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Make case before asking for more taxation

Here’s an example of wrong-headed fiscal policy that tries to squeeze more out Louisiana taxpayers.

Next month, most registered voters in Bossier Parish face a ballot question whether essentially to double property taxes they pay to support the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. A state political subdivision since 1958, local residents mainly know the area in the middle of the parish for its water recreation possibilities, park and recreational vehicle/camping areas, and its small zoo and Nature Center. Additionally, about 750 private properties abut the water, with that shoreline regulated by the district.

In 2014, voters approved with 57 percent of the vote a reauthorization of a 1.54 mill property tax in the 65 of 81 precincts attached to the district (that since has rolled forward to 1.56 mills). At the time, the district’s commission – comprised of appointees by local governments, one of which includes the executive director Robert Berry – faced monetary woes and pledged to cut back on some offerings while increasing user fees to get the district into the black.


Rispone not serious about better than Edwards

Now we have our answer about Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone: it’s more than about doing better than Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

When businessman Rispone formally announced his candidacy almost a year ago, he explained that he entered the contest because “we can do better” than Edwards. A longtime and major contributor to conservative causes and candidates, Rispone entered the race first as other major GOP potential contestants dithered. Eventually, only Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham took the plunge.

Noted then, given the large amount of personal resources he could commit to the effort, was he effectively could expose Edwards as an old style, big government populist out of step with the Louisiana majority on a majority of issues. Edwards won in 2015 only because of fratricide among strong Republican candidates and, without a visible record, then could obscure this reality.


Edwards puts politics over neediest people

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards needing to escape some unfavorable public scrutiny catalyzed efforts to find help for over a thousand Louisiana families with children with disabilities.

Without fanfare, close to the end of the Louisiana Legislature’s 2019 regular session, Edwards signed HB 199 by Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton into law. Act 421 requires the state to follow the “TEFRA option,” first made available in 1982 that permits Medicaid assistance to families with a child with disability regardless of family income and assets. As long as the cost of care for the client at home comes out less than if institutionalized, the state must provide similar services as in institutions.

By way of example, Horton recently visited with a new program recipient as part of a media story. Until the law went into effect recently, that family paid $74,000 a year out of pocket for care, putting it under a severe financial strain. This highlights the perversity of existing Medicaid policy, where families with lower incomes receive these services for free, but those middle-class and above have to divest themselves of assets they earned, often by spending themselves into poverty because of bad fortune in order to qualify for Medicaid services.


Money data not kind to Gatti's reelection try

Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti doesn’t have just recently-released campaign figures about which to worry. Some past numbers aren’t going to help his reelection chances in his right-of-center district, either.

Last week, he and principal opponent Republican Robert Mills filed their data for 30 days prior to the election. Gatti found his $148,000 raised couldn’t match the $192,000 Mills raised; Mills outspent him $142,000 to $111,000; and, most alarmingly, he had just $40,000 in the bank for the stretch run while Mills sat on $174,000.

Worse for him, Gatti went deep into his own pockets to squeak out a win in his previous election. Making dozens of loans to himself, many after the election’s conclusion, at the end of 2018 he had loaned himself almost $422,000 and had fewer than $75,000 left in his campaign account – perhaps explaining why he fought so hard from his Senate perch to kill legislation that not only almost certainly would have decreased vehicle insurance rates but also would have made his personal injury attorney practice less lucrative. He kicked in another $8,000 or so in 2019.


More polls, but not more LA gov race certainty

Two more polls about the Louisiana governor’s race continue to offer little in the way of clarity about how the contest will pan out.

Last month came the second iteration of a Market Research Insights poll whose initial effort varied considerably from almost all other polling. It forecast an incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards reelection without having to go to a runoff, although with less certainty than the previous incarnation.

The first poll’s divergent results came in large part due to a sampling frame that likely disproportionately drew from Edwards supporters. It’s possible that the pollster’s guess in this regard could turn out correct on Oct. 12, but runs against the field of play. The second such poll didn’t have all of its statistics made public, but it’s almost certain it used the same sampling frame and therefore has the same validity issue.


LA has advantage over others stuck on stupid

If you’re Louisiana, you come out a winner when other states or their local governments go off the deep end.

Dozens of cities in leftist states such as California, Washington, and Massachusetts are studying proposals to ban or limit the use of natural gas in commercial and residential buildings. Berkeley, CA, already has done this for new construction. Activists backing this idea argue that the electric grid has picked up more renewably powered sources while gas can leak and allegedly contribute to climate change.

At first, this statist boycott might seem to hurt Louisiana. Since the fracking revolution that launched the state into a battle with Oklahoma and Alaska for third-most amount of natural gas produced annually, prices generally have hovered in the $10-15 per thousand cubic feet range for residential and settled in around $8 for commercial use, netting some nice returns for state producers. Better, with new facilities opening beginning in 2016 and still expanding, the state has exploded from nothing into trailing only Texas in gas exportation.


Speaking truth to power on Medicaid charade

Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham made a good start in his critique of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ expansion of Medicaid, but perhaps didn’t go far enough in explicating the mendacity and stupidity behind that ill-fated decision.

Last week Abraham, who faces off against Edwards for governor next month, held a news conference where he criticized Edwards for his decision to expand Medicaid and they way he did it. Abraham pointed out that the amount of state money going to it continues to increase rapidly, which Edwards refuses to acknowledge, and that Edwards has a history of lackadaisical attention to efficient management to root out waste identified by the Legislative Auditor as likely running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Abraham could have added that Edwards has tried to inflate Medicaid rolls intentionally. The incumbent planned all along to stuff as many people as possible onto Medicaid rolls and then use that freebie as a campaign talking point to buy reelection votes. He deliberately dismantled more stringent eligibility standards implemented late in his predecessor’s term that would have reduced fraudulent payouts. Only after the Auditor began scrutinizing the level of waste did the Department of Health expedite a new verification system into operation. Just the initial purge of ineligible enrollees lopped off around 6 percent of the total, which in fiscal year 2018 terms meant the state wasted $180 million.


