Little has gone right for the brother of state Sen. Ryan Gatti since qualifying closed for the special election for the seat vacated when Rep. Mike Johnson left for Congress. The first of it he should have seen coming.

Some years ago, Gatti came dressed up at a Halloween party as mixed-race golfer Tiger Woods, who had become tabloid fodder over largely self-induced marriage problems, with Nike-logo cap and in blackface. Worse for him, at least one photo memorializes the event that also attended by members of his church. Later, only months ago the Gattis worked against Johnson’s election in opposition to most of the church’s members, stirring up such emotions that Robbie Gatti, who held a ministerial position in it, was asked to leave.

13.3.17

With changes, LA stripping age limit law may work

The race is on between whether a federal court will toss out a Louisiana law limiting exotic dancing for those under 21 years or age or the state can fix apparent defects in the law prior to that.

Last week, Eastern Louisiana District Court Judge Carl Barbier extended injunctive relief to plaintiffs against Act 395 of 2016. The law prohibits people aged 18-20 years from working as strippers in places that serve alcohol. This continues an order granted last year against the measure that seeks to reduce the incidence of human trafficking, arguing that younger adults face heightened risk at being sucked in to prostitution through nude dancing.

Such municipal ordinances – New Orleans has one with more specific language – and state laws historically have had a tough row to hoe because of concerns over the chilling effect that such a prohibition has on First Amendment rights. For decades, constitutional law has recognized nude expression as a protected form of speech, creating demanding standards to regulate it in any way.

9.3.17

Strain adopts short-sighted approach on Cuba

Public administration has a theory regarding the behavior of executives overseeing discrete policy areas, that over time these individuals’ focus shifts away from more ideological approaches to greater alignment with the culture and interests of the agency directed. After almost a decade of running the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, current boss Mike Strain fits this pattern.

The Republican entered office in 2008 promising to clean up after former head Democrat Bob Odom, who left a legacy of waste and patronage. He largely has accomplished this, slimming down department numbers (perhaps more than he preferred, given recent state budgetary struggles) and managing a spending drop from $102.7 million in fiscal year 2008 to last fiscal year’s $74.5 million.

But in recent remarks to the Baton Rouge Press Club, Strain indicated that he has checked some other conservative issue preferences at the door to his office, specifically regarding the issue of Cuba. Still run by the Castro dynasty for almost six decades, despite extremely modest changes from its Soviet model, Cuba’s government and economy remain exceptionally closed and oppressive. In fact, the very tepid reforms launched under Raúl Castro seem to have run out of steam – ironically, in part because former Pres. Barack Obama removed travel restrictions and set to normalize relations.

8.3.17

Weak appeal designed to appease Edwards' base

He took his time, but Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards three months after losing an injunction mooting his executive order JBE 16-11 got around to appealing the ruling – a move seemingly more for political consumption than with any real hope of prevailing.

At the end of last year, District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled favorably for injunctive relief sought by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry concerning the order, which, among other things, added language to contracts that barred discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” – terms not defined in Louisiana jurisprudence. Landry refused to approve of such contracts, noting in an official attorney general’s opinion that, because of the terms’ absence in Louisiana law or in its Constitution, the order had the effect of creating new law beyond the scope of the governor’s powers.

Hernandez agreed, although he deferred on ruling whether it violated aspects of the U.S. Constitution regarding the Commerce Clause or the First Amendment. Citing no actual controversy, he did deny the contention of Edwards that the governor was superior to the attorney general where a dispute about legal matters defaulted to the governor’s position, and granted only that once the attorney general had acted to approve of private counsel the state’s top justice officer could not retroactively review their actions.

7.3.17

Edwards wanders in reelection no-man's land

Standing out like a boil in the old Confederate South, no wonder Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards attracts attention, good and bad.

With Republicans controlling every legislative chamber in these states and only Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe and North Carolina’s Roy Cooper joining Edwards as a Democrat chief executive – although among the deep South states the only Democrat-run branch of government comes courtesy of Edwards – such an outlier does not go unnoticed. The odd and unique 2015 election that sent him to the Governor’s Mansion and his trials and tribulations since have prompted both speculation about his future and actions to shape it in ways he would not like.

After the 2016 election confirmed the steep downward trajectory of Democrats over the past six years – propped up from falling into an electoral crevasses only by the concept known as former Pres. Barack Obama – some argued that the way back would come from accepting less liberal candidates, with Edwards standing out. He explicitly ran on God and guns, even as his anti-abortion stance seemed somewhat manufactured, while maintaining thoroughly liberal views on the size of government and economics. Possibly, some observers suggest, he may serve as a model to enable his party to come back.

6.3.17

Nuisance jackpot justice suits finally may disappear

Finally, the tunnel has light at the end, regarding the nuisance suit attempted by a once-rogue state subdivision that sought jackpot justice to fund coastal protection.

A panel of the U.S Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower district court that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lacked standing to bring suit against nearly 100 energy firms for alleged environmental damage they caused. A few years ago the agency, a subdivision of the state, hired lawyers on contingency to try to collect possibly billions of dollars with a poison pill in that contract stating if its board dropped the suit it owed expenses that could reach into the eight figures.

Prior members of the SLPAE-E board, despite disputes over whether companies had acted illegally or negligently, whether the state had felt they had acted illegally or negligently in the past, or how much, if any, damage the energy extractors actually caused, saw these entities as piñatas ready to bust to fund agency activities. After they brought suit, Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal when their terms expired began replacing members supportive of the action with others who took a more circumspect approach to government activism. Eventually, lawmakers enacted a measure to moot the suit, giving the state control over any such maneuvers.