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Congregants defying orders won't see penalties

They have been getting away with it. And they will continue to get away with it.

Central’s Life Tabernacle Church hasn’t missed much of a beat since Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a series of proclamation over the Wuhan coronavirus invasion into Louisiana. The orders began at limiting gatherings to 250, then went to 50, and the current iteration places the maximum number at ten. But the church continues tohold services and events that draw hundreds and even over a thousand participants.

Drawing national attention, pastor Tony Spell claims the virus won’t affect his congregants. He calls the matter a question of religious freedom, and suggests that the First Amendment’s free exercise and assembly clauses overrides any attempts at state government restrictions.


LA has means to avoid virus ventilator crisis

A ventilator crisis may loom for Louisiana, but it is manageable with a bit of forethought.

This device aids, if not entirely performs, breathing for individuals. A few people (like, for over 17 years, my wife) live with them permanently, but now demand for these has surged with the Wuhan coronavirus invasion. In fact, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, within two weeks the state health region (One) serving Orleans Parish will exhaust its supply of this equipment.

Keep in mind that Region One is not just the epicenter of the virus infection for Louisiana, but vying for that sad designation in the entire country. Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes had 65 percent of the state’s cases as of today, and the region’s incidence rate of under one in every 600 residents nationally trails only the New York City area. The Orleans rate of 1:393 is slightly higher than New York City’s, but New York’s Nassau County’s is a bit higher and Westchester’s unbelievably is more than twice as high.


Virus-caused LA budget cuts looking more likely

So, what are Louisianan’s options as the economic impact of the Wuhan coronavirus continues to linger?

It all starts with the Revenue Estimating Conference, which last year made forecasts for fiscal year 2021 that the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration wanted to bump up two months ago. Leery (presciently) of the state’s economic health, Republican leaders of the Legislature didn’t want to commit to a $100 million or so boost and no change occurred.

Chances are, with the price of oil more than halved in just weeks, taxes on sales, income, and gambling likely to feel ongoing effects from what appears to be a month-long economic moratorium, and the decline in investments that will force the state to commit more current revenues to shore up its unfunded accrued liabilities, that supposed surplus more than has disappeared. This means cuts for FY 2021, unless bringing into play the Budget Stabilization Fund.


Edwards risks tossing baby out with bathwater

There’s no “nuance” in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ dictionary, but “fear” is a word prominently displayed when it comes to the current pandemic.

Sunday, Edwards issued another proclamation regarding the advance of the Wuhan coronavirus in Louisiana. This one now limits gatherings to ten and closed additional businesses, allowing open only grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, factories, transportation hubs, and critical infrastructure, although a social distancing limit is asked to be observed. People also are advised not to leave homes unless to shop for groceries, seek medical supplies or care, or go to work if part of the businesses not closed or not involved with public interaction.

The announcement he made to accompany that highlighted the per capita incidence and rate of growth of cases in Louisiana. As of Sunday morning, the state had the third highest per capita infection rate of the states, trailing only the epicenter Washington and hard-hit New York. It also in its first 13 days since the initial reported infection had the most severe growth rate of any country or state, with a current trend well above the average.


In LA, sport of kings perhaps laid fatal blow

Almost the only live sport to remain over the past couple of weeks since professional leagues and college associations cancelled their remaining seasons has been horse racing. Unfortunately, despite its prevalence in Louisiana, it won’t help the looming budget crisis to come and the fallout may put the industry closer to extinction in the state.

With voluntary slowdowns and a succession of proclamations by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, a sizable portion of economic activity within the state’s borders has come to a halt. Combine that with downturns in the oil and equity markets, and the recipe for a budget shortfall for this year plus carryover into next fiscal year’s if not a matter of if, but how much.

Suspension of athletic events contributes to this, in the form of taxes gathered on lost ticket and concession sales, as well as income taxes forgone from athletes not receiving pay (both residents and non-residents). However, horse racing kept on, with New Orleans’ Fair Grounds continuing its thoroughbred meet and Bossier City’s Louisiana Downs its quarter horse meet. They did so, after the Edwards bans on more than 250 (later lowered to 50) people gathering, by barring spectators.