Caddo can expand youth jail without tax hike

Just in time to create a campaign issue comes a warning from the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court.

Democrat Juvenile Judge Paul Young sounded the alarm to local media about the impact of criminal justice changes over a year ago. When taking affect Mar. 1, 17-year-olds accused of nonviolent crimes who previously would have gone through the adult system instead went into the juvenile system.

In Caddo Parish, one of just a few parishes – all with large populations – with its own dedicated family or juvenile court, this means increased processing into the Caddo Parish Juvenile Detention Center. And last week for the first time it went over capacity, with Young announcing as a result he freed a juvenile he ordinarily would have had held.


Abraham gets it over Rispone, barely

If you’re fed up with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, a candidate forum last week gave you an answer to replace him as Louisiana’s top executive: Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham.

It’s not that Republican businessman Eddie Rispone would be a bad choice at all; he certainly tops Edwards convincingly on a wide range of policy issues. It’s just that Abraham does a bit better on the whole on issues where he and Rispone diverge.

The forum, hosted by Baton Rouge area women’s Republican clubs, provided the first public opportunity after qualifying for the Oct. 12 election for the GOP candidates to make a distinction between themselves in person. With a runoff almost certain and the advancing Republican at least an even-money bet to win, the choice between the two selects the most likely person to become governor next year.


Report can't hide negative expansion impact

Another year, another swing-and-miss. But in this election year, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards needs all the propaganda talking points he can get.

Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health released the next iteration of its claim that Medicaid expansion brought the state pecuniary benefits. It alleges that the move by Edwards in early 2016 since has produced 14,000 jobs and for fiscal year 2018 $84 million in state tax receipts, and $61 million in local tax receipts.

This built upon last year’s substantially flawed effort and, as the Pelican Institute’s Chris Jacobs noted, did manage to correct some of its previous shortcomings. Still, Jacobs observed, problems remained that likely overstate these presumed benefits. Most disturbing among these, the new edition apparently fails to incorporate the impact of wholesale shift from private insurance to expanded Medicaid, estimated at a bare minimum as a third of the expansion population and far above the estimate LDH publicly propagates. Jacobs also faults the authors for a lack of transparency in their failure to explain seemingly odd conclusions, such as their jobs created estimate fell by around 5,000 even though overall spending year-over-year increased. (He could have added wonderment that the supposed extra tax receipts fell from the FY 17 estimate of $103 million at the state level and $75 million at the local level.)


Wrong ethos sinks out-of-touch LA master plan

If it’s not the old adage that generals always are preparing to fight the last war that summarizes the latest Louisiana higher education master plan, it’s Pogo’s prescription that we have met the enemy, and they are us.

After nearly two decades, the Louisiana Board of Regents released an updated master plan. Titled “Louisiana Prospers: Driving Our Talent Imperative,” it pleads for more money in order to “Educate, Innovate, and Collaborate” with a goal of more than doubling the number of working adults in Louisiana with meaningful, market-relevant postsecondary credentials by 2030, or a figure of 60 percent of that cohort.

It’s a tall lift. Only 44.2 percent of the group currently has a college degree or certificate, below the national average of 47.2 percent. Hitting the mark would require churning out 45,000 more completers a year through 2030 – substantially more than the 40,000 annually at present and is a number greater than the students currently in elementary and secondary education who would be eligible to attend college. In short, this means having some non-completers of the past finish up and inducing other adults into higher education, where presently Louisiana has among all states the second lowest proportion (4.5 percent) of the 25-49 age cohort attending college.


Cowardly Edwards surrenders on SNAP policy

At least through election season, observers of Louisiana’s governor’s race can play “spot the hidden out-of-touch policy” by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Unvarnished and unhidden, Edwards is a solid liberal, well to the left on economic policy (although with national Democrats running amok and towards an electoral cliff, in the context of his party he seems almost revanchist) somewhat balanced by moderate views on select social issues. Such candidates if correctly perceived by the elected don’t win statewide elections in Louisiana.

So, since the end of the legislative session, it’s all been an exercise of obscuring from the state’s center-right public the leftist policy preferences of Edwards. Most obviously, he touts the elimination of mid-year budget deficits – which he accomplished through historically-high temporary tax increases that he swore during his previous campaign that he wouldn’t implement to fix the problem permanently that he didn’t, that now produce surpluses which prove his tax increases are too high. Of course, he doesn’t mention in his campaign communication the last part comprising of two broken promises in a failed attempt that succeeded only in growing government almost twice the rate of inflation.


Implementation cancels voting law's bad effect

If you champion an electorate that makes a minimal effort to cast an informed vote and recoil at one easily manipulated by politicians, thank Louisiana’s Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.

In 2018, the state unwisely changed the law regarding the ability of felons to vote, permitting them the franchise five years after sentencing if not imprisoned (as long as the felony didn’t relate to elections) as opposed to sentence completion. Not including provisions of a redemptive nature missed a chance to discourage marginally serious crime and to encourage rehabilitation.

Potentially, the law could have given a nontrivial advantage to Democrats. Simply, blacks disproportionately commit felonies, who also register decisively as Democrats, and sampling infers that in the felon population as a whole its members register disproportionately as Democrats compared to the general population. Thus, the party’s candidates could benefit.


Weak Bossier GOP gives away winnable seat

And this is what happens in the state with the weakest political parties in the major parish with the weakest political parties.

Republicans look to have lost out on a likely win when first a retired district judge, then the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – minus a few judges – affirmed that white Republican Jason Brown didn’t qualify as a resident of Bossier Parish Police Jury District 9. This leaves the election in the hands of black Democrat Charles Lee Gray, who along with another black Democrat and a white Republican brought the challenge that will kick Brown off the ballot. He does have the option to appeal to the Supreme Court, but a reversal seems unlikely.

