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Runoff results end politician's, party's hopes for power

With the couple of Louisiana regional elections turning out as anticipated, presumed political consequences are confirmed.

For the Third District of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Charles Boustany won not uncomfortably over Rep. Jeff Landry in a contest pitting Republican incumbents because of redistricting. Boustany, given the new district contained more of his old one than it did of Landry’s old one, his several more years in office than the rookie Landry, and, related to that, larger war chest made him the favorite and he parlayed that to a win.

With records that made Landry only marginally more conservative than Boustany, Landry was in the position of trying to accentuate the differences between the two and to paint Boustany as more beholden to Washington special interests. If he could make it to the runoff against him, given the different dynamics in the runoff that would put disproportionately more ideological voters into the electorate that would turn out, if he could keep it close in the general election, Landry would have had a good chance to win. But when Boustany put up nearly 50 percent more votes than Landry in the general election, that sealed Landry’s fate absent a Boustany blunder.


Budget reformers need to stop posturing, start working

Despite the trappings attempting to make the act seem one about constitutionality, the complaint forwarded by some Louisiana House of Representatives members about the current state budget was and always will be political. Therein lies the dénouement to the issue if any satisfactory end will come of it.

As noted previously, of the three different queries brought before Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell by state Rep. Kirk Talbot – that money predicted to be used as a revenue source from outside of the Revenue Estimating Conference procedure that they term as a “contingency,” cannot be used; that some of these funds are “fictional” because they won’t come about that money placed into a fund any that was initially determined by the REC as nonrecurring stays nonrecurring and cannot be removed from that fund for nonrecurring reasons – only the last may be questionable constitutionally because while to act otherwise does not violate the law, it denies its spirit. On strictly constitutional grounds, Talbot and his colleagues’ challenge had real little merit.

Thus, the real impetus behind it comes as political, confirmed by Talbot’s remarks that the group does not at present seek litigation to press their point, but that this does not preclude them from doing so in the future, as Caldwell said he would not rule on the constitutionality questions given the presumption that legislative acts are constitutional and that he would have to defend any challenges to them. While precedent heavily is on his side – almost never does an AG make such a ruling, restricting their pronouncements to questions of interpretation – it too serves a political motive: Caldwell would prefer not to touch off a crisis and thereby be considered, more than Talbot and his gang, the Grinch that stole the state’s budget at Christmastime.


Single-issue emphasis distracts from obvious vote choice

When was the last time Louisiana’s state party endorsed and Koch Industries donated the maximum to the same Democrat candidate for office? Probably never, and it illustrates the unusual cleavage cutting across and confusing the District 5 Supreme Court contest to be settled this weekend.

Current 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Democrat John Michael Guidry and Republican Jeff Hughes will meet in the general election runoff Saturday. While the district has nearly half Democrat registration, the majority of those whites under normal circumstances would join the vast majority of Republicans in voting for Hughes, while the remaining Democrats, most of whom are black with blacks comprising about a third of the district, would vote for Guidry. This means Hughes wins.

But circumstances may not be normal. Hughes is rated as generous to trial lawyers in liability cases, despite comments to the contrary to the very organization that publicized this, and received major backing in the general election and has continued to through the runoff. This has caused several interest groups who normally back candidates who speak as Hughes does on most issues to either issue no endorsement in the contest, or to back Guidry. It also has spurred a donation by Koch to Guidry, of whom the brothers who run it routinely are made villains of by the conspiratorial-minded hard left in Louisiana and beyond, which typically gives only to the most conservative candidates in any kind of contest.


Special interests lament hospital deal that wins for all

The agreement among Louisiana, St. Tammany Parish, and a private Florida-based firm to run some of the space (not already operated by another entity since 2010) at Southeast Louisiana Hospital wins for all – unless you are a true believer in the faith that government must run health care facilities and lots of other things, as are some stick-in-the-muds who complain about the deal.

Under extraordinary budget pressures stemming from a sudden federal government decision to reduce Medicaid payments significantly to the state, the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration decided to close abruptly the psychiatric facility. As both the region and state are well above average in beds available, no real crisis existed, but if the market would bear more, an operator would come in.

And one did, at least for a smaller number of beds, enabling the state to save about $200 per patient, reducing the economic effects of the retrenchment, and providing more care options. Better taxpayer value, gainful employment, services rendered – one would think this would make everybody happy.


Hainkel home tussle illustrates populism staying power

Like metastasized cancer, the legacy of populism infects the Louisiana body politic in so many ways, making it difficult for the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration and reformers to eradicate the disease so interwoven into not just the state’s political culture, but culture in general, as the struggle for the state to exit substantially the nursing home business demonstrates.

Only a few years ago, for the developmentally disabled the state ran several large residential facilities located in various part of the state to warehouse these citizens, paying much more per client than comparable nongovernment providers. Since then, during Jindal’s terms most of these places have been turned into non-residential resources centers, with just one continuing to operate on behalf of clients with the direst of situations of developmental disability. The remainder of former residents either has been placed with nongovernment providers or made the transition to home- and community-based settings.

Yet another outlier exists, because of the political history of the John J. Hainkel, Jr., Home and Rehabilitation Center, or the “Hainkel home.” In 2009, the state wanted to privatize or sell the state-owned facility, as by regulation state operation inflated costs that made the partially-full facility a risky proposition for taxpayers going forward. But the state representative in whose district the place sits, Neil Abramson, successfully sabotaged those efforts.