LA should consider nuanced response to virus

In Louisiana’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, policy-makers must keep in mind that not only is it essentially a New Orleans-area problem, but that in per capita terms New Orleans right now is one of the world’s most dangerous hotspots for the disease.

While some elected officials have highlighted Louisiana’s incidence as something like one of the three highest per capita states, most have missed the fact that Orleans Parish has the second-highest rate per capita of any metropolitan county in the country. As of this morning, an astonishing 1 in fewer than 1,700 Orleanians have or had the virus. Extrapolate this nationwide and that would indicate over 193,000 cases when in fact the U.S. has reported only 10,442, and worldwide outside the U.S. the number is about 226,000.

King County, the location of Seattle, WA has drawn the most attention since the virus appeared there first in the U.S. But its incidence ratio is twice as high as Orleans’. The only ratio lower has appeared in Westchester County, NY: with about a million people, it has nearly 800 cases.


Can reformer win LA superintendent job?

At least in one respect business as usual goes on with Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education: selecting a new permanent leader.

Recently, the Board proposed a slew of measures related to the closure of schools for a month by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards last week. Essentially, these dismantle all accountability measures for students, educators, schools, and districts. Ironically, this bow to reality for this academic year creates an environment close to what Edwards would want in regards to the issue of accountability, so he will issue the necessary proclamations with relish.

But Edwards, his teacher union allies, and many on the political left would like to see more than just a temporary acceptance of this agenda thrust upon the state by fate, and going beyond that begin with appointing a new state superintendent sympathetic to their views. Longtime superintendent John White – who very much supported an accountability agenda the opposite of Edwards and these others – exited last week, and BESE has begun the process of finding his replacement.


Edwards ban also carries political ends

Never let a crisis go to waste: Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards may wish to see the 2020 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature do as little as possible, and he’s found the circumstance to prompt that.

His latest proclamation dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus until Apr. 13 limits gatherings to 50 people, which undercuts the House of Representatives and its 144 members plus staff. It also puts on the rivet the 39-member Senate, when including staff. Worse for legislators, access to bars and restaurants is cut off except for take-out and delivery of food. Leaders decided to halt proceedings for at least two weeks.

Such a draconian response by Edwards might be necessary for the health and general public as a whole, but it serves a political purpose as well. On its present trajectory, the Legislature is poised to hand Edwards some significant defeats while little of his agenda has any chance of coming to fruition.


Postponement overreach due to other factors

Louisiana postponed its scheduled Apr. 4 elections until late June in part for reasons that have nothing to do with the Wuhan coronavirus declared a pandemic.

Last week, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin said he would request (under R.S. 18:401.1) for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to delay these elections through executive order (which he technically he hadn’t done through the weekend just posted). Knocking these back to Jun. 20, with any runoffs to occur Jul. 25, Ardoin justified this by noting the relatively older age of many election commissioners and that voters with certain maladies, both groups having increased risk of contracting the disease, would escape potential exposure to the disease.

Between now and then, eight states will hold primaries or caucuses for at least one major party, along with other elections, but only Georgia at present also has postponed its presidential nominee selections, and only to May 19. That makes more sense on the surface.


The Inquisitor column, Mar. 13, 2020

The circus at Bossier City hall continues ...


Turbulent times require LA revenue downgrade

As Louisiana political leaders assert they’ll come up with a quickie budget in case they have to move fast, they must recognize the other shoe will drop with lagging state revenues.

Yesterday, the Legislature’s Republican leadership described efforts to put together a contingency package, sparked by fears if Wuhan coronavirus could continue for some time to radiate as rapidly as it has then the Legislature would have to shut down. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards joined them in that assessment. The state has to have its several budgets complete for next fiscal year by Jun. 30.