Gray challenged longtime incumbent Republican Freddy Shewmake in 2015 but received only 40 percent of the vote when the district had a registration of 53 percent white and 23 percent Republican. This election, the district slipped to a 48 percent white plurality while the GOP proportion held. Shewmake bowed out this year in a district becoming harder to hold by, but certainly not difficult for, a Republican, and Brown would have been favored to win.


Group picks to try to emulate closed primaries

What do you if the political party closest to your ideology can’t control its own nominations? If you’re the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, you try to shape general election contests into nomination-like elections.

That’s what this political action committee did this week in announcing endorsements (some actually first named late last year) for Republican candidates. As the name implies, the group, backed by a number of influential conservatives but most notably Republicans Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Sen. John Kennedy, supports demonstrably conservative candidates in their election aspirations through in-kind and independent expenditures.

Louisiana’s blanket primary system – really not a primary at all but a general election that allows candidates of any or no party to run together, where if no one candidate produces an absolute majority the top two in votes received advance to a general election runoff – disallows parties any chance of selecting their own nominee for the general election. In a sense, the LCCM tries in the general election phase to ensure conservatives either win outright or advance to the runoff, even if that means defeat of other Republicans – just like in a primary election.


Must ask right questions on LA education policy

To get useful answers, you have to ask the right questions. By and large, that didn’t happen at a recent gathering that looked to improve the state of education in Louisiana.

The leftist Louisiana Budget Project sponsored an “Invest in Louisiana” conference earlier this month. More properly, it should have been called “Invest Even More in Louisiana” because, as speakers admitted, Louisiana already invests plenty but has the worst outcomes, according to national test results.

So, the hedging began. Even though the state spends around the middle of the pack per pupil, one speaker tried to excuse the poor performance by saying – you guessed it – more money was necessary because the state had too many students coming from poor households, and this somehow held them back.


Donelon challenger needs to clarify candidacy

A little-noticed ruling by Republican state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon reflects the larger drama of struggles between the trial lawyer lobby and reformers.

Earlier this month, Donelon used the powers of his office to issue a cease-and-desist order to State Farm in its attempts to use a hurricane deductible instead of an all-peril one on policyholders suffering damage prior to Jul. 13 relative to Hurricane Barry. The company says its policy language permits the hurricane deductible for damage during a period of a hurricane watch or warning, which Donelon disallowed in saying it should apply only to when the actual storm hits.

The change could affect around 730 claimants, likely in every instance lowering the amount they must pay out-of-pocket. State Farm says if it must follow Donelon’s order that this could boost future rates.


Reasoned analysis points to gov race runoff

Wishful thinking or just clumsy analysis? What to make of observers who think Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards could win reelection outright on Oct. 12?

Earlier this month, State Civil Service Commissioner Scott Hughes, when asked by the hosts of a Shreveport talk show about Edwards’ chances to do this, said he thought it could happen. Hughes was appointed to the SCSC by Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Last week, in an opinion piece that went over considerable ground, independent journalist Jeremy Alford drew upon history to argue that odds were against Edwards on this, but that it could happen. Unlike Hughes who apparently went on gut instinct, Alford took a census of insiders and reviewed past election results to draw his conclusion.


Thank casinos for stagnant NW LA economy

A quarter-century ago, it supposedly would pull the Shreveport metropolitan area out of the doldrums. Now it prepares to claim another regional scalp.

Tucked into Shreveport’s bond issue plans, a little more than a half-percent of the proceeds would demolish Fair Grounds Field. The 1986 structure took over from the half-century-old SPAR Stadium and, while slightly smaller in capacity, then was considered one of the most modern minor league baseball stadiums with plenty of parking and relatively easy access from Interstate 20.

But the anchor tenant AA ball Shreveport Captains left the area after 2000 and a succession of low-minor independent teams filtered through for the next decade, with the final departure eight years ago. Since then, the city left the place go to pot, allowing it to become the second-largest suburb in the area with 40,000 or so bats (the flying, not hitting, kind) nesting there. With potentially millions in expenses to renovate and no real hope of finding someone to pump in that kind of money, its demolition and conversion at least in the short term to a parking lot popped up among the bond items.


LA constitutional convention dos and don'ts

From media accounts, a discussion over a constitutional convention for Louisiana summarized arguments going back decades, but perhaps missed the optimal approach.

Sponsored by the Pelican Institute, it featured panels that reviewed topics associated with the question of whether and, if so, how to bring such a thing and a new constitution into fruition. It seemed all participating joined a large, although not unanimous in missing chiefly the political left, consensus that Louisiana needs significant changes to its governing document, principally involving fiscal matters.

The event appeared to hit all of the past arguments’ highlights. Such a lengthy and detailed document makes for too much rigidity in state government, in essence locking in policy priorities of at least four decades ago if not of more distant provenance, which may not reflect today’s wishes. Further, incremental change likely will not work; i.e. with a large amount of dedicated revenues and expenditures built into the Constitution, different constituencies can mobilize into majorities to prevent varying measures from excision, so altogether nothing changes. Finally, even if a consensus emerged for revision, various issues regarding selection of convention participants could scuttle the whole effort, if not produce a document that doesn’t address the fundamental problems.


Mistrust in Perkins may sink bond proposals

It’s better, but voters still should have some skepticism about Shreveport’s $186 million bond proposal to go in front of voters during the fall’s runoff elections.

Last week, the City Council narrowly approved putting up to voters the three measures, which had jettisoned $34 million worth of items, some dealing with nonessential “smart” technology but the remainder suspiciously looking like a slush fund to fund a private concern’s economic development project on Cross Bayou. Now pegged at 11.68 mills to start, while the deletions improved the package, it’s still not out of the woods.

Part of the problem stems from the overtaxed nature of Shreveport. It has the second-highest city property taxes in the state (around 36 mills, but that trails New Orleans by more than half), and it doesn’t help that Caddo Parish has the state’s second-highest as well (at about 146 mills, barely behind Orleans Parish). Given the chance, an overburdened citizenry might take a step towards relief with rejection of at least one item.


