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17.5.21

Charles Elson "Buddy" Roemer III, 1943-2021

My employer Louisiana State University Shreveport only recently passed the half-century mark in age. Today, it lost its most famous instructor, Republican former Gov. Buddy Roemer.

Little known is that Roemer taught as an adjunct instructor at LSUS early in its history, in computer science as I recall, before his electoral political career (All the oldest hands from that era at LSUS who could give a few more details, one way or the other, are no longer around here.) For that reason, we could get him to come to campus from time to time.

In the fall of 1993 or spring of 1994 (I can’t quite recall which semester), he stopped by to give a speech largely attended by faculty members and a few students. With me being the political scientist who taught our classes related to elections, when afterwards I introduced myself to him he was interested in having a chat. We drifted down the hallway to my (very small) office where for 15 or 20 minutes we (he, mainly, as was my desire) talked a bit about where he thought Louisiana and American government were headed. I confess I don’t really remember any of the details.

16.5.21

GOP leaders must deliver on sensible bills

Largely out of the headlines, Louisiana’s Republican-led Legislature has made quiet inroads on some do-over legislation that stand a good chance of becoming law – if its GOP leaders get with the program.

Last year in the second special session, the GOP chambers sent bills to create a more accountable and responsive emergency governance regime (in part prompted by a poorly-reasoned but highly-activist court decision on the existing statute defining this) and to prevent election interference through donations by private interests during emergency periods. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed both.

Fortunately, legislators didn’t give up and two similar bills look likely to reach the desk of Edwards this session, all other things equal. HB 149 by GOP state Rep. Larry Frieman would clarify emergency powers law to ensure even the most activist judge can’t misinterpret the law other than its explicit wording to give each chamber a veto power over gubernatorial assertions of authority in a declared emergency, in whole or part, taking effect when the next governor assumes office. HB 20 by GOP state Rep. Blake Miguez makes for an even tighter regulation of private election conduct donations, removing the language from his previous version limiting it only to those held under emergency conditions.

13.5.21

Simple changes can rescue unwise LA budget

While in most cases going one-for-two is really good (unless you’re this team, where that’s not much above average), the Republican-led Louisiana House of Representatives really couldn’t afford to miss one on its budgetary matters.

Last week, the chamber dealt with two significant money bills: the fiscal year 2022 budget that in part depends upon and a supplemental spending bill wholly dependent upon federal government revenues rained down courtesy of borrowing that edges the country closer to financial crisis. Only on the latter did it act wisely, mostly.

HB 642 would take a quarter of an estimated $1.6 billion in largesse to refill belatedly the unemployment trust fund, while $300 million would contribute to fixing local government water woes mostly an artifact of declining population bases and deliberate consumer underpricing. Another $55 million would enhance port infrastructure and $50 million would make up for small business losses. The questionable part of the bundle, $119.5 million, would go to special interests in broadband (most of it, including boosting the Legislature’s technology even though for this purpose a separate $180 million from the federal government already is in the pipeline), logging, and movie theater operations. Sensibly, the remaining $676 million would be parked to await future demonstrated need throughout the year, allocated by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

12.5.21

LA must remove idleness incentive payments

Louisiana needs to join the job stimulation party, and Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards needs to get with that program – even if forced to by the Legislature.

Over the past few days, state after state has announced ends before their expiration date of expanded Wuhan coronavirus pandemic unemployment payments, backed by economic data demonstrating not only have these long outlived their usefulness, but also have short- and long-term harmful effects. The federal government, whipped into doing so by Democrat Pres. Joe Biden through narrow party-line votes in Congress, in March extended through Sep. 6 $300 per week payments to people not working; states pay only the administrative costs.

Part of the reason, if not the most influential explanation for, why the latest economic numbers show rising wages, rising unemployment, rising inflation, and relatively few jobs created is these extra payments – which on top of existing payments which vary from state to state average $638 a week with the maximum in Louisiana more than doubled to $547 weekly – discourage work. Keep in mind this means in the state  $14.22 an hour for not working.

11.5.21

Rookie Shreveport GOP councilors hit headwinds

Even though they have passed the halfway mark of their rookie terms in office, the two freshman Republicans on the Shreveport City Council haven’t quite gotten the hang of homework, yet.

When it meets later today, the Council will have on its agenda an items fronted by Councilor John Nickelson, and another by Councilor Grayson Boucher, with another couple by Nickelson in the bullpen. Those almost certainly won’t even come up, while Nickelson’s other may but likely face defeat, and Boucher’s may well pass but ends up more trouble than it’s worth.