But they have to recognize that to rely even on existing official revenue forecasts likely overestimates the money the state will have available for the next 12 months starting Jul. 1. The Edwards Administration made an attempt to create estimates $103 million higher in the general fund as part of $285 million more in spending, backed by other increases in sources of revenues such as dedications. However, GOP leaders argued for a much lower number, which Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne rejected.


Right LA primary analysis, wrong guy

Right analysis, wrong agent.

A month ago, I wrote that Louisiana Democrats wouldn’t have any real influence over their party’s presidential nomination. With so many delegates elsewhere to be decided by the first Saturday in April – a position dictated because the holiday and elections calendar conflicted – the history of a nominee decided by then made it highly likely to neuter Democrats’ votes for this contest.

But I had the wrong guy. At the time, it appeared independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had the path necessary to win. His closest ideological competitor Democrat Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had performed well below expectations and seemed an obvious choice to depart the contest. Meanwhile, party establishment favorite Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden flagged in the polls as he threw off gaffe after gaffe and Democrats’ recent attempt to impeach and remove Republican Pres. Donald Trump shone more unfavorable light on Biden’s activities in office, and independent former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared poised to convert a lot of campaign cash into primary votes, splitting opposition to Sanders.


Oil price plunge unmasks false Edwards claim

There goes not only the supposed budgetary surplus for this and the upcoming fiscal year, but also a fake accomplishment Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards alleged throughout his reelection campaign last year.

At the last meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, Edwards’ representative Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne got all hot and bothered when House Speaker Republican Clay Schexnayder rejected his desire to have the panel declare that the state had $170 million more for this fiscal year and $103 million for the approaching one. The speaker argued for, respectively, lower and dramatically lower figures, saying they should keep “some conservative in the forecast.”

Dardenne objected to this that he called a politicization of REC forecasting – despite the process set up to induce political judgment into its decision-making – and voted to prevent the lower forecasts favored by Schexnayder and GOP Senate Pres. Page Cortez from becoming official. By doing so, he ended up keeping even more conservative in the official prediction, which remained unchanged from last year. And that has turned out to be a good thing.


Parade "hate" throws constitutionally protected

Carnival krewes can chunk what many see as racist throws, and there’s not a thing Louisiana or any of its municipalities can do to stop it.

Democrat state Sen. Troy Carter made news when he introduced SB 261, which would ban the tossing of “hate-related objects” during a parade or demonstration, that he called inspired by the story of young boy catching a throw featuring a caricature of a black man holding a watermelon with a noose around his neck. It proposes heavy fines and prison time for the thrower, although if not identifiable then fining the organization.

It’s a publicity stunt, because such a law violates the U.S. Constitution in many ways, starting with basic free speech rights. If someone wants to go around spouting racist themes by print, speech/broadcast, or, in this instance, symbol, you’re free to do so. And, naturally, what is a “hate-related” object, which the bill doesn’t define?


Edwards admits bad SNAP policy defeated

The adults intervened, handing Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards a humiliating defeat on food stamps policy.

Last week, Edwards acknowledged this by sheepishly retracting Executive Order JBE 16-12 with JBE 20-5. This came in response to the finalization of federal government rules regarding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that essentially forcibly restored changes Edwards had made to eligibility requirements not long after taking office.

His predecessor, joining the majority of states, just before leaving office had let expire waivers the state had regarding SNAP. Ordinarily, under the old (and illegal) federal rules a state could ask for a blanket waiver of program requirements that able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) work, train for work, or volunteer in order to qualify to receive this benefit more than three months out of every three years.


Cynical LA Democrats trying to stop tort reform

As a Louisiana liberal steeped in the state’s populist tradition, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards knows the best way to stop something that makes sense with a lot of momentum against his special interest allies is to demagogue it to death.

He registered full-throated illustration of this among his otherwise reheated comments this week to the media. Largely replaying his inauguration remarks that put forth an agenda going nowhere, he also introduced a new element addressing likely the hottest issue of the legislative regular session starting next week: tort reform of case law involving vehicles.

