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Reliance on dwindling group hampers LA Democrats

If we needed any confirmation of why Democrats have fallen from any meaningful power in Louisiana, we need only observe the intervention of the base upon which it dominated state politics into the congressional campaign of Prisoner #03128-095, the microcosm of the old Louisiana political culture, in the guise of Juror 68.

His given name being Victor Durand, he gained notoriety when during the 2000 racketeering trial of the Democrat ex-governor formerly known as Edwin Edwards he managed to get himself removed for repeated violations of juror standards, such as potential telegraphing of his presence on the jury to Edwards, refusing to participate in deliberations, bringing in study aids such as a dictionary to jury deliberations, and leaving these with notes, and then initially lying about it. He claims he had said aloud he thought Edwards likely was innocent and was subjected to intimidation as a result, and this he charged was why he got removed.

Had he carried through on his alleged stated intention, that would have thrown the case into a mistrial and, as in 1986 on a related influence-peddling case, Edwards could have been tried again (in that instance, he skated), or not. But as was confirmed both at the appellate level and at the Supreme Court, where judges (unanimously at a panel at the circuit level and the Court turning down hearing an appeal) noted the district court had acted properly in the matter, this did not detract from Edwards’ guilt. While Edwards may have made claims since then that he was railroaded by political enemies, it seems extremely far-fetched that circuit court judges and justices of the Supreme Court were out to get him as well. He merited his felony conviction that landed him in the klink.


Tyler in control of off-script Shreveport mayoral race

Most remarkably, to date the 2014 Shreveport’s mayor race has refused to play to form, but it probably will do so in its last stage.

As the year began, state Rep. Patrick Williams was maneuvering to become a fusionist candidate between races and major parties to position himself as the main opposition to forces behind Mayor Cedric Glover, whose ally City Councilman Sam Jenkins appeared poised to represent those forces. No white candidate then appeared emergent to rally Republican votes against these black Democrats.

But then Jenkins made what turned out to be a temporary suspension of his campaign, and elites connected to Glover’s city hall appeared to coalesce around former Caddo Parish School District Superintendent Ollie Tyler. Meanwhile, as many Republicans remained sanguine about putting up a candidate in the wake of the miserable showing their favored candidate had four years previously, the independent and political novice Victoria Provenza stepped into the void.


Don't ask LA citizenry to subsidize Obamacare more

Like herpes, the Patient Protection and (Un)Affordable Care Act, known derisively as “Obamacare,” is the gift that keeps on giving, this time threatening to bring additional injury to Louisiana taxpayers over salary payments to teachers.

Because of the law’s provision that any non-small organization offer and subsidize health care insurance to employees of at least 30 hours a week or pay a $2,000 fine for each, either way this would cause a substantial increase in costs. Thus, many school districts across the state are reducing the number of hours a substitute may teach, for generally after three days a week of substitute teaching another day would bump them over the limit. In turn, this is reducing the amount of available hours from the existing pool of substitutes, leading in many places to a shortage of instructors.

In response, one affected superintendent conjectured that an increase in the amount a retired teacher could gain in salary as a substitute from 25 to 50 percent of pension income, set by state law, could alleviate the bottleneck. Except for positions of critical shortage that do not have to follow this standard, the cap prevents teachers from retiring and then double-dipping to any large extent, but by relaxing this requirement, theoretically as substitutes they could double their hours (and for those that would go over 30 hours as a result, insuring them should be moot as they already would have as part of post-employment benefits, largely paid by the state) and take up the slack now thrust upon districts by Obamacare.


Operating funds, not roads, deserve highest priority

Drowned out in elections hoopla was the annual fall exercise of members of the Louisiana Legislature’s transportation committees hitting the road to solicit input on funding transportation items. In the course of this, one member, Chairman of the Senate Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee state Sen. Robert Adley, made some observations about funding that raise an interesting policy question worth some pondering.

Adley noted that, of the about $12.3 billion in identified spending on infrastructure in the state, this year only about 5 percent of that will get addressed. That means in 20 years it all could be taken care of, except that, of course, new things continue to emerge. So, practically speaking, the backlog on some items may go on for at least a decade.

It’s an issue he and other legislators have voiced concern about in the past, most recently when some of them complained about the state giving extra money than statutorily required for roads to parishes and how other dollars dedicated to roads were siphoned off to be spent on state police. Besides stopping these practices, Adley has thrown out another idea to whittle down the backlog.


Change incorporation laws to increase process fairness

With the incorporation petition for the proposed municipality of St. George undergoing vetting for validity, that very process plagued with political ambiguity, the Louisiana Legislature would act wisely to reform the process for that and annexation next year.

Given the legal parameters as currently exist, organizers opted to turn in the petition, on which there was no time limit to gather signatures, earlier than they had anticipated, the main problem being that nobody really knows what the law has to say definitively on the matter. During the roughly year-long collection effort, Baton Rouge-based interests not wanting the formation of a competitor city next to it annexed parcels of land designed to make a new entity less financially viable, so the actual number of signatures needed – one quarter of the area anticipated to be incorporated – is unknown because the boundaries kept changing, the eligible signatures kept changing, and the amount of them needed kept changing. Even though organizers wanted 20,000, well over the presumed target in the neighborhood of 17,750 (although it may be closer to 16,500), they turned them only a few hundred above that number, cognizant that time was working against them in terms of signatures remaining eligible (some who signed may have moved away or annexed out in the interim) and in legal motions Baton Rouge interests were making that try to invalidate the whole operation.

The entire episode pointed out shortcomings in the existing law regarding the creation of new cities and adding to those already in place – a timeline where petitioners could choose when to submit on the basis of estimated success in getting valid signatures and at the ballot box (through this in essence being able to choose when on the election calendar the item appears) and cities being able to subvert the process through defensive annexations that creates confusion and potentially thwarting electoral processes – and thus begs for statutory clarification. That does not mean an unwise embargo on all of these efforts, as attempted in one effort that fizzled last session, but by a reconceptualization of the process that brings order and fairness effective at the beginning of the state’s next fiscal year.