Amend LA constitution to reveal misbehavior

For now it’s the wrong way to make something right, but eventually Louisiana policy-makers must invite the people to do the right thing.

Last week, a candidate for the Louisiana Supreme Court sued to overturn a law that prohibits making public records involved in the investigation of a lawyer. As part of his campaign the candidate wishes to discuss (perhaps against an opponent) a complaint he filed.

He argues that the Legislature can’t alter the Constitution’s grant of power to the Louisiana Supreme Court to make rules concerning the Judiciary Commission. Art. V Sec. 25 gives the Court power to “make rules implementing this Section and providing for confidentiality and privilege of commission proceedings.”


Kathleen Blanco, 1942-2019

As regular readers of this space know, when someone involved in Louisiana politics who I know in some personal way goes on to their reward, I write a few words about her. Unfortunately, Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco now must make an appearance here for that reason.

All readers of this space may labor under the misimpression that I chat regularly with policy-makers, conservatives in particular, compiling terabytes worth of correspondence and hours of listening time for the National Security Administration (at least under Democrat presidents). In fact, my communications with such people are extremely modest. Just about all of the time that I devote to gathering information for my posts and columns comes from solitary research, not from commiserations with insiders.

And of the time spent communicating with policy-makers past and present, among those who have served as governor of the state, you might think I’ve spent the most time chatting with Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. I have had the pleasure of chatting with him in person a few times for a few minutes each, both before and during his governorship.


Tarver boots Norton, benefits conservatives

Democrat state Rep. Barbara Norton discovered it’s never a good idea to be unprepared when sticking your head into the lion’s mouth.

The term-limited Norton over her three terms developed a reputation as not one of the sharpest tools in the shed, repeatedly making gaffes and not helped by her eccentric use of the English language. But having lost multiple attempts for office before winning this one, she did learn how to campaign at the grassroots level.

Thus, she had a realistic chance at knocking off Democrat state Sen. Greg Tarver when hoped to extend her legislative career by qualifying against him earlier this month. Himself a masterful campaigner after seeing it all over a four-decade career in elective office – although with an eight-year break after he beat a similar rap that took down former Democrat Gov. Edwin Edwards – that time in Shreveport politics also has brought him a number of enemies, including very ideological liberals annoyed that he sometimes aligns with conservatives on fiscal issues.


Interesting races on tap for LA in 2019

Just in case you have statewide election fatigue from digesting all the races shaped by candidate qualification last week, take a break by reviewing legislative and parish elections of note.

A number of parish presidencies come up for grabs this fall, with some actually fizzling compared to the intriguing ones that could have transpired. In Terrebone Parish, Republican Pres. Gordon Dove has angered big government advocates for refusing to back suits against energy companies and some blacks for his support of the parish’s judicial district’s current at-large method of selecting judges. Such opponents looked to rally around the candidacy of former Pres. Michel Claudet, but he declined to run, leaving just token opposition for Dove.

In Jefferson Parish, a much-anticipated free-for-all among Pres. Mike Yenni, former Pres. John Young, and Councilor Cynthia Lee-Sheng, all Republicans, lost luster when Yenni didn’t qualify. Early in his term, the rookie faced widespread embarrassment over the revelation that he had texted racy messages to a male minor and perhaps committed even greater folly along those lines, but refused to resign. Undoubtedly the Young/Lee-Sheng matchup will provide fireworks, but as the two didn’t differ all that much on the issues in the past (Young left for an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor) and were allies, the battle should be petty and bloody (precisely because they didn’t differ much and were allies) that leaves one faction supreme, but won’t have great ramifications for policy.


Morons both run routes and for president

Two ex-New Orleans Saints over the past few days by their comments just gave the public another reason to believe the IQ scores of football players don’t much exceed their shoe sizes.

Wide receivers Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills offered up their opinions on the nexus of sports and race relations, in truly unfathomably ignorant form. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both players have a history of insulting their country by refusing to honor America’s flag and National Anthem prior to games.

This week, Matthews quit the Saints, asserting he would retire from football. In a social media post after he abruptly left the team this week, he indicated he felt exploited. In particular, he rambled, “Beating your body up over and over for groups of people to give out a small % of the earnings that they don't even need for me No Longer Exist …. Being around too much Ego to even understand that someone has the same skin as you No Longer Exist ... People using me for Entertainment and not understanding that i Am a Black Man in America No Longer Exist.” (Of course, it was tenuous at best whether Matthews would have made the squad.)


If reelected, Edwards to face headwinds

Even if Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ uncertain reelection chances come to fruition, he seems set to face a Legislature and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education if anything more hostile to his agenda in the next four years.

Qualifying for this fall’s elections for these offices closed last week, and put Edwards behind the eight ball immediately. Unless some very unanticipated things transpire, he’ll repeat facing Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. In the House, 56 seats either have all Republicans running or Republican incumbents facing single opponents; in the Senate, that number is 20. That means before an expected gubernatorial runoff Republicans already will have secured majorities, and then in runoff races they’ll add more.

The Hayride’s MacAoidh, using vote for GOP Pres. Donald Trump in 2016, sees supermajorities of 70 and 26 seats within reach for Republicans. Using that metric is a bit tricky, because of Louisiana’s culture of personalistic politics that devalues ideology which detaches state- and local-level politics, often evaluated on the basis of candidate personality, from national politics seen more through an ideological lens. In other words, Republican proportion of the vote in those districts will trail the 2016 numbers. More likely, Republicans will add a few House seats to get in the range of above 65, while in the Senate they probably can add at least one to hit 26.


No surprise: lively Caddo, boring Bossier races

It wouldn’t be northwest Louisiana electoral politics if intrigue hasn't engulfed Caddo Parish offices and apathy didn’t reign across the river in Bossier Parish.

