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More Blanco partisanship present in HB 415 veto

While several of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s line-item vetoes smack of partisan politics, it seems one of her regular vetoes does as well. That explanation aside, state Rep. Mike Powell’s HB 415 should not have drawn her ire.

This bill would have removed the January option for local (bond and tax) and state (to fill legislative vacancies) elections, leaving now only March/April, July, October, and November (and February if you live in Orleans Parish) to get a vote in. It would have saved the state at least $500,000 a year (and millions across local governments in the aggregate) and eliminated a low-turnout election whose figures double, triple, and multiply even higher when in conjunction with regular elections with candidates on the ballot.

Three reasons may explain her actions here. First was pure pandering to the courthouse crowds of local governments. The January date often is chosen by these governments because they are low-turnout elections where taxes may be raised. In this environment, whichever constituency gets favored by the raised taxes (usually government workers of some stripe such as teachers, public safety personnel, etc.) can turn out disproportionately highly its members to pass the proposition. Of the candidates on the last governor’s election, Blanco was most favored by local officeholders and this veto will help these allies and perhaps attract new ones as she tries to build a political machine through the state Democrats. (Their allies in the state Senate almost derailed this bill before it got to Blanco. First it was defeated then resurrected two days later, with many senators switching sides both ways in between.)

Second, particularly among Democrat local officials, it is, as it is with Blanco, their nature to want to transfer more resources from the people to government. Again, this January election takes advantage of human psychology to increase the chances of this happening, so it’s no accident that she would want to keep this date.

Third, the bill’s lead author Powell has been a persistent critic of big government and its spendthrift ways, counter to Blanco’s philosophy. Perhaps his most outspoken episodes this past legislative session involved questioning on the House floor whether it really made sense to build lakes in the name of economic development. Powell also is the favorite, should he choose to run, for Senate District 37 being vacated after this term by the most conservative member of the Senate and another critic of Blanco’s philosophy, Max Malone. One of Blanco’s allies, Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower, like Malone term-limited, is chomping at the bit to take this seat and at this time Powell is the only person who clearly could beat him. Defeating one of his bills would be a way for Blanco to deny Powell a legislative accomplishment on which he could campaign.

In her veto letter, Blanco states there’s not much of a case to do away with an election day, writing that people need maximal opportunities to express themselves electorally. If so, then why did she not veto SB 53, which gets rid of a special December election date for congressional elections? Further, the election code already provides for additional election dates in RS 18:402(F)(7), so if the citizenry really wants it and/or the local government really needs it, they can have as many elections as they want (with two-thirds concurrence of the State Bond Commission.

If not hypocritical, this veto of Blanco’s certainly seems partisan, if not directed against Powell, then against Republicans and their philosophy favoring smaller government that does less in the way of absconding with the people’s resources, both in terms of raising taxes and extra money spent on elections.

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