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17.6.24

Graves political exit not likely to last long

The announcement by Republican Rep. Garret Graves that he will not seek reelection might constitute a short-term setback for him, but leaves him other valuable opportunities in the future.

Graves faced an uphill battle to preserve the seat he has in the Sixth District. It was redrawn dramatically earlier this year to create two majority-minority districts in response to a Middle District federal court decision that declared the 2022 map that had kept the Sixth little changed as one of five out of six non-M/M districts likely violated the Voting Rights Act – into a form that a Western District special court panel recently declared was unconstitutional.

But that district and map on which it is part will stand for fall elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court enjoined throwing it out for now on the basis that the impending election created too little time to administer voting properly if suddenly changing the map. That transformed Graves’ district into a majority-minority district almost all of which he never has represented and which would favor a black Democrat, one of the prominent of which, state Sen. Cleo Fields, already has started campaigning to represent it.

13.6.24

BC term limits edging closer to reality

The high-stakes game of poker goes on between citizens rebellious to the Bossier City political establishment and those insiders who will fight by any means necessary to suppress any threat to their power, which may include a tactical retreat on term limits that, once again, is consumed by lawfare?

That may be at issue after the latest meeting of the city’s Charter Review Commission, which over the past four months has plowed through proposed charter changes. Upon releasing a final product, the charter dictates that the City Council must accept it and schedule for an election. The earliest possible date for citizen approval would be for the Dec. 7 general election runoff, which means if approved changes would go into effect prior to 2025 city elections.

The whole rationale for commission formation came as a result of a near-miss for the establishment on the issue of term limits. A petition amending the charter to include a three-term retroactive limit for all elected officials gained enough signatures to land it on the ballot last year, but a City Council majority – comprised of Republicans David Montgomery and Jeff Free, Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby, all of whom would have become ineligible to run, plus GOP rookie Vince Maggio – a few times voted to violate the Charter by not scheduling the vote of a certified petition, and then went to court to knock out the petition through a legal technicality about its format.

12.6.24

New standards boost LA education accountability

After years of tolerating a somewhat misleading evaluation system of individual schools and their districts, starting in academic year 2025 Louisiana will enjoy an improved version that provides better information for families and policy-makers.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today promulgated new rules to determine accountability, which didn’t happen overnight. An attempt failed two years ago, made from a growing recognition that the scoring system under use aligned poorly with actual student proficiency, as measured by testing, as they progressed and received diplomas which had the effect of making some schools and districts appear to be doing a better job than they actually were.

This attempt replaces a more complicated computational exercise, and reverses emphasis on proficiency, or knowledge and skill gained, and growth, or how much students improve in achievement. Through the eighth grade, the growth factor is increased at the expense of proficiency.

11.6.24

LA should junk 2024 map, party like it's 2022

A recent Supreme Court ruling clarified why the Court allowed Louisiana fall congressional elections to continue under a map declared unconstitutional, and increased the chances this will be the only such election this decade that will have a two majority-minority district map.

In Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference, the Court ruled that a congressional map that otherwise didn’t violate traditional principles of reapportionment, such as compactness and contiguity of districts, did not have to have the proportion of M/M districts somewhat equivalent to the proportion of minority race (almost always black, but sometimes others) residents in the state if the legislature wished to draw districts to maximize partisan advantage even if incidentally related to racial division in voting. This launched panic among leftist and far left commentators because it signaled that in reapportionment disputes the Court no longer would permit the left’s and Democrats’ shadow agenda to remain in the shadows.

That is, those forces try to gain partisan advantage in reapportionment by equating maps that give them that as necessary to prevent racial discrimination, made possible because for the past half-century blacks typically have voted overwhelmingly for candidate of the left, almost always black candidates. This has been tolerated because courts for decades had made the presumption that racial prejudice against a minority group had to lay behind any reapportionment decision that did not draw district majorities roughly proportional to that group’s proportion in the population, and so to do this required satisfying certain criteria that didn’t include partisan advantage as a mitigating factor.

10.6.24

Spiked column exemplifies newspaper meltdown

If you had any questions about why the mainstream media is dying and it steadily is losing influence politically in Louisiana and elsewhere, look no further than the rumpus over a column by Republican Sen. John Kennedy the largest newspaper chain in the state recently accepted and then rejected.

Last month, Kennedy, whose opinion pieces the media frequently have published spanning more than a decade, initially had one published in the Shreveport Times and farmed out to the several other Gannett newspapers in the state. The piece exhorted Congress to prohibit natal males from competing as and against natal females in female-only competitions, citing sustained evidence about the physiological advantages those born male would have regardless of attempts, if any, to change physical sex.

After a few days, without making any announcement or informing Kennedy, the piece was removed from the sites that had published it. Later still, an explanation to the broken web link was infused, saying the content had been removed because it didn’t “meet our editorial standards.”