Elections this fall for parish positions in Caddo feature spirited competition. In the case of the Parish Commission, this came from a combination of some members reaching terms limitations and the increasingly wacky policy direction to which the body has swerved. In recent months, it decided it may shovel $48 million to help a private developer, stupidly decided to limit the number of payday lenders, and engaged in bad theater by an immature walkout over whether the parish should give money to private organizations, which may have prompted more interest in posts on it.

It led to some interesting matchups, often instigated by retread candidates and former elected officials, after qualifying. Reviewing the term-limited seats, in District 1, former congressional candidate Patrick Harrington will square off against former Oil City mayor and retiring Commission Clerk Todd Hopkins, with newcomer Ken Brown as well; all are Republicans. District 4 features James Carstensen, a former Libertarian who ran for Shreveport City Council last year, up against John-Paul Young, son of Democrat Juvenile Judge Paul Young, and Christopher David; all are Republicans. District 11 has another former Libertarian, Parker Ward who has run for several offices including mayor, facing off against Ed Lazarus; both are Republicans.


Qualifying dynamics hurt Edwards' chances

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t get much of a break in his reelection effort when Louisiana state elections scheduled this fall closed qualifying last week.

Edwards’ best hope lay in the two major Republican candidates qualifying, Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, while having no other Democrats enter the fray. Not only did two from his own party show up, but one is black and the other Hispanic. Worst of all, he has a Landrieu with which to contend.

True, it’s “Go” Gary Landrieu, the wacky cousin of the main members of the former state political dynasty who has had his share of legal problems and multiple failed attempts at gaining elected office. Running as an independent, his platform sounds more like that of GOP Pres. Donald Trump than it does of Edwards’.


Gatti, Milkovich hope voters miss their warts

The final grades are in, with two northwest Louisiana state senators hoping that voters will more likely see them as beauties rather than as beasts.

With elections approaching in the fall, legislative scorecards become a tool for incumbents to defend their records but also mechanisms by which challengers may criticize them. Two statewide interest groups, the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry which evaluates economics-related measures, and the Louisiana Family Forum which grades on social issues, recently released their 2019 versions.

In southern Caddo Parish and northern De Soto, Democrat state Sen. John Milkovich hopes voters will pay attention to one but not the other. In northern Bossier Parish and others parishes to the east, Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti hopes for the same.


LA must prohibit needle exchange programs

In the past couple of years, Louisiana’s largest municipalities have adopted syringe exchange programs. Research now shows they committed a mistake that needs reversing.

In 2017 New Orleans and Baton Rouge launched such programs, and in 2018 Shreveport followed suit. These allow users to exchange used needles for unused ones, on the theory that addicts won’t stop using just through denial of syringes and instead they will seek out dirty ones that then spread infectious, if not deadly, diseases. Collecting agencies ask no questions even though their distributions could lead to drug use, with the potential consequences of overdose and death. Additionally, this arrangement might encourage users not to leave used needles everywhere that not only create an eyesore but also could puncture unsuspecting members of the public and infect them.

Critics noted that this destigmatized, if not legitimized, drug use and of particularly harmful kinds that would cause abuse to grow. Proponents believed this would curtail disease, and a recent comprehensive survey revealed the latter were correct in that such programs reduced the incidence of HIV by 18 percent.


Thanks to LA policy-makers, hoot up legally

What time is it, Louisiana? It’s hooting up time, and legally courtesy of ill-conceived and half-baked measures put into law and regulation by state policy-makers.

This week the first batch of medical marijuana should become ready for physicians to write “recommendations” (since any marijuana use runs contrary to federal law, a formal prescription puts a doctor’s medical license at risk) for prospective patients. And thanks to policy laxness, it’s primed for abuse.

The comedy of errors began in 2015, when the Legislature first rehashed laws on the books that permitted the presence of medical marijuana, but didn’t put in place a mechanism for its distribution. It provided such a vehicle, along with an initial short list of eligible conditions, and specified use could occur through any means except inhalation.


Edwards grip on expansion narrative slipping

Medicaid expansion in Louisiana has proven itself a net negative. But it also may have become a net negative campaign issue for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards with a straw that may break the camel’s back.

Since Edwards unilaterally expanded Medicaid just after entering office, his Administration has waged a relentless propaganda campaign designed to convince the public that its benefits outweigh its costs. It has tried doing so on three fronts: (1) it’s better for the public’s health, (2) it saves the state money, and (3) it creates economic benefits.

All three propositions have been debunked, repeatedly. The first is the most nebulous, since we can’t go back in time and create an experiment where we compare health outcomes for those eligible who did and didn’t participate in it among Louisianans.


Edwards can't help alienating base or others

Current events have dragged Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards back into an uncomfortable spotlight pitting his base voters for reelection against swing voters.

As the 2020 election season for the presidency ramps up with dozens of Democrats jockeying for their party’s nomination, simultaneously Edwards conducts his 2019 reelection attempt. His national-level counterparts have done him no favors by articulating an extreme leftist agenda anathema to a Louisiana majority. As a result, he does his best to ignore their existence.

Yett only miles from his residence occurred an incident that he cannot shy away from. Last month, an unidentified West Baton Rouge Parish deputy shot and killed a black man. Ostensibly in a raid of the place looking for illegal drugs according to the search warrant, an autopsy showed the bullet entered through the back of the neck, and the only eyewitness (although a potential accomplice in the drug crime, which could affect the veracity of her testimony) claims the shot came within seconds of law enforcement’s entrance.


Donation destinations explain LSU kerfuffle

The kerfuffle over Louisiana State University’s new luxurious football locker room and by the school’s new athletic director signaling a subsidy elimination says less about the school’s priorities than it indicates public attitudes about higher education.

Some observers seemed aghast that $28 million in private donations specifically for athletics would go to such a palatial setup, lamenting that the school couldn’t pony up similar dollars for its academic pursuits. A few days later, Athletic Director Scott Woodward said his department potentially would reduce, if not eliminate its annual subsidization, of school academics when he noted a reevaluation of the policy was on the way. In an arrangement almost unique in academia, among a handful of schools where athletics makes a surplus, LSU athletics has given the academic side an average recently of $10 million annually.

