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Deferring sweeps appeal to have no practical impact

The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration and his leadership allies in the Louisiana Legislature took a route of convenience regarding a court ruling about the practice of “funds sweeps,” leaving for the future the task of correcting an errant court ruling with no practical impact for the present.

Louisiana has hundreds of funds to which dedicated revenue streams flow – most relatively small and obscure, a few large and almost as obscure. They hold billions of dollars, but some of them collect revenues far in excess of actual spending needs. Although theoretically appropriations could be made for their dedicated purposes, in many instances there is little to no genuine reason for that spending, and certainly other things are of much higher priority, so rather than spent wastefully it piles up.

Therefore, given the choice between letting this money lie idle or using it for important objects, the state may legislate a “funds sweep,” meaning a law is passed that transfers money from these funds to another fund where it can be used for general purposes. It’s a safety valve for the lack of courage of too many legislators that refuse to unlock so many inefficient dedications that steer money to the wrong places and/or takes it from the citizenry in various forms for lack of a good reason in the first place, because instead of having to make choices and live with their political consequences, for political cover to avoid this these politicians claim they can’t do anything about it because funds are “dedicated” and then must launch into the necessary corrective of funds sweeps.


Change judicial selection to reduce potential impropriety

There’s a better way to address the stench of pay-to-play concerning Louisiana’s judiciary, so intended legislation to deal with a campaign finance loophole needs to reform far beyond campaign finance parameters.

One big criticism of the questionable lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East that alleges broken contracts between oil companies and authorities is that the contingency fee arrangement – also questionably granted by Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell’s office – could net the lawyers involved billions of dollars and has attached to it a poison pill feature that would create large costs for the SLPA-E if it withdrew. Then it turns out that the lead attorney hired by Caldwell, a political supporter of his, also hosted a fundraiser for the judge at the very time a related matter is coming to trial in front of her. Wade Shows hosted a fundraiser for District Judge Janice Clark at the end of February.

Shows protests that all he did was host the event and did not give any money. He said he agreed to do it well before the case was assigned (randomly, as is the practice) to Clark. But that changes nothing: in a very high profile case that could net Shows an enormous payday, he acted in a way to bring a potential political benefit to the legal authority that can determine whether he sees this payoff.


Caldwell campaigning already superseding AG duties

To the wider world, it seems like it didn’t take long to draw a response to the entry of a major challenger to his spot. But perhaps it just took time for observers to realize that Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell entered into full campaign mode weeks ago, understanding then that his job was in jeopardy and now looks to take the state on a ride over the next couple of years that accentuates acrimony and divisiveness in order to try to attain reelection.

Having encountered already a number of setbacks questioning his competence and allegiance to special interests, perhaps the biggest challenge among these is just now getting wound up: the allegation that his office allowed an impermissible contingency fee relationship as part of a questionable lawsuit to go forward letting a state agency (where it’s unclear whether this is considered a constituent part of state government or has sufficient independence, such as with a municipality, parish, or school district, not to be considered as such) sue 97 oil companies over actions allegedly taken or not decades ago. Many observers suspect Caldwell has sympathy for this suit not only for ideological reasons, but also because he has a history of trying to expand state government use of contingency fee arrangements that supports his political allies.

The contingency fee issue, and others, were contested in a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association late last year. This merely turned up the heat, already being applied by state legislators, in arguing the legal impermissibility of Caldwell’s action. Caldwell enlisted a political ally to formulate a response, and were dynamics different, he might have left it at that to let things play out.


Group can help bring principled conservatism to policy

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the nascent Louisiana Legislative Conservative Coalition is that, for the first time, it can articulate a genuine, principled conservatism in the formation of public policy, which until the 21st century was all but absent among Louisiana policy-makers.

The group (minus the “Legislative” in the name”) early in the year filed paperwork under the Internal Revenue Code section 527 to organize in order to “provide continuity in the adoption of conservative legislation in the State of Louisiana and to promote the economic and cultural advancement of Louisiana through the bipartisan, conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, individual liberties, and strong traditional families, at all times consistent with the progress of our State and with the well being of the people of Louisiana.” Thirteen Republicans have acknowledged affiliation with the group, with state Rep. Alan Seabaugh being its president.

In remarks about the group, Seabaugh indicated its formation came as a result of ideological confusion among Republicans. A lazy mythology has developed that because majorities in both legislative chambers are from the GOP, that conservative ideas always triumph in legislative action.


LA, enjoy any 2013 "Oscars;" you paid dearly for them

Tonight the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present its Academy Awards to the filmmaking industry for 2013, giving Louisianans another chance to cogitate on whether the hundreds of millions of dollars the state forgoes annually in motion picture tax credits really is worthwhile.

Two years ago, the state got honored with a product from its own studios – funded in part by these state incentives which in most common form kicks back 30 percent in credits to investors (different kinds of payments for other related activities allow a different percentage to be received) – with an “Oscar,” but this year, even if no homegrown product made any shortlists, the state’s connection in dollar terms will be more substantial. Two nominated films are in line to receive the credits, which could be worth as much as $8 million.

In practical terms, that means that these credits, some of which may be used by the producers but the majority of which typically are sold at a discount to Louisiana persons with relatively high state tax burdens, will vacuum that much out of revenues that could go to the state. This means fewer services get rendered by the state and/or taxes must rise to fund otherwise furloughed services, while subsidizing the making of movies that allows many wealthy interests to profit and gets funneled to jobs that average over $10,000 than the overall average for jobs in the state.