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22.1.20

Between the Lines +15: then and now

I’m not going to say that the time has flown by, but something should be said now that this blog has surpassed its 15th birthday.

That makes it the oldest blog on Louisiana politics out there, or at the very least the oldest that has published continuously and regularly (if anybody thinks I missed something here, let me know). Not that there were many out there 15 years ago; the only two that were with any frequency of publishing were John Copes’ Deduct Box and C.B. Forgotston’s Forgotston.com (both of whose authors sadly have gone onto their rewards).

Circumstance more than anything else led to establishing Between the Lines, which is the moniker I long have used for my columns. In 2002 I published under that every other week for FaxNet Update, which didn’t have a real Internet presence but largely circulated by e-mail. This roundup of political news and commentary lasted until the beginning of 2018, when its proprietor Lou Gehrig Burnett unfortunately cashed in.

21.1.20

Scurrying to leave LA's Medicaid sinking ship

The crew knows the ship is sinking, so they’re jumping overboard while Louisiana Medicaid’s clients and taxpayers will find themselves taken in the undertow unless the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration makes a change from politicized ideology to practicality.

At the end of the month, Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee will leave her job, undoubtedly for one where the consequences of her preference for statist solutions won’t redound as they have in Louisiana (as well as give her greater license to support propagation of abortion as she did prior to her stint at LDH). Long-time director of Medicaid for the state Jen Steele already has decamped.

Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid turned out as the most consequential policy enacted in his first term. It committed the state eventually to spend an extra $3 billion annually –in one fell swoop adding 10 percent to the operating budget – of which Louisiana taxpayers now directly contribute an extra over $300 million a year they didn’t pay before, essentially raised by increased taxes on insurance policies.

17.1.20

Cortez choices neuter Edwards agenda


The week may not have started great for Louisiana conservatives, but it ended with a bang.

Republican Sen. Pres. Page Cortez announced his committee selections, both members and leaders. He said he tried to balance assignments given the demographic composition of the body, as well as adhering to the tradition of giving some influence to the minority party.

However, with the GOP holding down 27 of the 39 seats — and only a few of those in the majority not identified with the clearly conservative wing of the party — his final product has an unambiguous conservative bias. Start with the three most important panels: Finance, Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, and Senate and Governmental Affairs. They all have overwhelming Republican majorities and staunch conservatives — respectively, state Sens. Bodi White, Bret Allain, and Sharon Hewitt — in charge. This stands in great contrast to the previous four years.

16.1.20

LA should scrap unlawful party restrictions

While political party weakness reverberates throughout Louisiana’s immature political system – witness the House speaker election – the majority Republicans in the Legislature can reduce the self-infliction in how parties govern themselves.

At present, the state creates a two-tier system for a recognized party’s governance. If a party can claim at least 30 percent of the state’s registrants, it must elect to the governing state central committee one male and female member for each House district, or 210 total. Otherwise, it can set up the composition of the SCC however it likes (except that if it is the party of the governor, he or his designee has a seat).

The change to the law that released all but Democrats out of this straitjacket came over three decades ago, when Democrats held a solid majority of registrants and Republicans not many. Two decades ago, the GOP only claimed 22 percent, but now have 31 percent.

15.1.20

Schexnayder can choose fiscal conservatism

Many conservatives in Louisiana may have felt disappointment of the victory of state Rep. Clay Schexnayder over state Rep. Sherman Mack, both Republicans, for the position of House speaker. Whether that puts a significantly moderate stamp on the chamber for the next four years, dimming the already-dusky chances of significant reform legislation, tax relief, and spending restraint until 2024, as previously noted depends upon the raw material Schexnayder has for committee assignments and chairmanships.

Mack gained backing from a number of unapologetic conservatives in the chamber, which would have guaranteed the most important committees have conservatives helm them and almost all committees would have unambiguously conservative majorities. Whether Schexnayder wishes to pursue the same course, if he largely sticks to the ones that brought him to the dance he won’t quite have the same resources.

Not that it’s impossible. For all the hand-wringing the political right may engage in over the outcome, where Schexnayder’s winning coalition contains a majority of Democrats, among the GOP members who have served through at least a couple of regular sessions in the past four years, there’s not a vast difference between the blocs.

14.1.20

Edwards address encourages LA exodus

If you probe even a little into issues behind Louisiana government today – and especially if you are an informed, motivated person who looks to get ahead in life – Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwardssecond inaugural speech was, in a word, depressing.