With the public increasingly tired of Louisiana’s extraordinarily high rates – second for passenger vehicles – Republicans have presented an impressive package of bills that builds upon best practices for lower rates in other states, incorporating many items they have offered in the past. The compelling nature of these bills plus the overwhelming GOP majorities in both chambers means these bills will pass.


NE LA school district consolidation needed

Northeast Louisiana may become ground zero for an educational experiment without parallel in Louisiana history: rather than looking to have a district separate, such as what happened with Ouachita Parish and Monroe City schools, districts may end up combining to a certain extent.

Last year, the Louisiana Legislature asked the Department of Education to review the deteriorating financial situation in many school districts. Particularly rural districts have fought stagnant if not declining populations, which dampen business activity and tax revenues, in the face of ever-increasing costs.

The report, released last month, noted that about a third of all districts faced fiscal pressure. Six in particular – Union, Morehouse, East Carroll, Tensas, Madison, and Catahoula the document identified at elevated risk. Together, these hosted 26 traditional public schools with around 9,200 students in the fall. Their 2018 financial reports (only up-to-date Catahoula has released its 2019 audit) excluding Catahoula show together their net positions deteriorated by $48 million from 2017 (Catahoula eked out a tiny gain from 2018 to 2019).


Edwards ITEP changes solve nothing

It’s what Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards does best – says he’ll change something to make Louisiana less inhibitive of economic growth, only to produce a cosmetic result that does nothing substantive.

Until now, his best-known sleight-of-hand in this regard concerns the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. He abandoned the requirement of his predecessor that able-bodied adults without dependents receiving it work, train for work, or volunteer, and replaced that with meaningless executive order that changed nothing about that while alleging it accomplished much the same thing as he had discarded. Fortunately, over these next few months SNAP rules changes by the Republican Pres. Donald Trump Administration essentially will cancel Edwards’ intervention and put the state back in the posture prior to his arrival.

Last month, Edwards may have topped that. During his first term, he changed the rules of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program on a couple of occasions. This property tax break for major capital expenditures offset the confiscatory local levies on corporations, but had no local input. His new rules basically gave a veto power to major local entities, which disconcerted businesses who complained conditions sought by local governments to grant the credit could make the activities in question economically unviable and thereby would discourage investment.


Democrats need competitive candidate in CD 5

The big story concerning Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham’s retirement isn’t whether a Republican will win, but whether Democrats have the ability to field a competitive candidate.

In Louisiana, congressional districts come open only every few years, which present the best opportunity for a party takeover without an incumbent running. And Abraham’s Fifth District has perhaps the best potential, as currently drawn, for a Democrat other than the majority-minority Second. While it slightly trails the Fourth in proportion of registered black voters, it has a higher proportion of Democrats and lower proportion of Republicans than any other in the state except for the Second.

But a Democrat won’t win, as recent voting history indicates, with GOP candidates at all levels outdistancing Democrats no less than 15 points. Despite that, Democrats desperately need to make the race competitive.


Judge should resign, but for correct reason

If Republican 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie Leblanc goes, it shouldn’t happen for the virtue-signaling reason stated by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Controversy has swirled about Leblanc since she assumed office in 2013, first winning a special election and then gaining a full term in 2014. The daughter of longtime former Ascension Parish Assessor Gerald McCrory, she clashed on several occasions with District Attorney Ricky Babin over a number of issues, perhaps the most visible being a public corruption case involving St. James Parish officials from which she eventually recused herself after Babin accused her of bias.

But things became really interesting when late last year she recused herself from signing a warrant related to a very minor case. Like pulling a loose string, since then it has unraveled in titillating and disappointing ways that could prove costly to taxpayers.


Dardenne denies politics to serve that agenda

Whiny Jay Dardenne still wants us to believe that there should be no politics in administration but that the political opponents of his boss Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards put it there – even as his own assertion demonstrates the opposite.