This possible policy shift could have developed from a federal tax change that took place last year with the ending of tax deductibility of seat licensing, from which LSU athletic foundations have received huge sums now partially dried up. But likely there’s another reason as well, as articulated by Woodward: “In both places [where Woodward worked previously, Texas A&M and Washington], on average they give 1.5 times more to the academic side. I’m sure that’s the case here.”


Time to put teeth in car leasing ethics law

It seems a Shreveport television station has stumbled upon a well-known loophole in Louisiana’s campaign finance law. It’s a reminder that legislation needs to fix this.

Trawling through campaign finance reports of state legislators, a reporter discovered that four legislators use campaign finance funds to lease vehicles. One, House Speaker Taylor Barras, presents something of a surprise given his above-the-board reputation, but perhaps no other legislator has a greater claim on doing something like this given the duties of the speaker that require much far-flung automobile travel.

The other three should come as no surprise. Senate Pres. John Alario has a long history of playing fast and loose with this law. Despite his running an accounting firm and having sat in the Legislature almost a half-century and seeing every meaningful campaign finance law enacted in that period, Alario’s campaign has been plagued by at best shoddy, at worst illegal reporting of contributions and expenditures. In fact, his campaign finance habits have drawn Federal Bureau of Investigation scrutiny, although for reasons unknown that seems to have stalled.


Edwards to adopt 3 Wise Monkeys posture

Should Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards join some of his party’s counterparts in worrying about the far left policies trumpeted by its presidential candidates? Not if he adopts the Three Wise Monkeys posture.

Some Democrats in their state’s highest office do worry about how the extremist preferences on a multitude of issues including health care, immigration, abortion, and restructuring the American economy will reflect upon their own fates. Recently, New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo, and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer all voiced concern that campaigning for the party’s 2020 nomination, in the words of Grisham, “scares people.”

Raimondo is way underwater with the latest poll putting her at 38 percent approval. Grisham may join her, as at 44 percent that approval barely outdistances disapproval of her. Whitman has a bit more peace of mind, for while at 44 percent approval as well her disapproval is ten points lower. For his part, Edwards enjoys 47 percent approval compared to 34 percent disapproval – numbers indicating not a shoe-in for reelection, but with a decent chance. While almost no one who disapproves of a governor’s performance will vote for him, some who express approval will defect to challengers who they see as potentially better.


NW LA taxpayers set to lose more

One northwest Louisiana entertainment institution faces another threat to its continued existence despite taxpayer assistance. Another seems poised to magnify its drain on taxpayers unless wiser heads prevail.

The summer hasn’t been kind to Shreveport’s Independence Bowl or Bossier City’s (for now called) CenturyLink Center. In June, the former received news that the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conferences would drop their affiliations with it starting after this year. In July, the latter found out that its arena’s eponymous corporation would cancel the deal for naming rights next year (which means, if past practice applies, the city will have to change the name of the street it’s on.)

The SEC tie-in was crucial to the game’s health, now the eleventh longest-running such postseason matchup. The closer a participating school’s fan base, the better ticket sales will be. The ACC’s closest campus was farther away that he majority of SEC schools, but at least it fulfilled its quota every year for the past several which the SEC couldn’t always do.


Blueprint LA 3.0, or doomed to failure?

Blueprint Louisiana 3.0? Or back on the ash heap?

Last week, three interest groups that focus on state government policy – the Committee for a Better Louisiana, the Committee of One Hundred, and the Public Affairs Research Councilintroduced an initiative called Reset Louisiana. This agenda addresses four general areas – criminal justice/public safety, education, state finances, and transportation/infrastructure – concluding with recommendations for state policy-makers to follow when they enter or return to office next year after this fall’s elections.

In a way, this echoes the effort of the now largely moribund group Blueprint Louisiana. In 2007 it concocted a cocktail of policy preferences that it asked state office candidates to endorse. As always, candidates want their candidacies to live or die on their own issues, so few prominent and/or ultimately successful candidates did so, and not much of what the agenda advocated came up for policy-maker discussion, much less was adopted.


Desperation heaves won't cut judicial mustard

So, how many failed desperation heaves will it take for some those who see racism everywhere to get the message that it isn’t?

Not as many as have happened to date in Louisiana concerning its judicial system. The latest court case involves a challenge filed this week to the way the state drew Supreme Court districts. A national interest group hooked up with the state’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in alleging that the seven districts containing just one majority-minority district exists in a state with a third of its voters non-white is unconstitutional.

The state very likely wins this case on the basis of the very latest jurisprudence concerning drawing district boundaries. A state may use partisanship as a criteria for drawing these, as long as the districts produced remain reasonably compact and contiguous, so that party may not become a proxy for race. Partisan questions like that remain beyond the reach of the judiciary, and Louisiana’s districts appear reasonably compact and are contiguous. As judicial oversight of the state’s districts – in this case congressional – in the past has shown, just because much of Louisiana’s black population doesn’t congregate geographically doesn’t mean you must constitutionally draw districts using districts of low compactness and barely contiguous to account for that.


Trump preparing to fix Edwards' mistakes

Looks as if Republican Pres. Donald Trump will perform a double rescue of Louisianans trying to overcome the folly of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

This week, the Trump Administration proposed rules that would bring greater integrity to enforcement of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It would disallow automatic enrollment into SNAP, known colloquially as food stamps, if the applicant already receives assistance through the myriad of programs attached to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Instead, applicants would have to meet minimal, verifiable standards: ongoing and substantial benefits and inlcuding only non-cash TANF benefits to use in conferring automatic eligibility that focus on subsidized employment, work supports and childcare.

Automatic acceptance has become a problem. In some states, qualifying TANF benefits may be as minimal as simply providing a household with an informational brochure describing social services or access to hotline numbers. As a result, eligibility checks might occur as infrequently as every two years. These nominal benefits are often given without conducting a robust eligibility determination. Instead, automatic conferral now will come if a household receives TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least 6 months.


