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Devil will be in details of Blanco's next special session call

The “unofficial” Legislative special session call has come from Gov. Kathleen Blanco, consisting of a mixture of opportunity and danger.

Blanco aims true when she says she will ask the Legislature to take up levee governance reform, as well as housing issues (perhaps dealing with the uncoordinated response to trailers where she did throw some weight around to get New Orleans to locate more there and more quickly – levee governance could be in place already had she chosen to do the same last year), and consolidation of Orleans Parish government (again, success here will depend upon her willingness to commit political resources). Her other two proposed items can be much dicer, depending upon the specifics of her call.

Concerning insurance, it’s not so important how Blanco would like the Legislature to deal with the many uninsured affected by the hurricane disasters (which will depend upon the fate and final form of Rep. Richard Baker’s current legislation in front of Congress), but in how to prevent the same problem in the future. The state needs either to mandate that all people who live below sea level have flood insurance or, even better, leave it optional but pass laws preventing those caught short from suing insurance companies or the state after the fact, and prohibiting the state from reimbursing these irresponsible owners.

The most potential mischief rests with election issues. Blanco will act responsibly if she limits the agenda to operational concerns such as precinct lines, polling places, elections commissioners’ residences and ratios per precinct, etc. But she will allow subversion of democracy if she includes plans promoted by Secretary of State Al Ater to allow persons who never have appeared in front of an election official for registration verification to vote by mail.

To do so would facilitate election fraud. Who knows how many people currently on registration lists really exist or are still alive, with names usable by unscrupulous political operatives? Or how many fictitious “people” would get created between the time this one-time exemption goes into affect and the close of rolls for participation in delayed New Orleans elections?

While Ater claims the federal government or U.S. District judge Ivan Lemelle might look askance at any plan that does not allow for displaced voters who did not register in person, bad policy should not be made as a result of bad jurisprudence, and the swift and compliant response of the U.S. Department of Justice to the state’s previous requested modifications of voting standards (mandated under the Voting Rights Act) shows that it is a controversy only in Ater’s mind.

Blanco needs to keep these issues at the forefront when she does formulate and issue the formal call around Jan. 31.

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