Louisiana’s Commissioner of Administration got the ball rolling on this theme last month when he moaned about all the other members of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference not following revenue recommendations from either of the two economists making forecasts. The net effect disallowed increased spending by state government.

Dardenne claimed this meant “politics” interfered with the prediction process, to be avoided in his view only when policy-makers elected and appointed unquestioningly ratified the estimates. This idea, of course, misses the obvious desire by policy-makers and the people to include political judgment in the process; otherwise, they wouldn’t have amended into the Constitution the need for unanimous policy-maker concurrence over the Dardenne doctrine of convenience regarding government by unelected experts.


Skepticism of LA higher education warranted

It’s not so much the ignorance behind the belief as that the belief exists in the first place, and so fervently in so many quarters that discredits higher education, especially in the eyes of the Louisiana citizenry.

Last week, Southern University Baton Rouge political science professor Albert Samuels presented a talk at the school’s version of “free speech alley.” It was entitled “The Moment We Have Feared is Upon Us: Why the 2020 Election May Be Democracy's Last Stand in America.”

A brief story about the upcoming event appeared in the Baton Rouge Advocate, with no follow. Southern’s student newspaper the Southern Digest won’t appear until Feb. 25, regardless of whether it covered it. The flyer promoting it featured pictures of Republican Pres. Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, and the flag of the Soviet Union.


Cassidy reelection to extend GOP dominance

Welcome to the norm in Louisiana U.S. Senate elections as the state transitions fully into Republican majority-party rule.

This week, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy announced his entirely expected reelection bid for this fall. So far, he has but one announced opponent, a Democrat with little name recognition and few resources.

Possibly a bigger name among Democrats could enter, but even among the party’s most prominent politicians none likely could come within 10 points of Cassidy in the general election. Simply and especially because national issues come into play in consideration of this seat, no state Democrat is close enough to the median center-right voter in Louisiana on the entire scope of issues to triumph against a solid conservative like Cassidy (American Conservative Union rating voting score: 83).


No permit good for LA concealed carry

There’s no reason to oppose having Louisiana joining the 16 states at present that allow carrying of concealed handguns without having to go through a permitting process.

HB 72 by Republican state Rep. Danny McCormick would eliminate the need to qualify and pay for costs associated with a permit, making where allowed by law concealed carry legal for any legal state resident with a handgun legally obtained unless they don’t meet a long list of conditions associated with prior criminal behavior, mental instability, certain discharges from the armed forces, or drug use, or who have violated federal guns laws. It would eliminate the education requirement or a display of firearm competency, or an application statement vouching that training has occurred and that the applicant is not ineligible for the permit by virtue of one of the legally disqualifying conditions..

McCormick calls the fees connected with obtaining an existing permit a tax triggered merely by concealing the weapon. If carried openly, no permit or fee is necessary. He argues that the state shouldn’t put unnecessary impediments in the way of exercising a constitutional right.


LA budget contains intriguing storylines

Earlier this month, Louisiana mainstream media covered the release of the state’s faux executive budget by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Lots of surface details emerged, but they all glossed over, if not missed entirely, the deeper and more substantive stories.

Primary among these in the pretend budget – a sham because it contained revenues unrecognized by the state’s panel empowered to do so, the Revenue Estimating Conference – was without its fake revenue Edwards essentially couldn’t make any new spending commitments. The reason: Medicaid expansion expenses are eating the state out of house and home, despite over $300 million in tax increases for the program Edwards falsely alleged would save the state money.

Other consequences followed. You couldn’t swing a dead cat during last year’s gubernatorial campaign without Edwards pledging to raise salaries for educators, but even with the unauthorized money included his spending plan had no room for these. With a half-normal-sized increase in the Minimum Foundation Program Edwards suggested districts individually approve raises with that bounty.


Bad bills address gubernatorial succession

Some pre-filed bills for the 2020 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature take the wrong approach to dealing with the state’s most useless elective office.

