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Edwards, Caldwell campaign stunt to cost taxpayers

A tag-team campaign stunt by state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell might cause some bureaucratic headaches and burn up some taxpayer dollars, but in the end will make no difference to coming changes for health care benefits for state employees, retirees, and some school district employees – and may even hurt their 2015 electoral ambitions.

This week, Caldwell’s office issued an opinion stating that changes being made to the benefit packages had to have gone through the Administrative Procedure Act, upon the request by Edwards. The changes in most cases likely would have the overall effect of increasing payments made by clients, due to changes in deductibles, co-payments, and services covered. Using this process for this matter has not been done in the past, and no one ever had complained about it.

The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration, with good reason, disputes the idea that the APA should apply to these kinds of decisions, but a creative reading of the law possibly could shoehorn in decisions made about services disbursed to a class of active and former government agents distinct from the public, especially in the case of the retirees. It’s a reach and if Caldwell had not wanted it to succeed, there was ample basis on which to reject that line of reasoning. But by issuing it under his imprimatur, the controversy could continue that could benefit certain parties politically.


Change elites to end LA asylum policy suffering

While some attention has come to the extra burdens to Louisiana that the policy of Pres. Barack Obama regarding unaccompanied illegal alien minors has spawned, little has surfaced about the costs imposed by the abuse of the asylum system that his administration and its supporters have encouraged.

Under international convention to which it is a signatory America must entertain requests for asylum based upon persecution or fear of persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, either by a foreign government or private entities that the government too carelessly allows to persecute people on these bases. A procedure must be followed to ensure the claim is entertained and adjudicated.

The U.S. famously has had very welcoming standards for such individuals, including a standard known as “credible fear” that means that upon application – which is as simple as turning up at a border and announcing a request for asylum – the seeker will be allowed into the U.S. and is supposed to be under some form of detention until adjudication to determine whether the “well-founded fear” of persecution test necessary under the law to grant asylum can be determined. In the past, it was not unusual for such determinations to be made within weeks of the request being made, with many seekers housed in detention facilities.


Intriguing Shreveport council, judicial races set

Besides the mayor’s race in Shreveport, some other interesting matchups loom for city voters on Nov. 4.

As usual on the judicial side, there’s a good degree of somnambulism involved. Of the 21 judicial contests on the ballot across the parish from Supreme Court down to city court, only three had any competition (almost entirely incumbents skating through unopposed) and two of the contested ones were open seats. But there’s one potential barn-burner challenger vs. incumbent, where City Court Judge Sheva Sims drew a challenge from former prosecutor Terrell Myles, both Democrats.

Sims made headlines last year with a bizarre freeing, apparently over displeasure at city prosecutors, of over a dozen defendants all prepared to plead guilty. This provoked, and perhaps other events (such petitions are confidential) as well, a complaint to the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, which has the authority to recommend disciplining judges. While it has yet to forward a recommendation to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which could impose any penalty, it seems enough dissension about her short tenure on the bench has spawned a movement to sanction her through the ballot box.


Group asks people to donate more to lose more

Maybe they’re feeling the heat, so look for an effort by the single most sybaritic special interest in Louisiana to attempt to buttress the hundreds of millions of dollars annually it lifts from taxpayers prior to the next session of the Legislature.

The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association has announced plans to commission a study on the economic impact of the state’s motion picture investor tax credit. Since its inception in 2002, the program has seen over $1 billion dollars go out the door in lost collected tax revenues as a result, which comes as a result either of exercising these credits or, as what occurs with the vast majority of dollars involved because the awardees of them almost always are from out-of-state and owe little Louisiana tax liability as a result of making a movie, selling them to Louisianans with high state tax burdens (including state elected officials).

Through 2012, the state had only gotten back about $120 million, in terms of additional tax revenues recouped, of the $800 million that had been then paid out, or just 15 cents on the dollar. That meant that each direct job created by the program cost the state $36,000, which is hardly cost effective. In other words, from the start the program has served as nothing more as a conduit of the people’s money to a handful of individuals – many of them nonresidents – to pay them to do what they want to do, not for investing in what was most efficient for the maximal economic development of Louisiana.


St. George petition timing involves tricky decision

There’s a lot of timing involved in politics, as illustrated in the decision by backers of creating a municipality in east and south East Baton Rouge Parish on when to launch a referendum to determine whether it will be born.

Organizers to found the city, St. George, assert they have already enough signatures as qualified under law to call such an election. As there is no time limit to gathering these, except that if the verification process, that could take as long as a month, finds them short then they have 60 days to try to hit the mark of one-quarter of registered voters in the area, there is discretion as to when to have the election, subject to the parameters of calling special elections.

As the goal is to assume that around one out of every eight signatures is not valid, the organizers wish to have at least 20,000 signatures on hand to turn in and start the verification process. Given their announced total is about 1,500 short, there’s no opportunity for the election to occur this year. The next available opportunity at present appears to be the first Saturday in April, Apr. 4, which is set aside for local elections. That would mean that, given the couple of weeks prior to that date the Secretary of State is to have a certified petition to put on a ballot, signatures would have to be turned in to the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters in the last week of February. To be very assured that the verification can get done, the end of January might be the optimal time.