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Split decision on contested law strongly favors reformers

The politics behind the decision made by state District Judge Tim Kelley are murky to discern, but, despite an adverse ruling in part, the decision actually favors reformers, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, supporting the scholarship voucher program.

Essentially, Kelley faced two tasks, a procedural and a constitutional ruling. The procedural concerns were about whether everything was followed correctly according to the Constitution, statute, and chambers’ rules when the Legislature passed the law that created this program to allow students at lower-achieving schools to use state money through the Minimum Foundation Program potentially to attend private schools. The constitutional concern was about whether the funding could come from the MFP.

While the Constitution, statute, and rules in question were not crystal clear in application, more connecting of the dots had to occur on the procedural end of things, with more inferring necessary to sort out those questions, meaning the greater ambiguity increased the chances of an judge choosing to find violation. The constitutional question of the use of MFP money seemed much simpler, given the wording of the Constitution that indicated it was permissible, hence more creative judicial reasoning would have to be employed to counter that.


Populist echoes put LA in tough property, budget spots

The reason why Louisiana finds itself caught short on a real estate deal with larger budget implications is the populist obsessive-compulsive disorder too many politicians have with state ownership and provision of things.

When after 2011 the state contractually was free to do what it willed with the 17.22 acres comprising what it had run until 2009 as the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, the plan that evolved during this past legislative session, as constituted in Act 867, was to lease it to the neighboring Children’s Hospital in an arrangement that hoped to bring the state $35 million, or the value at which the state had insured it. In turn, that money, presumed realized by no later than Aug. 1, 2013 (as the last bills of state government for the prior fiscal year came due), was to be treated as “one-time” funds eligible for use.

But now it turns out that the property’s appraisal is just $20.9 million. There’s some room for debate there when accounting for a different use – for example, put down some streets and drainage, sell 50 lots of a third of an acre in size with houses to match, and being prime Uptown property in the shadow of Audubon Park you might get a million bucks a house and a developer might be willing to fork over $35 million for it as is – but it’s all hypothetical because the law doesn’t permit that. It only allows for negotiations exclusively with Children’s until Feb. 1, 2013, and then adds for the next six months anybody else willing to conduct health care operations to bid, which if not executed then the property reverts back to the Louisiana State University System. The one thing it doesn’t allow is sale of the property, even if it were for health care purposes.


Don't tinker with, but repeal, fuel price ticking time bomb

Unintended consequences earlier this year in Louisiana caused a needless government flap over something that could have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for a purpose never imagined. A related time bomb remains that could hit the pocketbooks of the citizenry that not only does the state continue to seem unconcerned about, but also willing to extend.

Poor drafting of a law allowing huge tax credits on vehicles that could run on fuel that was a fraction non-petroleum-based, never intended by the Legislature, had the state on the hook for a potential large sum, until rescinded by Gov. Bobby Jindal on a technicality. But in the same past legislative session that did not, through (depending upon your view of certain legislators’ motives) lack of information or dalliance, address that issue, part of a bill made technical changes to an alternative fuels law that could hit the public harder.

In 2006, the Legislature unwisely passed Act 313, creating R.S. 3:4674 that mandates production of alternative fuels comprising at least two percent of fuel sales in the state if a substantial minimum (with the lowest trigger being 10 million for diesel fuel) got produced annually. That target never has come close to being reached; in fact, of the 28 states that produce any, Louisiana most recently ranked dead last in both capacity for and production of all alternative fuels at 1.5 million gallons.


Ruling promotes spendthrift govt, race-based attitudes

Local government arrogance and perverted judicial overreach have combined to create a court decision that will be stayed faster than Democrats can jump in to blame Gov. Bobby Jindal every time a sparrow falls to the ground, with its overruling to follow.

Yesterday, Federal District Judge Ivan Lemelle ordered a halt to implementation of the state’s new voucher and teacher hiring laws in Tangipahoa Parish, saying those laws conflict with court orders in the parish’s decades-old desegregation case. Lemelle oversees the consent decree over that case, and declared that, under one law, students using the program to move out of public schools, in one of the worst performing districts in the state, to private schools threatened funding the previous court orders requiring the district to build new schools, to improve existing facilities and to maintain magnet programs. He also said in regards to the other that it interfered with court-ordered procedures for the recruitment and retention of black teachers and administrators.
Yet any rationale behind such reasoning borders on condoning policy-maker irresponsibility, if not signaling racist assumptions. Concerning the funding issue, it assumes that immediate harm has come from 50 students taking advantage of the program, which, according to the plaintiff’s rendering, comes to a cost of the $69,393 local contribution to the Minimum Foundation Program. This is despite the fact that overall savings to state taxpayers is $124,368.


Jindal no hypocrite, but must move on from 2012 diagnosis

Let’s assume the gossiping and connect-the-dots reveals this: Gov. Bobby Jindal latched onto the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign and when it started to go well started stumping for a high appointive post had it succeeded, but when it failed soon thereafter launched a couple of criticisms of the candidacy, leading some former campaign insiders to accuse Jindal of hypocrisy. Then, in fact does this make Jindal a hypocrite and what does it mean for him politically?

That’s a big negative on the first question. No surrogate, whether volunteering for campaign assistance or employed as a policy-making extension of a chief executive, is going always to agree with the boss on every issue or action. But that doesn’t matter so long as he loyally supports without public dissension of whatever the candidate/executive does; that’s all you can ask. And if that support cannot be forthcoming, then the subordinate resigns to avoid disunity.

However, the campaign is over and it’s Ann, not Jindal, who married Mitt. So if Jindal wants to point out flaws that he saw in it, he’s right to do so, regardless of whether it’s from the goodness of his heart to improve his party’s chances of winning elections and/or because identifying himself with that criticism improves the prospects of his political career. It doesn’t make him a hypocrite to have kept his mouth shut during the campaign about, then after it criticize, the remark that Romney made that said he had an uphill climb when 47 percent of the population was in families receiving some kind of benefit from the federal government, followed up by Romney calling many of these transfer payments “gifts.” It makes him loyal as long as there was something to which to be loyal.


LA REAL Act law exposes change, hypocrisy choice

If you say you’re going to do something, then do it; don’t start doing the opposite and claim you aren’t really acting that way. In essence, that’s the dilemma Louisiana finds itself in over the REAL ID Act as it is complying substantially with it even as state law prohibits that.

Passed in 2005 to override a less-structured version, the Act’s purpose is to have states produce identification such as drivers’ licenses securely in a very tamper-resistant way. Some funds, not enough to cover the anticipated costs, have been provided for the purpose, and its deadline has been extended on a few occasions to Jan. 15, 2013, with rules issued in the interim to guide implementation. The penalty for noncompliance is refusal of federal agencies to accept state identification for things such as air transport.

A number of states, Louisiana included, did not act enthusiastically to the law’s presence. In fact, in 2008, state Rep. Brett Geymann authored what would become Act 807, passing handily with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature, joining laws from other states prohibiting the state from implementing its provisions, citing several reasons among which was it made it more likely that the state Constitution’s right to privacy could be violated.