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Switch to help win top spot reignites parish GOP feud

While state Rep. Joel Robidueax surprised no one with his recent acquisition of the Republican Party label, some whining by members of the GOP from his area may have caught off guard those who don’t know the circumstances of Robideaux’s entry into the Legislature and his voting record.

Robideaux, whose switch from independence is considered related to his bid to become the next House speaker pending reelection, first got into the Legislature when winning a special election over the choice of many Lafayette area Republicans. This confirmed a growing gulf between two factions of the local GOP, between former state Rep. Ernie Alexander and outgoing state Sen. Mike Michot. Without going into the Byzantine details of the tiff, involving such issues as leadership of the state party, supporting GOP national candidates, and legislation and retaliation about it, the onetime allies increasingly became divided and Robideaux was backed by Michot against Alexander and others’ choice, where Robideaux ran as an independent to differentiate him.

While Robideaux throughout his political career to this point maintained a no-party identity, his voting behavior as a legislator clearly is conservative and reform, as his scores on the Louisiana Legislature Log voting index have demonstrated.


Empire strikes back to protect itself at children's expense

I don’t know what the record is for number of misdirected and ignorant assertions per word in a delivered statement, but jockeying for top position must be one issued by the Louisiana Coalition for Public Education, in reference to announced efforts by the Alliance for Better Classrooms to lobby for election of reform-minded members this fall for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

This group, backed by organizations of school boards, school administrators, and teachers unions, desperately opposes the ABC effort, organized by businessmen and political leaders unlike them with no financial ties to the existing educational system. The opposition has taken on such a desperate tone precisely because the reform group supports measures such as increased accountability in both spending money and delivering results and more parental choice to end the government monopoly on education, which, as ABC notes, is a direct threat to the education establishment’s long history in Louisiana of failing to “protect the rights of the students,” rather than those of “the adults who benefit from the payrolls of the school system.”

Understand that the LCPE represents the interests of those who failed Louisiana children and families by providing substandard education for decades, and fought tooth-and-nail reforms established beginning 15 years ago that have created steady improvement.


Democrat candidacies maybe more tease than strip

Sen. Pres. Joel Chaisson did not take it all off, but the striptease continues for Louisiana Democrats with failed lieutenant governor candidate Caroline Fayard and state Sen. Rob Marionneaux. In the end, they all may preserve their modesties.

Months ago, Chaisson had sniffed around for a statewide race to run, but those inside the incestuous world of St. Charles Parish politics saw Chaisson’s real objective as attaining the district attorney’s position. The final push to open the door wide came when the long-time 29th District Attorney Harry Morel, Jr. announced he would resign, at the end of a chain of events which will give Chaisson a luxury ride into the post next year.

(I’m not even going to begin to go into how all of got set up, but part of could involve state Attorney General opinions about nepotism rules regarding a father as DA and daughter as a judge, and a brother as DA whose brother would be a judge and other brothers who would work under him, as well as a father working in another government post.


Reports confirms desirability of pursuing privatization

The news about the possible privatization of Louisiana’s Office of Groups Benefits’ health care offerings to state employees and retirees, courtesy of a report issued by the Legislative Auditor is … there’s no news. But between the data it presented and other information omitted, continued pursuit of this option must proceed.

The report, requested by the Legislature, piggybacked on another study compiled months ago, which was supposed to have been kept confidential among state policy-makers until leaked by a state senator (Senate Insurance Committee chairman and past failed lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Butch Gautreaux has been raving against the idea from the start). Therefore, much of it contained nothing new.

Thus, it dutifully repeats that the business could yield the state up to $217 million as a one-time bonus, deriving from granting a non-government insurer the ability to earn money off the administration of the state’s Preferred Provider Organization – in other words, turning it into a similar arrangement as with the state’s Health Maintenance Organization where the vast majority of employees and retirees already have their insurance.


Real policy consequences to come from BESE races

Looks like most of the statewide offices will end up real yawners for fall elections, where there’s little chance that Republicans will lose any of these seats and policy change possibilities seem minimal. The Legislature will become a little more conservative, but, again, featuring only a minor policy shift in that direction therefore. So if you want to go where the real action is, where monumental if destructive policy change could happen as a result of white-hot elections, then you need to check out the contests for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

All eight of the elective positions are up for grabs this fall, and the dynamics of the contests could make matters dicey for supporters of reform that have brought clear improvement to Louisiana’s public schools over the past 15 years. While BESE has 11 members, the governor appoints three of them, and Gov. Bobby Jindal has shown every indication he will put reform supporters in these slots, two of which have signaled they wish to continue to serve.

This means reformers must win at least three of the eight elective positions in order to prevail on policy matters, which would maintain their current edge made up of members Jim Garvey, Glenny Lee Buquet, and Chas Roemer. Typically voting against reform have been Louella Givens, Walter Lee, Keith Guice, Dale Bayard, and Linda Johnson.


Speaker's job intrigue may portend switch to GOP

All the complex machinations going on for the Louisiana House of Representatives speaker’s position likely boil down to a simple case of maximizing Republican numbers by having a reliable conservative hold down the position.

In a contest, the dynamics of which obviously will remain somewhat unknown until elections have concluded this fall, where current Speaker Pro-Tem Joel Robideaux early seemed to have the clearest path to victory, that got shaken up with the proclamation by state Rep. Jim Fannin that he would throw his hat into the rotunda. Fannin, slightly senior to Robideaux, held down for the last term the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, the most powerful panel in the House, and thus was a substantially more important policy-maker than Robideaux was in his largely-symbolic office.

At the very least, Fannin cuts out state Rep. Jeff Arnold as the preferred Democrat candidate as he can draw more crossover support from north Louisiana members than can Arnold from the New Orleans area.