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Sleepy elections bill to gin up big newspaper opposition

Every once-in-awhile what is considered the omnibus elections bill presented each regular session to the Louisiana Legislature contains something significant to the way in which elections are conducted in the state. Most years it only makes technical and procedural changes that significantly alters things little. But this time out, one of these minor changes may have big ramifications to an important special interest that has nothing to do with elections.

Tucked away in this year’s version, which comes as a product of the State Board of Election Supervisors, among the roughly three dozen measures expected to be written into bill form and introduced is one that would drop the requirement that the names of inactive voters – those who have registration addresses not able to be verified by registrars of voters during the annual canvass or whose correspondence sent to the address on file was returned undeliverable – be published 90 days prior to federal primary elections. The purpose of this is every two years for the state to alert these voters that they would have to go through additional hurdles in order to vote unless they provide address verification.

Instead, the state argues that the online listing, where a voter may enter their names to see whether they have been put on inactive status which is never more than a day old, should suffice. It also would save, according to the last available statistics, for all parishes $200,000 in off-election years and $375,000 in presidential election years.


Dentistry argument misses point about personal responsibility

An intramural argument has broken out between the dentistry profession and those seeking expanded dental preventive care for children of poorer families. But unless a larger question is resolved first, regardless of which side gains the upper policy hand taxpayers will be the loser.

In the wild, wide world of Medicaid coverage, dentistry is an outlier with federal law and regulation essentially making its provision optional. Louisiana provides some emergency care, although it recently had to drop regular care for expectant mothers due to budget concerns. But what many don’t realize is dental care is available to these children in one area, right at their schools, where some perform sealant procedures on teeth, designed to reduce the incidence of cavities that may prevent future access of Medicaid emergency-based services.

In fact, as of the latest statistics available, Louisiana is rife with such clinics, which were encouraged to be established by the state by legislation in 1991 and now have 64, which ranks ninth highest in number but sixth-most per capita. Should a school establish one, they are not cheap; the state Department of Health and Hospitals requires a minimum of six different kinds of professionals mandating six broad areas of performance.


Cassidy, Fleming look best options ready to beat Landrieu

While Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu already has challenged Republican opponents to “bring it on” and made moves to bolster her 2014 reelection campaign, those in the GOP have started the process of differentiating and sorting themselves out to determine who best may bring it on to her ultimate displeasure.

As recently noted, recently involuntarily retired after a single term former Rep. Jeff Landry might want to make his absence in Washington, DC a short hiatus by taking Landrieu’s spot, but that he faces a number of headwinds, chiefly an excitable recently-concluded campaign against Rep. Charles Boustany that may have alienated part of the party and particularly influential members, and depleted many of his available resources. The two were thrown together in the same district as a result of decennial reapportionment that cost Louisiana a seat in the House of Representatives.

Part of Landry’s appeal has been his consistently conservative record, particularly on fiscal matters, but another member of the state’s delegation who could match him call for call on no tax hikes and restrained spending is Rep. John Fleming. Their lifetime American Conservative Union voting records (Landry’s as of this writing just a year as they have been compiled only through 2011) are almost identically perfectly conservative. And Fleming probably could bring more resources to bear for such an expensive campaign (Landrieu spent over $10 million in the 2007-08 period to win reelection) having himself accumulated a half million to start and, like Landry, a successful businessman who can self-finance to some degree a campaign of this magnitude.


Legislature must tweak, fund more ethics enforcement

Loathe as the Louisiana Legislature might be to get into the nuts and bolts of adjudicating ethics matters of elected and appointed officials, it looks as if it will need to do so again as kinks continue to crop up from the massive reform of ethics laws and in their adjudication from the 2008-09 period.

Back then, after incoming Gov. Bobby Jindal made it one of the centerpieces of his successful campaign, in a special session he called this finally got the Legislature to pass much more stringent standards in acceptable practices and disclosure. Subsequently, other changes got made to make more professional the adjudicatory aspect, depoliticizing it and focusing the Louisiana Board of Ethics on the prosecutorial aspect. Previously, the Board had been all of judge, jury, and executioner, which gave inordinate power the small coterie of staff members and allowed politics to creep into judgments with the political appointees of the Board determining whether to follow staff recommendations on prosecution, guilt or innocence, and in punishment.

In fact, the majority of power was concentrated in the hands of the ethics administrator, then long-time employee Gray Sexton. However, the year before the sweeping changes occurred, a law was enacted that prohibited the administrator from essentially operating his own private practice on the side and mandating financial disclosure of the administrator. Rather than follow these guidelines, he quit, saying this change constituted some kind of vendetta against him by disgruntled politicians whom had faced the Board, and then gathered further negative publicity when he and the Board tried to get around the new law with a contractual arrangement for his services that got scuttled.


Concept vehicle's benefits to LA more wishful than likely

The good news is, state taxpayers won’t be on the hook for much on this one. The bad news is, whether it will come to anything is very much an open question and if it doesn’t Caddo Parish taxpayers may be out a sizable chunk of change.

The Elio Motors hybrid car/motorcycle is coming to the shuttered former General Motors plant in southwest Shreveport. The three-wheeled vehicle is like an enclosed motorcycle, two seats one right behind the other with basic operating conveniences. It looks odd, but its founder and its private sector venture capitalist, the latter actually providing the majority of resources to purchase the old facility and also opening up the building to other tenants, hope it will succeed on gas mileage figures at least a third higher than any other current automobile and a price half of any of them.

The state’s contribution comes from incentive and tax abatement programs that may or may not actually return more money to the state than is forgone, but at least won’t be triggered until there is actual production and targets to be reached. Caddo Parish’s is in the form of backing $1 million of $10 million worth of industrial development bonds, with the potential to lose it all if the enterprise goes belly-up and saddled with owning an idle property.