Nickelson got into hot water last month, along with this Democrat counterpart Jerry Bowman, for introducing pay raise ordinances that would kick in for the mayor and councilors taking office in 2023. For mayor, a full-time job, the nearly $30,000 boost would push that salary to $125,000 a year, while for councilors this pay for a part-time gig would rise over $10,000 to a base $25,000 annually.

10.5.21

LA medical ganja law change = legalization

What’s all the fuss about legalizing marijuana use in Louisiana? Intended changes to medical marijuana laws would get the state there anyway.

Since the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee last week sent to the floor HB 699 by Republican state Rep. Richard Nelson, which would make legal marijuana cultivation, sale, and purchase, as regulated by the state, public debate has focused on the wisdom of the drastic change. Some suspect this will become inevitable while others say to hold off because the regulatory regime will botch any salutary criminal justice and economic effects, and the most traditional point out the negative effects that will outweigh any positive ones.

But the fate of this bill doesn’t matter much given the impact another bill has on the question of legal availability of weed. HB 391 by GOP state Rep. Tanner Magee would complete a multi-year process that began with limited distribution of marijuana for medical purposes that largely provided for (defined a bit generously) genuine needs that was not easy to abuse to one where about anybody who wants it for any reason can find it, as long as they have the cash.

7.5.21

New woke LSU president may need restraining

So, the Louisiana State University System decided to take a chance on someone unproven and trendy as its next president. In light of this, if you care about quality higher education in the system, what is to be done?

With its announcement earlier this week of three finalists for the position, the LSU Board of Supervisors staked out significantly diverging approaches to the leadership question. University of Louisiana System Pres. Jim Henderson has extensive higher education management experience at all levels, including running a university system with more students and schools than the LSU system, plus knows well the environment in which he must operate.

More out of the box, former science and technology leader in the Republican Pres. Donald Trump Administration, Kelvin Droegemeier would provide an outsider perspective but with impressive academic credentials and long tenure at the highest levels of government.  He also served for nearly a decade at a senior level at my alma mater. In some sense this would have replicated LSU’s approach when it went with Sean O’Keefe in the first decade of the century.

6.5.21

Dodgy bill no substitute for closed primaries

When it comes to repairing Louisiana’s broken electoral system, ineffective half-measures won’t cut it.

That will come as bad news to Republican state Rep. Barry Ivey and his HB 557. The bill seeks to finesse its way around Foster v. Love, the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes the state hold its general election for federal offices on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years, which federal law establishes.

The congressmen the state sends to Washington complain that, particularly when an open seat gets filled, this causes a delay in the scramble for committee assignments and, for new members, playing catch-up and orientation and staff hiring. This situation occurs as the state’s majority election rule can force a runoff between the top two candidates in the general election that masquerades as the blanket primary, requiring an election five weeks later.

5.5.21

Citizens disserved by ignorant excuse-making

If accurate knowledge about the matters you legislate upon were a work requirement for Bossier City Council members, not just two but three of its councilors would be out of a job.

This week at the Council’s meeting, under criticism particularly from the incoming Republican Mayor Tommy Chandler administration for continuing a no-bid contract for three years without a convenience termination option with Manchac Consulting to operate the city’s water and sewerage operations, three councilors spent nearly 20 minutes defending the decision. The Council passed the measure to a final reading with only no party Councilor Jeff Darby in opposition, who argued that contract renewal should be for just a year and that open bidding for the business should occur after that ended.

The gist of their remarks spanning some 20 minutes were that a no-bid deal was pretty standard, a bargain in this instance, and demonstrated a “unique” response. Outgoing GOP Councilor Tim Larkin announced his summary of some “thoroughly” done research. He claimed these kinds of arrangements, where government contracts out functions, worked best with continuity of provider without “capitalistic” competition. “It doesn’t work that way,” he alleged, referring to having multiple entities in consideration to fulfill a government’s desires through contracting.

4.5.21

Feet of Clay Schexnayder must adapt or go

If Louisiana’s legislative Republicans want more than half a loaf, GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder either must change his tune in a hurry, or get shown the door.

Schexnayder famously scored the speakership with unanimous Democrat support and a minority of Republicans. It’s why he has lent no support, if not indirectly tried to discourage, his party from pursuing several bellwether GOP issue preferences that have generated next to no opposition in other states with similar-sized Republican legislative majorities.

States with concealed carry protections not needing permits have gone from a trickle to a flood. In Louisiana, the Senate already has put into the House SB 118 by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris to do the same. But the House only recently passed a slightly-different HB 596 by GOP state Rep. Bryan Fontenot out of committee, with every non-Republican on it voting against.