6.6.24

Veto bill weakening education accountability

A last-minute end-around sabotaging Louisiana’s school accountability measures that prominently featured two Bossier Parish Republican legislators with extensive connections to local schools now may be stopped only by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry.

HB 762 by Republican state Rep. Dennis Bamburg originally would have repealed the state’s requirement that students take the ACT, one of the two standardized tests offered for college admission nationally and the one designated by Louisiana public universities to gain admittance. For several years Louisiana statutorily has required this of all students seeking a diploma, one of eight states that does so. Even the career diploma graduates must, although they also can take the WorkKeys test designed for more vocational-oriented learning. The rationale for this has been not only to allow students to have this in place should they wish to enroll in higher education but also as a means of measuring performance of high schools and school districts.

This has chafed among legislators generally Democrats and some Republicans like Bamburg, a former Bossier Parish School Board member, with ties to the educational establishment, and has aggravated many local school board members and their district superintendents. This is because the nationally-normed ACT continues to show generally low performance, along with end-of-course tests, among Louisiana students (although ranked in the middle of the eight) that meshes poorly with performance scores given out to high schools that feeds into district scores. Currently, for accountability determinations all ACT scores count unless a WorkKey score equivalent is higher.

5.6.24

Law may force sunshine onto Bossier Jury actions

Many local governments across Louisiana, and inside Bossier Parish especially the parish’s Police Jury, will have to increase substantially transparency as the result of a bill poised to become law.

HB 103 by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson headed to GOP Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk just before the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended this week. The bill, which Landry is expected to sign into law, expands real-time broadcast of governing authority meetings, in whole or part, for a number of jurisdictions across the state.

At present, any multimember taxing authority in the state must record, by audio or video, meetings of the entire body, but it doesn’t have to broadcast these live. The bill changes that to require live broadcast of parish governing authorities and school boards in jurisdictions of greater than 24,999 residents and for municipalities with populations greater than 9,999. All in all, that means 36 parishes, 58 cities, and 41 school districts, if they already aren’t, by the effective date of Aug. 1 must broadcast (presumably through video and audio) their parish commission or police jury, city council, and school board meetings live and advertise how to view that for each meeting.

3.6.24

Appointments provide fading embers to session

Away from typical flashpoints over the budget and policy, the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended with some controversy over gubernatorial appointments, or lack thereof.

The Senate traditionally vets these on the last day of a regular session, given that any appointments made after the end of the previous regular session remain in effect without confirmation until the end of the next regular session. With Republican Gov. Jeff Landry onboard after last fall’s elections, essentially he cleaned the closet of the roughly 80 executive branch line agency appointees by naming his own appointees.

With one exception. Landry didn’t name a new Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary to replace Jimmy LeBlanc, but expects him to stay on the job referring to statute that says public officers are to hold office until a successor is inducted. However, the Constitution states that the governor “shall” appoint the head of each department in the executive branch whose election or appointment is not provided for in the Constitution, leaving the question whether the “governor” is a previous one.

2.6.24

Amend LA civil service to improve performance

As in the case of other bills that would expand the governor’s appointive powers, reform opponents produce stale if not gamey arguments in the case of stalled SB 181.

The bill by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris would amend the Constitution to give the governor more discretion in appointments to the State Civil Service Commission and the Legislature the option to include more appointments to executive branch line departments. At present, although the bill drew a solid majority in a House of Representatives vote last week, it fell eight votes short of the two-thirds requirement to pass along an amendment to voters.

Currently, the seven-person Commission has six gubernatorial appointees, in the form of the governor picking from nominations made by six private university presidents, three each, serving staggered fixed six-year terms. The only stipulation is that a president’s nominees all must come from different congressional districts. The final member is elected by members of the state’s classified civil service, who in fiscal year 2023 numbered around 34,500.

30.5.24

LA left throws fit over lost education agenda

Controversy over an endorsement of elementary and secondary education options stoked by Louisiana’s political left and its fellow travelers serves as a reminder that they cannot tolerate invitations to open, comprehensive, and fact-based inquiry in the education process, a state of affairs only now being corrected.

Earlier this week, Superintendent of State Education Cade Brumley announced a partnership with the web content producer PragerU. Founded by opinion columnist Dennis Prager, its materials provide primers on issues of the day, and has resources dedicated to educational dissemination from kindergarten to 12th grade. PragerU holds itself out as presenting information as an alternative to leftist paradigms that frequently plague education that completely ignore contrary information questioning their validity, giving students an incomplete picture that serves more to indoctrinate than to educate that PragerU materials seek to overcome.

Mirroring arrangements in several others states, PragerU will make easily accessible to Louisiana educators material congruent with meeting state standards adopted at the beginning of this now-concluding academic year. PragerU was chosen because it has such material. Note that its content doesn’t replace core instructional material, which is determined by local education agencies and not the state, nor is it required for use in state classrooms.