Last year, lawmakers rejected a bill to amend the Constitution to tie the election of the lieutenant governor to that of the governor. This year, identical bills HB 42 by Democrat state Rep. Kyle Green and HB 50 by Republican state Rep. Mark Wright seek to do the same.

It’s still a bad idea, at two levels. It obscures accountability for both offices, especially in a blanket primary system that already devalues the important policy stand-in cue of party identification, by promoting personalistic and geographic characteristics for both candidates.


LDH head hire reflects Edwards uneasiness

One way of looking at the appointment of Courtney Phillips as the new head of Louisiana’s Department of Health – which swallows nearly half of all money spent by the state – is that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has realized the serious spot into which he has put himself.

Phillips comes from Texas, where she ran an operation over twice the size of Louisiana’s, and prior to that headed up Nebraska’s similar agency, which isn’t quite he size of Louisiana’s. However, she spent many years moving up the ranks at LDH before decamping to Nebraska in 2015, and headed to Texas in 2018. A Louisiana native with family in the state, she will take a pay cut when she starts Mar. 13.

Significantly, two conservative Republican governors appointed Phillips and she loyally carried out policies that reflected an appreciation for right-sizing government – an attitude foreign to the Edwards Administration. Both resisted Medicaid expansion (although a majority of Nebraska voters drank the Flavor Aid and imposed it on the state after she left), although she took over a similar kind of program for lower-income women for family planning and health services that Texas instituted.


LA Democrats helpless to avoid Sanders

It’s official: Louisiana will play no role in the selection of major party candidates for the presidency in 2020, absent bizarre circumstances.

Obviously, Republican Pres. Donald Trump will sweep to a nomination victory and should have things wrapped up a month prior to the state’s Apr. 4 elections. Republicans may stay home in mass because, due to the state likely having to concede the unconstitutionality of its selection method for major political party governance, for many only that election will appear on the ballot.

But Democrats may not have a reason at the top to come and vote either. As a result of strong showings in both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders – who doesn’t even call himself a Democrat, but who in the past accepted the label of communist, then recently recanted the label even as he continues to express issue preferences consistent with that failed ideology to approving noises from the Communist Party of America while calling it “democratic socialism” – now finds himself in a commanding position to win the nomination.


Edwards budget avoids taking responsibility

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards said his reelection would result in continued pay raises for education employees. He also alleged that Medicaid expansion and criminal justice changes (termed “reinvestment”) would produce cost savings for Louisiana. That these claims didn’t pan out explains why Edwards will keep fighting tooth-and-nail to inflate the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget, the faux version of which he released last week.

The spending plan put forward is not the version required legally because he didn’t use existing revenue forecasts, including $103 million extra dollars in the general fund forecast as well as $25 million of individual citizens’ unclaimed assets that follows past practice now in legal dispute with Republican Treasurer John Schroder. Taking that as it comes, it calls for $128 million more in new general fund commitments and $285 million across that, federal funds, self-generated revenues and statutory dedications, and interagency transfers.

Put another way, Edwards wants to increase general fund spending by nearly 3.5 percent, or half again higher than the 2.3 percent increase in inflation for 2019. Over the course of his term, such spending has increased from $9.118 billion to the requested $10.147 billion, or 11.1 percent, while inflation has gone up only 6.8 percent – which doesn’t even include the fact that millions more disappeared from this budget’s general fund total when reclassified as statutory dedications that understate the actual increase. Overall spending has risen from $29.589 billion to the projected $32.165 billion, an increase of 8.7 percent.


Unclaimed property suit reveals Edwards fibs

With Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards suing Republican Treas. John Schroder, he managed to validate a lie of his, flub an opportunity to keep a promise, and speak out of both sides of his mouth.

Edwards’ falsehood involves his suit over Schroder refusing to allow a funds sweep of unclaimed cash escheated to the state, an amount from 1973 through fiscal year 2019 totaling $882 million (another $237 million in unclaimed securities external entities hold and are unaffected by the suit). This running total moves up and down by tens of millions of dollars each year as claims are paid and escheats received.

