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Bill defeat exposes "equal pay" advocates as hypocrites

In two ways, the failure of HB 956 by state Rep. Julie Stokes proved helpful: it sidelined a bill whose supporters left open a door cracked for it to do what its sponsor did not want, and it exposed those who wanted that which its sponsor did not for the hypocrites that they are.

The bill would have read into state law a portion of the federal Equal Pay Act. It attempted to prevent pay discrimination on the basis of sex for equal work performed in a job, but a flaw in its drafting that neglected a passage of the federal law instead opened it up, at least in some cases, to make illegal discrimination between individuals with similar work performed. That concept, comparable worth, was behind other bills introduced this session, which were built upon a fiction.

Those other bills were argued necessary because, when taking the average earnings of Louisiana females and comparing them to males in all jobs, taking nothing else into consideration, women earned about two-thirds of what men did. But this exercise is entirely laughably apples to oranges, because it does not take into account a number of other extenuating factors, such as lifestyle preferences, occupational choices, and educational attainment. In fact, when looking at national data, when accounting for differentials caused by these factors, the difference, when comparing men to women actually in jobs requiring the same work and in the same circumstances, goes to statistical insignificance. The presumed pay gap is a myth.


Implemented carefully, changed law to help disabled

It may affect only around 4,000 children directly, but changes in high school diploma requirements for that population could impact accountability measures for many of Louisiana secondary schools as well as statewide graduation metrics.

HB 1015 by state Rep. John Schroder allows for greater flexibility in use of standardized exams in determining proficiency for graduation from high school for students with major/multiple intellectual disabilities. The state is plagued with one of the lowest graduation rates among students with disabilities, and relaxing the use of standardized exams as a sole measure of proficiency, replaced by other kinds of assessments, may better measure the actual abilities of these students. For those who have such a disability, if qualification for a regular diploma cannot be managed, the student can be awarded a certificate of achievement.

According to the bill, if a student assessed with such a disability fares poorly in multiple assessments, the Individualized Education Plan team for the student may recommend using alternative assessments and may choose them from a list to be developed recommended by the Department of Education. Students will continue to take the standardized tests, but they will count only towards the accountability measures for schools, although graduation scoring based on successful completion of IEP requirements not including the exams also will be used in those measures.


On Jindal health plan, some silence turns into hypocrisy

The important story out front about the state’s efforts to increase government assistance for the poorer to obtain health care insurance remains largely ignored by Louisiana media and certain political elites, because of a backstory of agenda-setting and hypocrisy that puts politics before people.

Earlier this spring, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed his America Next Freedom and Empowerment Plan that would address this provision under national law, envisioning in it the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). That’s about all a governor can do in this regard, put it out there and hope others take it up. So far, nothing has happened at the federal level but at the state level he found an unlikely ally in Democrat state Sen. Ben Nevers who wanted to pursue this plan adapted to the state level.

Nevers originally favored measures taken straight out of Obamacare that would expand eligibility in the existing Medicaid system, but Jindal opposed these as they could cost the state as much as over $2 billion through 2023 and at a minimum hundreds of millions of dollars more (and states cannot opt out once they accept it under Obamacare terms) for care shown statistically producing worse outcomes than if uninsured. Thus, Nevers turned to the politically possible in taking as many of Jindal’s ideas that could be and putting them into a state-level version, with Jindal’s blessing.


Memorial Day, 2014

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, May 26 being Memorial Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Clueless Caddo commissioners may need replacing

The previous commentary in this space queried whether members of the Caddo Parish Commission had learned anything from two defeats of a tax renewal that would have had a net result of raising property taxes. If the responses from a couple of them indicate anything, the answer is, not at all.

This millage requested would have increased from 1.55 to 1.75, because of failure to roll forward in the past, and the parish was sitting on over twice the overall authorized amount of $23 million in uncommitted funds. It came up with a list of modest, uncritical projects to take most of that money. It narrowly failed when on last October’s ballot when placed with some other unrelated matters, but was obliterated three-to-one earlier this month by a slightly smaller voting public when joined by just two small measures on the ballot.

Members of that public who voiced an opinion to me or to others mentioned several reasons why they rejected it. Besides the fact it represented a tax increase, others included that it was unnecessary given the surpluses, that it was arrogant of the parish to try again after the people spoke the first time, and that they didn’t see the list of wants as compelling.