Edwards' policies make U.S. vulnerable

As America’s allies, both eastern and western, find themselves dealing with Iranian intransigence that threatens their stability, Americans can thank the policies of Republican Pres. Donald Trump that they avoid this – while Louisianans can feel grateful that their Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and his fellow travelers have had limited impact in propagating policies that would have made America more vulnerable.

Last week, Iran began detaining tankers travelling the Straits of Hormuz. Over a fifth of the world’s oil output makes its way along this narrow path adjacent to Iran, which currently endures crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. over its nuclearization policies. Trump spearheaded this when he revoked an agreement that put the U.S. at a disadvantage in halting this nuclearization pledged by Democrat former Pres. Barack Obama (whom Edwards supported as a delegate at the party’s national convention).

In protest, Iran has seized these ships of other western and local countries, which depend upon oil importation and exportation to make their economies run. Not long ago, that oil could have been bound for the U.S., which at one time imported large quantities of oil.


Jindal's economy beats Edwards', redux

Welcome to the party popping the overinflated balloon that is the campaign narrative of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Last week, appearing here was a comparative analysis of Louisiana’s economic performance from July of 2008 to May of this year, neatly segmented into three periods. The first essentially occurred during the first term of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal, which featured early tax relief and throughout a significant reduction of government spending of dollars from state revenue sources. The second, roughly analogous to Jindal’s second term, saw tax increases late in it and incrementally higher spending during it. The third comports basically to Edwards’ time in office, marked by substantial tax increases and significantly higher spending.

Using data showing the state’s absolute performance and ranking among the states in each period, the first Jindal term produced much better economic performance than his second, which in turn did little better than Edwards’ reign. In short, Jindal’s initial policies, the exact opposite of Edwards’, demonstrably made Louisianans better off than they have been under Edwards’ watch.


NW LA govts must avoid developer handouts

It’s a good sales pitch. But it’s doomed to failure unless it undergoes a necessary alteration.

Last week, Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins issued a public plea for the City Council first, then voters to approve a $220 million package of bond proceeds pledged to go to a couple of dozen projects. Funding for this would come from renewal of a pair of expiring property taxes from 1996 and 1999 totaling 6.2 mills (rolled back).

The list, compiled by a citizens committee cobbled together by Perkins, as he pointed out has a number of worthy projects. Some address essential needs, such as aging public safety and water and sewerage infrastructure. Others don’t seem that necessary but merit serious consideration by voters, such as constructing conduits for broadband transmission that could invite future provider competition that encourage innovation and better pricing for customers.


Edwards, left show their intellectual dishonesty

You know Louisiana’s political left hasn’t emerged from intellectual bankruptcy by reading its vacuous reaction to Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s social media comments and those added by some of its Congressional delegation.

Trump certainly provoked a reaction when days ago through social media he advised “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who came from dysfunctional developing countries to return and solve those places’ woes that then would give them the moral credibility to make policy choices for the U.S. He guessed that Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had drawn criticism from four females of her party who express radical leftist policies – Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ihan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib – gladly would pay the airfare for such individuals.

Probably not, but Louisiana’s GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham, who is running for governor against incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards, seemed amenable to the notion. On social media, like Trump not mentioning any particular names, he broadened the idea by observing “There’s no question that the members of Congress that @realDonaldTrump called out have absolutely said anti-American and anti-Semitic things. I’ll pay for their tickets out of this country if they just tell me where they’d rather be.”


Data show Jindal's economy beats Edwards'

If Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has any hope of winning reelection, he’ll need a lazy and incurious mainstream media to parrot his misleading campaign theme.

That theme, as disgorged through campaign advertising, tries to resonate on two related points: (1) Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal wreaked havoc on the state economically and (2) Edwards saved Louisiana from that, So, (3) keep him in office because otherwise the likes of the GOP’s Rep. Ralph Abraham or Eddie Rispone will be the second coming of Jindal.

How much either challenger would repeat local, stock, and barrel Jindal’s agenda is questionable, but undoubtedly they would advocate for different policies than Edwards. In particular, they look askance at tax increases that have fueled policies leading to a massive expansion in state government spending.

Consider that the fiscal year 2008 budget Jindal inherited from Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco contained, exclusive of federal money and interagency transfers, spent $16.8 billion. By the end of his first term, Jindal had reduced that to $15.3 billion. But then outlays began creeping back up, with his last budget using $16.5 billion in state-sourced bucks. Still, over eight years, Jindal managed to claw back 3 percent of state dollar spending (even as in his last year he countenanced significant tax increases).

Then Edwards spearheaded the largest tax increase in the state’s history, a sales tax hike which disproportionately affected lower-income households, and government’s size exploded. His second-to-last FY 2019 budget ended up spending a record $18.2 billion, with more to come in this year’s. That’s 10 percent higher that Jindal’s last, an increase almost twice the rate of inflation.

Edwards would have us believe that this fiscal record has produced better economic performance than Jindal, an allegation predictably bought by the drive-by national media. One such example comes from the unabashedly partisan New York Times, which sicced one of its east coast-based stenographers, one Richard Faussett (whose social media postings reveals he enjoys flirting with the “progressive” agenda) to do a story on the messaging by Blanco, Jindal, and Edwards when storms threaten. Tucked into the piece was this nugget of ignorance:

Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, was elected four years ago in large part because voters were worried about the huge structural deficits left by the departing Mr. Jindal, who pushed for tax cuts and breaks that failed to stimulate the economy and contributed to severe cutbacks in higher education funding.

Clearly, Faussett didn’t do his homework, seemingly content to swallow the party line as propagated by Edwards. In fact, the data show the Jindal tax and spending cuts improved the state’s economy, and his and Edwards’ tax and spending increases harmed it.