But Treasury coffers actually hold a far smaller amount, thanks largely to the practice of the state taking $635 million over that span to spend on current operations. Another $50 million over the years went to administrative costs, and $180 million by separate appropriation authorized by law went to fund Interstate 49 bonding. Only a $17 million buffer actually remains, after Schroder rejected a transfer in FY 2018 of $12 million to bump up cash on hand. This he did when improved dissemination practices caused such a run that the amount returned to owners exceeded by more than $5 million the escheats collected, delaying payments.


Conservative execution critics deceive selves

Abandoning conservative principles, a group of people terming themselves conservatives have organized in Louisiana to oppose its death penalty.

The Louisiana Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty have taken this position because, according to the group’s national manager Heather Cox, “Millions [of dollars] … are not going toward programs that actually could work to deter crimes in the first place, which we know that the death penalty does not. The death penalty is a failed, broken, big government program marked by all the error, corruption, and fallibility that we see in so many other government programs.”

It’s never a good sign when a group’s leader speaks, if not disingenuously, ignorantly about the very premise behind the effort. In reality, nearly a half century of high-quality, nonpartisan research demonstrates capital punishment does absolutely deter crime. It saves lives, and for the group’s leader to deny that makes the entire group seem fraudulent.


Schexnayder homers with committee choices

Some Louisiana conservatives thought new GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder would take three strikes. Instead, he hit three homers.

When Schexnayder nailed down the speakership with a majority of Democrats (all in the chamber) supporting him, doubts grew about how much fidelity he could maintain with a conservative agenda in the chamber he would lead. Recent actions of his should erase those.

First, he stacked the two most important, fiscally-related, committees in the House with enough Republicans and conservatives that not only will the tax-and-spend agenda of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards find no traction, but also a real chance exists for tax relief. Next, he backed that up by trying to induce caution and prudence into the revenue estimating process. He (as well as Republican state Sen. Pres. Page Cortez) lost that battle when thwarted by Edwards’ mouthpiece Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, but are winning the war to date because no additional revenue became recognized at this time, which to some degree accomplished the same purpose.


Confused Dardenne obstructs forecast

Who’s obstructing now, Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne?

At the close of 2018, Dardenne, who works for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, had unkind words for the state House of Representatives majority Republican leadership that, like he, served on the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference. The panel, which additionally has representation from the current state Senate Republican leadership and an independent economist, determines the amount of revenue the state legally may use in budgeting and requires unanimity to set a new target.

Back then, House leaders refused to assent to higher figures predicted by economists from the executive and legislative branches. They would do so several more times over the next few months before finally accepting a figure lower than the initial one not long before the budget came due. This, Dardenne said at the outset, amounted to obstruction of the budgeting process for political reasons.


Pro-life LA Democrats face bleak natl futures

The answer is, no, there isn’t room for the Katrina Jacksons among national Democrats. Nor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, now that he had made his bed on the issue of abortion.

A bill, which sensibly imposes regulations on abortuaries similar to those facilities pertaining to surgical centers, that the Democrat state senator sponsored six years ago that became law will come up for adjudication this spring in the U.S. Supreme Court. It became a matter of litigation because of its similarity to a Texas law declared unconstitutional, but differs enough that likely the country’s highest court will uphold it later this year.

This and an appearance at the Washington, DC March for Life last month has put Jackson in the spotlight as an anomaly among national Democrats: pro-life. Several laudatory pieces in national opinion media (obviously from the political right) over the past couple of weeks in different ways pose the question about whether room exists in the national party for a politician like Jackson.


Schexnayder money panel picks calm concerns

It’s one thumb up so far for Louisiana House Republican Speaker Clay Schexnayder, with the possibility of more to come.

