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Good, bad, and ugly of NW LA legislators, 2009

Previously, this space featured commentary about the this regular session’s most valuable northwest Louisiana legislator, state Sen. Buddy Shaw, as well as its biggest clown, state Sen. Robert Adley. But there are still some awards to give for the recently-completed session for the other good, bad, and ugly from the area’s delegation.

Best Legislation to Become Law: Unlike last year when Shaw had perhaps the best piece of legislation in the state when it cut taxes for the vast majority of taxpayers, little stood out from the northwest Louisiana delegation. Of it all, the best was state Rep. Jane Smith’s HB 559 with gives special breaks for veterans, particularly those disabled in their service, in operating businesses.

Worst Legislation Introduced: HB 705; see discussion below.

Most Disingenuous Legislator: In a competitive field where some feel you have to really make an effort to lie often and grandiosely just to be typical, one particular state senator’s level of brazenness put those accomplished legislators even statewide to shame. Lydia Jackson, not only in discussing her SB 335 but in the sheer gall it took to introduce it, made lying look as easy as breathing air. The bill reversed a tax deduction that began on Jan. 1, 2009, on which some people had already made financial decisions such as charitable donations based upon the break by the time the session started, and on which others already had paid estimated taxes based on it during the session.

Yet Jackson kept dissembling that it was not a tax increase at all when all she had to do was look at a calendar to see that wasn’t true. It also took a lot of nerve for her to introduce such a measure when ran counter to two sections of the Constitution that disallowed the Senate from introducing tax increases and in implementing retroactive laws. Such behavior on her part should serve as a warning that nobody, especially voters, can trust anything she says and that she is willing to subvert the truth for political purposes beyond what even some of the most shameless politicians are willing to do. That she refuses to be contrite or apologize for all of this speaks volumes about her character.

Most Ignorant Legislator: State Rep. Barbara Norton became more famous than just for her propensity to have subject-verb disagreements in her speech. Her HB 705 would have forced all but the smallest employers to pay women the same wages as men for jobs that required the same “skill, effort, education, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions,” regardless of many other mitigating factors where large differences often are reported between the sexes (such as women’s propensity to take more time off, work less, and change jobs more frequently). The basis of this, she claimed, was that women made only 65 cents to the dollar compared to men; therefore, the difference had to be attributed solely to discrimination and hence need for the law.

But that figure was discredited long ago as it looks at all people in all jobs. When looking at men and women in the same jobs factoring in all the variables, the gap disappears (98 cents on the dollar). This has been known for decades, yet in her testimony about the bill Norton seemed blissfully unaware of this and of the mountain of research showing the “comparable worth” concept on which her bill was based not only addressed an imaginary problem whose only impact would be to drive business costs and create litigation, but in the process would reduce men’s and even women’s salary levels and employment chances. She needs a serious education in matters about which she clearly knows little.

And if this weren’t bad enough, for lagniappe at the session’s end she introduced a resolution to commend her godson one Chris Dooley AKA “Hurricane Chris” for a song of his that had charted – one whose lyrics were laced with profanity and demeaning to women, leading one to wonder if she even has any common sense (At least the cacophony that comprises the piece that actually got played for the entire House had its lyrics sanitized.) Mercifully, the House let the resolution die.

Most Disappointing Legislator: Elected from one of the most conservative/reformist districts in the House, state Rep. Thomas Carmody’s voting record has not reflected those sentiments. On the voting record scale at my Louisiana Legislature Log where 100 is a perfect conservative/reformist score, last year he scored a 45 and this year a 55. That 50 average is well below his Republican Party’s average over the two years of just over 70, a record in contrast to his years on Shreveport’s City Council and to his campaign rhetoric. Former candidate Barrow Peacock may be calling supporters even as you read this for a 2011 run as Carmody is starting to leave himself very vulnerable with a record like this.

If these things weren’t enough to bring cheer or amusement to you, or turn your stomach, fear not, it’ll start all over again in about nine months.


Anonymous said...

No matter what one's opinion of Rep. Norton is, the higher figure of 98 cents on the dollar does not make the gap "disappear." 98 cents on the dollar is not equal pay no matter how one spins it.

If every working woman in fact made 2% less than her male equivalent, Louisiana women would be furious. Instead, most women make equal pay and the 2% figure is likely attributable to infrequent, but more extreme, pay discrimination that goes unnoticed, which is every bit as evil a harm as an across-the-board disparity, if not worse.

These women deserve equal pay and require protection under the law. That only one out of, say, 100 women is subject to discrimination is no reason to ignore the issue. An "imaginary" problem? Really? Why are so many in our area willing to accept discrimination against women?

I find the business "tax" argument unpersuasive and disingenuous. You say the proposed law's ONLY impact would be to drive up the costs of business? I'm sick of hearing people use this argument as a pretense for allowing discrimination to continue.

State legislatures have nearly plenary power and can easily pass
a law that stops discriminatory employers and protects compliant businesses. Whether it be through shifting a burden of proof, establishing a high bar for making a prima facie case, or creating a low-cost administrative procedure, compliant businesses can be protected. Leaders' and pundits' arguments to the contrary do nothing more than show a disturbing lack of legislative creativity and overall sensitivity for the unconscionable hardships suffered by those victims, however infrequent, who lack the bargaining power and information to help themselves.

James S said...

If anonymous would read some of the statutes on the books he/she would find a plethora of laws that prohibit discrimination in any fashion. What we don't need is more duplicates. Norton uses discredited figures and arguments.

Her godson can't sing, either...