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LA delegation must balance between nation, state residents

The balancing act now conducted by Louisiana politicians on the issue of flood premiums demonstrates the tension between following good holistic policy and playing to electoral politics at home.

Plagued by frequent stopgap funding requests for the National Flood Insurance Program, last year Congress passed legislation designed to put the program on consistent footing for the next few years, as part of a larger bill which passed along billions of dollars to Louisiana related to the 2010 drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that caused the state environmental problems. All homeowners in a flood zone must purchase it while others may do so optionally from the program established by the federal government 45 years ago in lieu of private insurers. The idea was to set a uniform rate nationwide covering a broad-based clientele to prevent wide variations in premiums, including prohibitively expensive ones.

But it also was supposed to be self-supporting, even though by statute this was not achieved in the initial pricing and has only crept towards that ever since. Last year’s legislation was supposed to achieve that by inducing rate hikes based somewhat on risk as high as 20 percent per year over several years. Louisiana’s congressional delegation unanimously approved of it even as a few reservations were voiced, most often from Sen. Mary Landrieu and from Sen. David Vitter through his competing legislation and negotiations to limit increases and to spread them out over more time and to make it easier to demonstrate greater protection from flooding.


Intrigue aplenty in Riser House bid, quest to stop him

It’s been just a week since Rep. Rodney Alexander’s surprise announcement to ditch his current office in favor of a sinecure in the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration came out, and the sequence of events since then makes for intriguing potential political scenarios of soap operatic proportions. From the beginning:

The heir apparent gambit. Observers not only were struck by Alexander’s announcement that initially he would not run for reelection, but then felt the surprise compounded by his quick amending of it to say he was resigning within weeks to head up the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This immediately redounded to the advantage of state Sen. Neil Riser, who has money, a political action committee already set up, and has admitted he had nudged Alexander all along in this direction. It also seemed convenient that Jindal, with the secretary’s spot open since the beginning of the year, suddenly decided to fill it at this time with Alexander. This has led some to accuse a "rigging" of the election for Riser, disavowed by the Jindal Administration.

The timing and scheduling of a special election with the grooving of the job to Alexander favored Riser much more than any other potential candidate. It seemed allow Jindal to set up a situation where he did not have to pick and choose among acceptable candidates to him by creating an environment encouraging others to defer. That another whispered-about candidate, state Sen. Mike Walsworth, immediately deferred, other GOP Members of Congress jumped in to endorse Riser quickly, and another rumored candidate, Alexander’s chief of staff Adam Terry, seemed caught flatfooted, appears to confirm some detailed machinations went on in the background to clear the Republican field for Riser and to put non-Republicans at a disadvantage.


LA college solutions plentiful; legislative will lacking

I guess now that Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley chose to bring it up, I can’t be accused of flogging a dead horse on the issue of positioning Louisiana higher education to deliver quality in the face of a changing environment that puts a premium on efficiency and new modes of delivery.

This space repeatedly has offered up policy changes designed to address this goal (the most recent being here), which long-time readers will think sounds like a broken record (speaking of new modes of delivery, in this case of music, perhaps younger readers will not recognize that cliché.) Kleckley’s request in front of media members for higher education leaders to volunteer vigorously their own ideas to some degree pretends that there has not been attempted recently that very effort in an organized fashion, as part of the Postsecondary Education Review Commission, many ideas of which found themselves forwarded as legislation, almost none of which ever made it into law. Another effort dedicated itself just to the issue of governance.

So it’s a bit disingenuous to imply that the higher education community in the debate needs this shrug of the shoulders from Kleckley as a call to provide answers where the Legislature has failed, because they and others already have provided these to the Legislature, which, under Kleckley’s leadership, simply has failed to embrace them. But, in the spirit of bending over backwards to assist, here’s some more of them and repackaged in a way that might get the Legislature to act more decisively than its current tepid GRAD Act framework that pays for mild performance gains.


New leadership needed but delayed for Caddo schools

The Caddo Parish School Board lived up to its history of indecisiveness with superintendent hiring last week when it failed to name one in a scheduled attempt. Meanwhile, a partial list of school performance scores came out, which may have everything or nothing to do with what the Board finally will do next.

One might have thought that with seven months of lead time some kind of final decision could get made. Back then, the Board did not renew the contract of outgoing Superintendent Gerald Dawkins, meaning his last day of work ends up being this week, right before the school year’s beginning. Dawkins’ five years was marked by a rapid deterioration in the district’s fiscal position that led to retrenchment mirroring that drop in pupil population and was marked by a persistent inability to raise district performance …

… until perhaps this past year? Although it will be in the fall that the state releases all the data on school performance, under federal law it must alert parents about the status of failing schools (that continue under the same operator) prior to the beginning of the school year. It did so quietly last week, not even posting a list statewide.