Schexnayder courted controversy by nabbing the speakership by picking up every non-Republican vote in the chamber but a minority of his own party. Also, his GOP supporters, while conservative on fiscal issues, tended to be less so than those who voted against him. This led to questioning just how much support he would give to conservative issue preferences in cobbling together committees.

He began answering that question earlier today by releasing the compositions of the two most important committees in the chamber: Appropriations, which makes budgetary decisions; and Ways and Means, which deals with tax matters. He installed on them as chairmen two strong fiscal conservatives, Republican state Reps. Stuart Bishop and Zee Zeringue, respectively. Moreover, he placed Republican majorities on each about reflecting the nearly two-to-one advantage the GOP has in the chamber.


Sketchy report reveals duping LA taxpayers

It might a snow job, but a special committee established by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards today laid bare an inconvenient truth Edwards would rather not see the light of day.

Outmaneuvered last year when the Republican-led Legislature passed a bill that addressed what would happen if the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) dissolved at the hands of the federal judiciary, after initially opposing it Edwards swallowed his pride and signed it. But to save face, he created using taxpayer dollars a task force stacked with his appointees to try to make the effort look as bad as possible.

Putting on it individuals representing organizations that benefit from the estimated $128 billion in extra federal taxpayer spending nationally on coverage for 2019, joining a couple of legislative Edwards allies Democrat state Sen. Regina Barrow and Republican state Rep. Joe Stagni, they approved the final report, after hearing almost exclusively from Obamacare advocates in its compilation. Unsurprisingly, it alleged an alarmist scenario of nearly 500,000 people losing insurance coverage with $536 million needed to continued subsidization of existing individual coverage and much more to continue Medicaid expansion (which it claims would cost $3.5 billion, which perhaps runs a bit a high as 2018 data suggest a total closer to $3.1 billion).


Self-inflicted CA loss provides lesson for LA

Want another cautionary tale about how state and local government regulation kills quality of life and economic development that Louisiana needs to avoid? We were warned.

Last week, official professional road cycling at its highest level commenced for 2020 with the Santos Tour Down Under. Traipsing around South Australia’s wine country and breathtaking coastline, the American team Trek-Segafredo won the six-day race with Australian Richie Porte. Not only did the event provide entertainment to locals and tourists, but also through television broadcasting to nearly 200 countries it showed off the area as a tourist destination.

The stage race closest to the TDU in the world in many was the Amgen Tour of California. The vineyards and coastal views match, although the TOC also featured much higher mountain crossings as opposed to the short but sharp and few climbs available in South Australia. The TDU and TOC were the only stage races at the highest level that took place outside of Europe and Asia.


Column shows thinking that holds back LA

Part of the reason why Louisiana politics have struggled to evolve from a government-centric focus to a people-centric focus is an old-school mentality. One such example from the media came into view recently.

For a couple of decades the late John Maginnis purveyed a column on state politics to several print media outlets. Eventually, he brought in Jeremy Alford to assist, and Alford took over the effort upon the unfortunate demise of Maginnis.

Maginnis wrote and Alford writes from the left side of the political spectrum, although typically in watered-down, even obscurant fashion in order to make the column more sellable to a wider audience. Still, sometimes that bias comes out, as it did in Alford’s piece that went out last week.


Case study shows wisdom of term limits

And this is why term limits are a good idea. And why the time had come for two longtime Louisiana legislative employees to go out the door.

In 2000, my wife took a position at the University of Illinois Springfield and I took leave at Louisiana State University Shreveport to go with her. The UIS folks cobbled something together for me for what would be a trial period of a year: to see if I would leave my LSUS tenured position while she embarked on a potential tenure-track career with them.

Part of my duties included serving as faculty adviser to Model Illinois Government. This program allows students from across the state to participate in a mock legislative session of the Illinois Legislature, right at the Capitol not long after the real thing’s regular session ended. As the representative of the host institution, the advisor had to delve into not only a lot of logistical matters but also have a good working knowledge of the legislative process.


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 (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.


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.


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.


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.


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.