A review of five indicators of economic well-being reveals this: relative real gross domestic product growth (in chained dollars to discount inflation), personal income per capita growth, employment growth, state unemployment rate relative to the national rate, and relative population change over the previous four years. Relatively higher growths, the better state unemployment, and the more people wanting to live in Louisiana connote better economic performance.

The following table presents comparisons for the three eras featuring different economic policies: (1) Jindal’s first term, which had tax cuts early and spending reduction throughout, (2) Jindal’s second term, where spending began rising again and tax increases occurred at the end, and (3) Edwards’ three years in office, with its large tax increase early and record spending. Each entry also includes in parentheses Louisiana’s relative ranking among the states. In this fashion, national economic performance, which affects all states, can be factored out while gauging how the state performs against its peers.

Jindal 08-12
Jindal 12-16
Edwards 16-19
Real GDP (chained) relative change %
-0.5 (32)
-2.4 (47)
-2.1 (49)
Personal income PC relative change %
-0.7 (33)
-1.6 (44)
-0.3 (36)
Number of jobs relative change %
+0.5 (6)
-1.2 (43)
-0.7 (45)
Unemployment rate relative
-1.0 (20)
+1.2 (47)
+0.7 (43)
Population change relative change %
 0.0 (26)
-0.5 (32)
-1.6 (44)

(Most data here are taken from second quarters of the years indicated, as that is when the state’s fiscal year for budgeting purposes ends, except for 2019 where the latest state statistics available at present are from May, the last population estimate is from 2018, the last state ranking for employment is from 2018 (and done at the fourth quarter), and the earliest data for Jindal first term personal income was 2010.)

So, by way of example, from the end of the second quarter of 2008 (after Jindal had been in office about six months) through the second quarter of 2012 (about eight months after his reelection), 0.5 percent more jobs were created in Louisiana than nationally, ranking sixth highest among the states.

Reviewing these figures, Louisiana’s economy clearly performed better during the era of large tax and spending cuts of Jindal’s first term than during the era of Edwards and large tax and spending increases. In that first term, Louisiana bested national numbers in two categories and tied in a third, and, relative to other states, scored almost in the upper tenth, in the upper two-fifths, almost in the upper half, and twice in the upper two thirds.

Even Jindal’s second term with tax and spending increases marginally went better than Edwards’ three years. Even though all but one of the absolute numbers are better for Edwards, this reflects the state riding the coattails of Republican-induced tax cuts in 2017; the majority of state ranking indicators deteriorated showing the state lost ground to others under Edwards’ policies. And, even the least bad indicator of the bunch (the only one, barely, not in the bottom fifth) of only 0.3 percent lower personal income growth than occurred nationally is a left-handed compliment; that’s an artifact of the massive population loss relative to other states (giving it a negative net migration, the fifth worst among the states) which leaves fewer people to use as the denominator in calculating the average.

In short, in economic terms comparatively Louisianans are not better off than they were three years ago, and they are significantly worse off than they were seven years ago after government had cut taxes and spending than now when government has raised both taxes and spending. Edwards will try to distract voters from this dismal record by pointing to small absolute increases registered by some indicators, but those come from national economic performance using policies he repudiates. In truth, Louisiana has fallen further behind under Edwards.

But tools like Faussett are fooled, and thus they report inaccurate information about the state’s past economic performance, where the record shows tax cuts in part in fact did stimulate the economy. Nor is he correct about funding for higher education, which didn’t face “severe cutbacks” throughout the Jindal terms but instead for educational functions that spending fell less than 1 percent.

Edwards has to hope voters are gullible enough to buy his obfuscation and misdirection on the state’s economic performance under his watch and policies. Otherwise, he’ll be out of a job beginning next year.


Reform, politics shape LA education progress

The initial round of Louisiana’s LEAP test score revelation for last academic year demonstrates the limits of educational reform and political will.

As a whole, the state’s students improved marginally. More substantial improvement, however, came at historically low-performing schools provided with more autonomy, resources, and demanding expectations, known as Transformation Zone schools. Each implemented a Tier 1 curriculum, recognized by the state as best aligned with and able to achieve state-mandated learning objectives. These also received additional funding from their districts (often grant money) and faced fewer constraints in administration, with many being charter schools.

By contrast, the original cockpit of state educational reform, Orleans Parish, suffered a small decline in scores on the standardized exam. This meant that over the past four years essentially no progress occurred in a district that, in that time span, went from having a majority of schools chartered and outside the Orleans Parish School District to having all schools become charters and under OPSD jurisdiction.


Shreveport follies threaten bonding ability

While Tropical Storm Barry may have whimpered its way through Shreveport, a political storm has brewed there that threatens to take down the city’s bonding capacity.

Last month, news leaked that the city delayed production of its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report required by the state annually on Jun. 30. Discrepancies in the city-run pension plan for public safety employees as well as questions over whether the city was making its payroll tax payments appear to have prompted the request.

The payroll problems predated the Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins Administration, but it has not confirmed that the problems didn’t continue into 2019. Regardless, this piqued the interest of the three Republican members of the city council – Grayson Boucher, James Flurry, and John Nickelson – plus Democrat LeVette Fuller into having the body vote the city into launching an investigation of the matter.


N.O. Luddites put ideology over people

You have to admire ruefully the Luddites in New Orleans for their ideological fervor: they’d rather be right than save themselves and the people they allege to represent in the neighborhood of $100 million.

They’ve had their panties in a wad ever since the City Council reaffirmed a decision to have Entergy New Orleans construct a gas “peaker” plant for use in times of stress on power provision and emergencies (such as a tropical storm slamming the area) for a city with no capacity to generate its own power. They argued for all sorts of alternatives to this relatively clean power, but none are practical or cost effective, or both.

Nonetheless, the faith in their case is such that they pursued multiple legal avenues to overturn the decision. With Louisiana’s weak tradition of rule by law – its political culture too tolerant of men on horseback who bend rules and norms to achieve their desired outcomes – they felt they could hit on an activist judge willing to read into the law their agenda.