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Dissuading party switchers counterproductive, costly

Another day, another sitting Louisiana state legislator switches from Democrat to Republican. It’s not that rare; in the past half-century, as the state began its slow, delayed, and ultimately successful turn to conservatism, 37 of these have happened. But the speed of three in the past month has gotten some in the media to wonder whether that ought to be permitted.

Even with the relative commonality of switching in the state’s recent political history, it’s no big surprise that the three involved, state Rep. Jim Fannin and state Sens. Elbert Guillory and Rick Ward, made the move. While Ward has been around only two years and has averaged just under 50 on the Louisiana Legislative Log’s voting index, where a score of 100 reveals all votes on legislation as conservative or reformist and his was above the Democrat average but below the Republicans’, the other two’s showed they had voted more conservative/reform than almost all Democrats and above the GOP average during their times in office. Ward may have more another higher office in mind than reelection, however.

After Ward’s, which gave Republicans a two-thirds/supermajority advantage in the Senate, at least one media outlet asked vox populi about whether state legislators in office should have to have to win an election under their new label to stay in office. There is precedence for elected officials to resign voluntarily and run in a special election, but almost no state places any kind of restriction on the ability for officeholders to switch.


Decrease disabled services wait list with policy changes

Predictably, no veto override session will occur in 2013, confirmed at the end of last week. But that doesn’t mean that what emerged as the highest-profiled of the matters vetoed, more money to fund permanently expansion of the New Opportunity Waivers program, cannot be altered to serve more people and make better use of taxpayer dollars. And an important first step was taken last week to do this.

The Legislature this year passed a $4 million in line items to mandate new ongoing spending for 200 additional slots for this. Waiver programs let states use federal Medicaid dollars to give services to the developmentally disabled or elderly who would not otherwise qualify for the program on the basis of income or assets, as long as the average cost per client does not exceed what the state would spend on paying for them to live in nursing homes.

With a waiting list of approaching 11,000 for NOW, at least a small dent could have been made in that, where some on the list with severe disabilities have waited for eight or more years. But citing legislative directives that produced a health care budget $40 million in the red ordering the executive to make cuts, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed those line items.


Session vote signals recoupling of "hawks" to GOP

We’ll see how pledged gubernatorial candidate state Rep. John Bel Edwards does in that 2015 contest, but he’s likely to have to get along without being able to point to policy victories handed to him by a Republican Party divided in the House of Representatives.

In response to a query about getting minority House Democrats into a coalition with disgruntled chamber Republicans known as the “fiscal hawks,” Edwards opined that he thought the same grouping can be resurrected on issues beyond the specifics of the fiscal year 2014 budget that the pairing had major influence upon. This came after it was known there would be no unprecedented veto override session where some line item vetoes of that budget were by far the most publicized, because the typical patterns of voting had been followed.

That is, since Gov. Bobby Jindal became governor, every year most Democrats in the House have not returned their ballots to indicate that an override session should happen. This year, only two of the 38 returned ballots to indicate no session necessary came from Democrats, down from six the previous year. By contrast, each year a solid majority of Republicans have returned ballots; last year 45 did so, while this year 35 (about three-fifths) did.


History tells Caddo to reject more Elio funding

Ouachita Parish’s citizens once got fooled. Are Caddo Parish’s far behind?

Months ago, the concept automaker Elio Motors announced they would purchase and manufacture vehicles in Shreveport’s former General Motors facility. The car has only one wheel in the rear but projects a base price of only $6,800 for an predicted miles-per-gallon gasoline performance of 84. It claims it has gotten 13,000 preorders already, has interest from foreign countries in it, and that it would churn out as many as a quarter of a million of them a year.

However, the company has let it be known that it is having trouble raising money from private investors. Further, it cast its eyes to Shreveport because it was turned down by state and local governments in Michigan for funding. Already, Louisiana has promised it access to state tax incentives that could be worth as much as $150 million over a decade when its starts production, and Caddo Parish provided up front assistance of $1 million on ten times that in lending.


Non-performing NW LA state property needs selling off

When it comes to state-owned property with a public safety connection in northwest Louisiana, the theme best suiting taxpayers needs would be to get rid of it.

For one agency, it’s a matter of cutting losses while you can. The Municipal Police Employees Retirement System has become notorious in the last decade for its obviously foolish investments, the outstanding examples being Bossier Parish’s Olde Oaks and Stonebridge (in bankruptcy when purchased) golf courses, and their surrounding real estate, and $24 million in foreclosed lots in Texas. Concerning the courses, the latest audit shows, with improvements, they are worth about one-fifth of what was paid, for a loss for all of these of about $48 million (and financial shenanigans concerning the courses led to the former executive director going to prison).

Finally, the MPERS board, composed of active and retired sworn officers, recently has decided to try to sell the courses after years of rejecting the idea. Unfortunately, this is closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out and since taken a trip around the world, during which the consequences of it poor decision-making have become accelerated. From funded status of about 85 percent just a few years ago, it has dropped alarming so that the latest audit has it under 60 percent. As a result, last fiscal year taxpayers found they were footing a 31 percent of salary contribution rate, over 20 percent higher than it should be at the level that would match employee contributions were it close to being fully funded.