Not so much because it contained the ever-growing litany of half-truths and outright lies Louisianans have heard Edwards repeat over the years. There were plenty, but the most prominent examples will suffice:

·       “There’s no denying we are in a much better place now than we have been in many years.” Horse hockey. A net nearly 100,000 people have fled Louisiana since the middle of 2015, and since Edwards took office it has had a worse business climate, worse fiscal health, and has fallen compared to other states in almost every category of economic health from unemployment to number of jobs to personal income growth to state gross domestic product. Meanwhile, taxes are higher and so is poverty.

13.1.20

Schexnayder win may prompt lame repeat

Protector of conservatism or wolf in sheep’s clothing? Louisiana will find out upon the election of Republican state Rep. Clay Schexnayder as Speaker of the House.

The election made history as for the first time the body nominated only Republicans for the job, with Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack also having his named entered.  But it displayed continuity with the past when the winning candidate secured more voted from Democrats than from Republicans.

Schexnayder prevailed 60 to 45, with all Democrats on his side. Two-thirds of Republicans voted for Mack, including about all of the party members with well-known conservative credentials. Mack also had drawn public support from two highly-placed GOP elected officials also viewed as solid conservatives, Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Sen. John Kennedy, the leaders of a conservative PAC that had donated to the campaigns of many of the Republicans present at the vote.

9.1.20

Tepid response to flouting better than nothing

Today the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education emulated academia when its mandarins encounter a substantial decision that will trigger controversial change – it punted.

Sounding like students who didn’t realize the gravity of an assignment and so didn’t start working on it until too late, enough members of the Board said they wanted more time to complete the task. By consent, they put off dealing with changes to the implementation and enforcement of admission by exception rules until next month.

This started a couple of years ago when unilateral changes made by Louisiana State University Baton Rouge saw the proportion of its admitted students not meeting entrance standards promulgated by the Board go above its permitted four percent limit. The exceptions cohort graduated at a significantly lower rate, bolstering the argument that they should have attended other state universities with lower admissions bars.

8.1.20

White leaves impressive LA education legacy

Louisiana looks set to lose a key actor in its struggle to provide a quality education to its children.

State Superintendent of Education John White will resign after just over eight years on the job. He has served longer than any appointed superintendent, and the longest since the four elected terms of Shelby Jackson that ended in 1964.

White has earned his departure, since he found turbulence in his job almost from the start. Actually already part of the state’s educational scene as superintendent of the state’s Recovery School District which then existed only in New Orleans when given the state’s top job, he had a mission to implement long-reaching reforms passed into law only months into his tenure, changes bitterly opposed by many in an educational establishment and its allies who had overseen over the decades Louisiana’s plunge to the bottom.

7.1.20

LA needs to deregulate energy sales soon

Louisiana has a chance to correct a mistake it made two decades that could rein in electricity price increases.

Last month, the state’s Public Service Commission voted to study the impact of forthcoming rate increases. These appear guaranteed as the generating infrastructure of investor-owned utilities, specifically the state’s largest supplier Entergy, has aged, necessitating large-scale replacement. Legally, utilities may pass these costs over time to consumers, from residential to industrial.

A consortium of two dozen large industrial users, which altogether use a substantial amount of the state’s power, maintain that the conversion would increase rates by 50 percent. They have argued they should have the choice to leave the monopoly system historically favored by the PSC, which locks in a provider to a customer. Entergy in 2018 provided 79 percent of all power for industrial use.

6.1.20

Future reprieve from LA seat loss unlikely

It looks like Louisiana won’t drop any more congressional seats this time around on the census. But the way things are going, expect that to change in 2030.

That’s the conclusion you can draw from how reapportionments appear a year out from digestion of census data to be collected Apr. 1. Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia look poised to lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives, while states seeming ready to gain at least one include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

On a per capita basis, Louisiana has been the biggest loser since 1990. It has shrunk from eight to six seats, although states with much larger populations have lost more seats. And there’s a reason for shrinking populations, a review of fiscal data shows: policies that damage state economies, which consequentially puts state finances under stress, discourage residency compared to states with sounder economic agendas.

2.1.20

Maximum legal carry needed in LA churches

As recent tragic events remind, some spiritual leaders in Louisiana must act to increase the safety of their congregations.

At last year’s end, a gunman opened fire inside a church in the Metroplex area. In a few seconds, those bullets killed two worshippers. But that was all, because armed members visited the like on the shooter.

Texas recently relaxed requirements to enable churches to provide their own security. In essence, any individual with a concealed carry permit may take a handgun into a house of worship, unless the organization with responsibility over the church explicitly bans these. Not only does this event punctuate that broad Second Amendment rights can save lives, but it also signals to other malevolent people that in states with such laws houses of worship may not offer soft targeting, thereby discouraging these acts of violence.