Search This Blog


Populist itch makes Edwards propose insipid bill

No doubt proclaimed 2015 gubernatorial candidate state Rep. John Bel Edwards understands the populist element in Louisiana’s political culture and wants to tap into it to facilitate his future political ambitions. It’s the only explanation short of idiocy for his desire to see his redundant, useless, if not counterproductive and unconstitutional, HB 703 passed into law.

The bill, which got voted out of the House yesterday, would require that any unclassified employee of the state within thirty days of assuming employment making at least $100,000 annually to show proof of having a Louisiana driver’s license and registration of any vehicles in his name be done so in Louisiana. This also applies if a salary increase brings that person above this level. Failure to provide such proof to the employing agency brings about termination.

Louisiana law already requires that state residents who own and/or operate motor vehicles comply with these license and titling requirements, so the bill instantly is redundant. However, it adds the proof standard – presently, the only means of enforcement comes from law enforcement officers incident to an arrest, investigation, or traffic stop, where it would have to be proven somebody without a Louisiana license and/or state titling had resided in the state longer than 30 days before any enforcement could occur (or potentially as many as 51 days) – and makes state agencies into enforcement bureaus, on top of their genuine functions. Further, it does so only selectively – only unclassified employees and those making six figures.


Yet more evidence to back LA Medicaid expansion opt-out

Another study on Medicaid expansion, another chance for those with faith in government supervised medical care or who want to bash Gov. Bobby Jindal to demagogue the issue. Don’t be fooled.

This entrant comes courtesy of the Legislative Fiscal Office, which prepares fiscal notes for bills. Several have been filed to force the state to accept expanding eligibility from 25 percent to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line; those below already can get it, and those higher will be forced to get insurance or pay a fine, while some will receive subsidies to do so. Jindal opposes accepting this optional provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), with a good set of reasons explaining why.

The note computes two scenarios, with the more likely claiming state savings of about $533 million over the first five years of the program, and around $185 million over the first ten years – the standard windows of analysis in a fiscal note. No doubt these figures, or the ones under the less likely scenario (which predict over $500 million savings over the decade), will be echoed by supporters of expansion – who also will neglect to mention the conceptual flaws of the analysis and one crucial point.


House co-pay bill rejection cannot avoid hard choice

As previously noted, governmental budgeting is a series of choices hopefully based upon some kind of rational making of priorities using full information. But there’s no guarantee that rationality or information will be integrated fully into the process.

A case in point concerns HB 375 by state Rep. Frank Hoffman. It reconfigured to some extent the management of the Early Steps Program, which to date without cost to clients provides assistance to families with children ages 0-3 who display developmental disabilities. The program’s early intervention is designed to prevent later problems in these children integrating into society without more expensive and extensive services provided. It may draw on federal money with state money but is not required to be operated.

Last year, when the House of Representatives proposed deeper spending cuts than budgeted, the Department of Health and Hospitals (which actually runs the program despite its administrative housing current in the Department of Education) maintained that it would have to eliminate the program. However, budget negotiations that reversed most of the cuts saved the program, where about half of its costs are paid through roughly $8 million from the general fund.


More to deaf accessibility funding than meets the ear

A controversy over funding to provide for more accessibility for the hearing-disabled illuminates an unrelated controversy over Louisiana’s fiscal structure and provides an object lesson promoting reform that no legislator yet seems intent on embracing.

HB 238 by state Rep. Patrick Williams would change the way the Telecommunications Fund for the Deaf gets funded. Instead of the current 5 cent tax per local line per month, a 2 cent charge would hit for all lines except those non-telephonic and prepaid. This would increase the amount of money coming in by about $1 million a year. Williams claims the change is needed because the number of landlines continues to fall.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal objects to the bill because it is a tax increase, and Jindal has said consistently he will not support any measure that does so or any set of them that raises taxes in aggregate. Williams, nor any of his many co-sponsors, which comprise a majority of the House members of the Legislative Black Caucus, several other white Democrats, and a few Republicans, have addressed why an increase is needed, as opposed to lowering the proposed rate to keep the alleged funds erosion at bay.


Contracting endgame finds opponents' positions invalidated

Previously, this space asked whether, as a result of a legislative initiative to insert Louisiana’s legislature in administrative decision-making, the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration would play along or humiliate legislators. But the actual rout that has happened and will continue to occur stems not from the Governor’s Mansion, but from the power of ideas.

Last week, the Senate passed a resolution declaring that one of its committees had to approve of any specified contracting activities for public hospitals. Later, the House joined in with a concurrent resolution saying the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget should do essentially the same, where now the measure moves to the Senate. These were in response to the Administration’s negotiating with nongovernment providers to run the hospitals, effectively becoming the last state to get out of the business of running public hospitals.

Of course, as previously noted, these kinds of declarations are entirely empty given the law and Constitution. Despite that, they got approval as a kind of political fig leaf to hide impotence and to create the impression among constituents that they were vigilantly protecting their interests. The question became whether the Jindal Administration would aid in building this image, which it might have if it could be assured that the faux vetting would not turn into a gripe session or even (admittedly unlikely) symbolic rejection.