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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.


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.


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.