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Landrieu mudsling unlikely to alter runoff dynamics

The “Hail Mary” to try to burnish embattled Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office-holding credentials came earlier this month. Now has come the “Hail Mary” that seeks to damage the front-running opponent to unseat her Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy – and neither will get the job done,

Polling shows Landrieu trailing badly in the runoff phase of her reelection attempt, after disappointing electoral returns in the general election. Immediately after Nov. 4, where she barely led Cassidy but came up way short of a majority mainly because of the presence of candidate Republican Rob Maness, she tried to shore up a main support to her campaign narrative, that being allegedly her effectiveness and indispensability to the state, by trying to get through the Senate a bill to override Pres. Barack Obama’s objection to the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline. That effort failed by one vote, so the spin there became that at least she had gotten it to a vote after years of obstruction by Senate Democrats.

The next phase in the operation was to find a way to impugn Cassidy. To wit, right before Thanksgiving, ostensibly separate accounts essentially simultaneously hit the Internet about how Cassidy, who worked on a contractual basis with the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Baton Rouge while as a Member of Congress, had seeming inconsistencies in his performance to fulfill it. Basically it was argued that he had shortchanged the school about an hour-and-a-half a week in that salary.


Voters thinking ideologically explains Landrieu failure

If we seek to understand the political behavior in and political culture in Louisiana, we must interpret correctly what the capstone 2014 elections signal in regards to electoral preferences in the state. Incomplete, if not erroneous, attempts to do so fail to accomplish this.

It’s not that 2014’s results, which will culminate in the dumping of the last statewide elected Democrat likely for some time, represent some kind of sea change. Rather, they stand as marker of the completion of a process that began some decades ago. As previously noted, Louisiana’s political culture has changed significantly in this time period as in-migration brought a competing political culture, educational delivery improved substantially that increased the cognitive capacity of the public as a whole by which to evaluate politics, and informational channels exponentially enlarged, freeing citizens from overreliance on established elites such as politicians, political organizations, and the traditional media for knowledge about politics.

These forces have transformed the political culture into what the instrument that symbolizes that the tipping point has passed, Rep. Bill Cassidy, calls the “post-pork” paradigm of Louisiana politics. To expand on this, that means that a critical mass of voters have formed that place issue evaluation before candidate image and (what actually happened long ago for many people calling themselves Democrats) partisanship. For national contests now, a controlling bloc of Louisiana voters now are enabled to understand policy implications emanating from issues important to their well-being, to know with accuracy candidates’ preferences and actions relative to those issues, and to relate the two.


Restructure LA elderly services to improve efficiency

The next step in state Rep. Joe Harrison’s war on efficiency in state government may end up backfiring in becoming the impetus to more efficient government in the area of elderly affairs policy.

For the past few years, Harrison has tried to birth an entire new bureaucracy in this area, commencing when the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration sought to fold oversight of all elderly affairs matters into the Department of Health and Hospitals. This would have threatened the absurdly decentralized system that empowers and directs money to local nonprofit agencies, one in each parish, known as Councils on Aging. Federal law has states designate Area Agencies on Aging to disburse federal dollars, overseen by a designated state agency, in Louisiana’s case the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs.

GOEA’s functions would have been subsumed by DHH, but resistance from COAs, where Harrison became their legislative point man, resulted only in a partial transfer. Unlike other states, most of which create a dozen or two AAAs as implementers, in Louisiana half of all AAAs are COAs, with four others acting as umbrella organizations directing the other half. This creates much inefficiency in administration, with many functions duplicated and lack of standardization of processes and procedures that falls to GOEA to coordinate. Worse, it gives COAs as a whole outsized influence in this policy area with little incentive to induce efficiency as that would scale back their individual authority and budgets.


Certain tax exemptions to blame for budget woes

Once again, budget adjustments towards the middle of Louisiana’s fiscal year have had to be made, illustrating a particularly problematic part of the state’s fiscal structure that hampers ability to budget accurately and to capture revenues efficiently without hampering economic growth.

The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration announced it wrung cost savings of around $50 million from government operations, involving noncritical services and mostly from a spending freeze, vacant job eliminations, and contract curtailment, of which about five-eighths must be approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, and cobbled together about $130 million more revenues to close the gap of $181 million. Of the revenues, about $24 million comes from a funds sweep, around $74 million from underestimating revenues dedicated to other purposes that could be repackaged into the general fund, and the remainder was bonus tax amnesty receipts. None of the revenues found can be counted upon to show up in the future.

The sixth of these in seven years begs a few questions, starting with why the powers that be involved in revenue determination, essentially the staffs of both the Governor’s Office and Legislature Fiscal Office, seem to miss on revenue projections. In fact, from the first budget over which Jindal had control, fiscal year 2009, through the last fiscal year for which data are complete, FY 2013, the average overestimation was about $375 million – and FY 2009 actually turned out to be underestimation of about that magnitude, meaning successive years had much higher overestimations. And in reality the estimations usually are pretty good on the general fund side, which is mostly income and sales taxes, where over the FY 2009-13 period all but one year had forecasts barely under the actual results, that being FY 2010 when the forecast overshot the actual by nearly $1 billion.


Schedler dissent unwisely attacks free speech rights

Louisiana’s Sec. of State Tom Schedler seems all out of whack about a constitutional exercise, for reasons that don’t appear obvious or even fathomable, as the first phase of the state’s fall elections has come to a close with the remainder in full swing.

Over the past few weeks, not only in Louisiana but in many places across the country, the group Americans for Prosperity, a social welfare organization best known for gaining vigorous support from industrialists David and Charles Koch, whom the political left demonizes as the Svengalis of American politics, has been sending out postcards to some registered voters. In Louisiana, they appear to take the form of indicating whether the voter has voted in the past two national elections, while in other states reports are these also may include neighbors’ voting frequencies.

AFP has access to this information because the public does. It’s a matter of public record, and in Louisiana Schedler’s office will be glad to sell that information to anyone. Other organizations also make this information public, often through subscription services. Yet Schedler got all upset about this, fuming that “When you put [voting histories] on a postcard, I don't think that is appropriate,” and averring that he will want legislation next year to limit what can be placed on the outside of a piece of mail.