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Win may push Landrieu onto gubernatorial fool's errand

The past pair of elections for New Orleans mayor set up intrigue, because in both instances then-Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu ran and a victory meant statewide ramifications upon his leaving that office. But in 2014 as mayor, his ability to retain that office does the same.

That’s because some argue reelection may encourage Landrieu into a bid for statewide office, almost certainly the governor’s post, in 2015. Democrat officials hope so, because they widely (if privately) believe he is the only one who could be competitive against a field already with a strong Republican, Sen. David Vitter, and with another as strong who has all but formally announced a bid, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, with perhaps other competitive GOP candidates to follow.

As Democrats are the distinct minority among the statewide elective boards (the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education), the top judicial organ (the Louisiana Supreme Court), and entirely absent among state officeholders, just to snare even get one post, especially the one at the top, is enough to make them salivate. However, even with a Landrieu win tonight, such a Pavlovian reaction likely is unwarranted, if foremost because Landrieu might pass on it, for some good reasons.


Decision brings LA reputation win, Caldwell electoral loss

When does the loss of a potential $330 million to the state of Louisiana equal a win? It does when it’s consequent to a defeat of jackpot justice, making the only real loser here Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Caldwell, on behalf of the state, failed to show that the manufacturers/marketers of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal had attempted to place false claims with the state. And very properly so, for the case was riddled with weaknesses throughout. While it began about a decade ago, the award – with $70 million going to private lawyers – was made initially by a district court in notorious litigant-friendly St. Landry Parish.

The argument allowed to go forward by this court was that the state had been defrauded not because it actually had paid out taxpayer money on the basis of several thousand letters, eventually corrected, with a claim the Food and Drug Administration said was misleading and tens of thousands more visits made by pharmaceutical representatives in the interim, but because of the mere fact that the letters had gone out and the visits made. A court majority wisely rebuffed the minority’s, and Caldwell’s, view that a literal reading of the state law in question that actual payments by the state for a false claim billed by a party should be expanded in this instance to include entities not billing and rejected his definition of “misrepresentation” on which he built his case. In other words, in contrast to some other recent rulings, the Court rightfully refused to engage in judicial activism (even as one dissenter very erroneously substituted the idea that to not stretch statutes beyond their intent as he argued itself constituted a form of activism).


Reasonable new LA abortion rules opposed by profiteers

In evaluating the issue of new rules concerning operation of abortion clinics in Louisiana, never forget that from the perspective of these merchants of death, it’s all about the money, and that should have no bearing on these new regulations.

Last year, in response to legislation passed earlier in the year, emergency rules regarding operation of abortion providers were issued effective Nov. 20 by the Department of Health and Hospitals, which will stay in effect until DHH issues permanent rules to be guided by a hearing occurring next week. The 20-pages worth in the Louisiana Register update requirements regarding licensing, reporting, staffing, facilities, and procedures, and has sent proponents of abortion on demand into a tizzy.

One shill for the industry called the new rules “convoluted and dense,” and designed to hamper it if not shut it down. In particular, its representatives objected to procedures to challenge citation issuance, with the shill claiming it was biased, to having licensed nurses present during the extinguishment of the unborn, and that a certificate of need would be required to open a new facility, to reopen one closed because of violations, or if there is a change of ownership or location. A specific complaint about room size requirements DHH said will apply only to new or renovated facilities in the permanent rule, and another that requires a 30-day window between drawing blood for laboratory analysis prior to aborting DHH said would be excised from the permanent rule.


License fee issue again evokes legislative demagoguery

With a $25 billion spending plan up for grabs and related issues such as the use of nonrecurring funds in it, legal imperatives to pay back the state’s rainy-day fund, and absence of any counterproductive Medicaid expansion, it turns out the biggest gripe that legislators have with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget is convenience fees for drivers’ licenses?

After presentation last week of the document, a few legislators seemed more upset than anything else over the Office of Motor Vehicles plan to expand service offerings through private entities for an increased fee. Currently, about 120 private operators perform some services dealing with titles, registrations, and insurance reinstatements, but now two also can perform license and identification issuances and renewals, for which the Department of Public Safety allows them to charge an additional fee. DPS wishes to expand this program statewide.

No hue and cry emerged from the Legislature in 2001 when the original set of services was let to private providers with their additional fees. But this one seems to have struck a nerve among the more excitable, if less cogent, legislators. Indeed, state Rep. Kenny Havardno stranger he to making stupid statements in trying to prevent making government smaller – wailed that the Legislature ought to have final authority over every change of tax or fee but implied it was obligated in this case because the higher charge amounted to a tax. The Constitution states that the Legislature must approve of all tax increases by a two-thirds vote.


Less controversial budget to challenge Jindal differently

The most remarkable thing about Louisiana’s fiscal year 2015 budget is that it was received almost entirely non-remarkably, despite some spending choices that might have attracted more notice had the state’s funding situation turned out differently.

Perhaps that’s the consequence of a budget that, in operating terms, contains more money than last year’s (as in its posture at the end of 2013) by almost $200 million in state general funds, even as the overall budget was down more in total than that three times because of mainly reductions in federal funding. However, much of that federal dwindling comes from reduced disaster recovery aid. This kind of outcome tends to cut down on the carping, and last week in preemptive fashion the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration accentuated this by in piecemeal fashion letting out its plans on this largesse, addressing matters that perhaps were not the most pressing but which received the most attention and political pressure on their behalf.

By far the biggest SGF boost came in the area of higher education at $375 million, where an overall operating increase of $141.5 million was announced, with $87.7 million of that coming from tuition increases. Interestingly, the FY totals of total spending are actually several million fewer being spent than last year, but this is because of apparently about $150 million in non-recurring expenditures, much having to do with the transition of medical education largely being done by publicly-run hospitals to now almost exclusively by hospitals (including those owned by the state) run by the private sector. With this greater efficiency, the state will now be spending per student (using fall, 2012 student numbers) about $11,820 compared to FY 2008’s $13,544, or a decline (unadjusted for the changing mix of senior/junior college enrollments) of almost 13 percent per student.


Motive for insipid Perkins comments on Cassidy unclear

Maybe it’s because there’s an odd kind of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery going on here. Or perhaps it’s an unwritten new rule that anyone who at some point has served in the Louisiana Legislature who contemplates getting elected to Congress from Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District is required to infect himself with athlete’s mouth. These are the more rational explanations as to why Tony Perkins damaged any elective political career he had left in the state with just a few short words critiquing Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Republican Perkins, who a dozen years ago served in the state Legislature and was out of the running for defeat Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in her first reelection attempt, last week with seemingly little provocation or cause opined that Cassidy, running this time against Landrieu and increasingly perceived as gaining the upper hand over her, could not defeat her. Indeed, he argued that “I think his problem is his record. He’s been pretty weak on the issues. If the Republicans want to win, they actually need to find a stronger candidate.”

Perkins does not see himself as that candidate, but declined to endorse as a better candidate either of the two Republican alternatives presently announced, state Rep. Paul Hollis and military retiree Rob Maness. He did not preclude running for the Sixth or for the Senate in 2016, if in the latter case Sen. David Vitter will have won the governor’s race in 2015 and therefore have vacated the latter spot.