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Divided LA govt budgetary impasse not an option

As the year closes and with Louisiana preparing to embark upon divided government for the first time in several years (and a dozen since a governor of one party opposed a legislature firmly in the hands of another), could the tumult in Illinois and Pennsylvania serve as a forecast for what may come with next year’s budget?

For half a year now, both of those states, whose fiscal year begins like Louisiana’s on Jul. 1, have operated without a budget. Pennsylvania’s Republican-led legislature just sent one to its Democrat governor who item-vetoed a decent-sized chunk of it, while Illinois’ legislature led by Democrats haven’t tried in the face of veto threats from its Republican governor.

But it is unlikely that these events will replicate in Louisiana starting this summer, largely because of constitutional and legal differences among the three states. Pennsylvania actually has measures legally in place, as its Constitution does not restrict the time limit of appropriations, to tide over the state in such circumstances, as has commonly happened over the last decade. Nor does Illinois have such a time restriction in its and it also allows short-term borrowing to cover a portion of state expenditures. Keep in mind as well that both have full-time legislatures who can work on this matter every day while Louisiana like most states has only a part-time legislature that must meet in extraordinary (special) or emergency (a stretch for this purpose) session to deal with any unfinished (or unanticipated) business.


Without agenda change, Democrats only dreaming

For Christmas, Louisiana Democrats may have wished for more partisan success, but instead of that present in the new year they will more likely get a lump of coal.

This year saw them break a seven-year drought in winning any statewide (including Electoral College) election and now, with sugar plums dancing in their heads, they dare dream of more. If their behavior stays the same, reality should turn out differently.

Even they admit it took fortuitous circumstances to have Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards triumph, and that they could not win anything else – or emerge victorious in grand total of just four statewide elections out of the last 30 since 2003 – underscores the large element of chance involved. Some of it they can control, by finding candidates like Edwards who can pretend conservatism on enough issues and also like him who can tap into the eroding populist sentiments of the state’s political culture.


The Advocate column, Dec. 28. 2015

How Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards could be a Grinch when it comes to school vouchers


Christmas Day, 2015

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time 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 Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. My column for The Advocate will run on Easter Sunday.

With Friday, Dec. 25 being Christmas Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Syndrome reaction to Jindal challenge of culture

With the departure of Gov. Bobby Jindal from Louisiana’s political scene, at least for the immediate future, more enlightened observers will miss perhaps the most humorous aspect surrounding his electoral career – behavior stemming from the affliction that some catch called Jindal Derangement Syndrome, the pathology of which merits scrutiny.

This syndrome manifests as a hyper-emotive, sociopathic reaction to all things Jindal. Typical behavior includes screeds devoid of reason that ramble enough to connect Jindal somehow to the imagined perfidy. So consumed by hatred of Jindal, these victims abandon any attempt to use fact and logic to evaluate policy preferences pursued by the outgoing governor.

For example, as incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards agitates for resumption of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits to the able-bodied without spouses and/or dependents between ages 18-49 who do not work, attend training programs, or volunteer to charitable organizations at least 20 hours a week in the past three months, invective flies against how Jindal wisely decided to join 20 other states in returning to following the law of the land since the late 20th century by terminating benefits for these recipients. Or, more generally, how a few of the chattering classes define Jindal’s optimal decisions to right-size government that help people keep more of what they earn while those policy same choices make others being subsidized and/or who desired subsidies force others to do their fair share to accrue these privileges as some kind of crimes against humanity.


Edwards' inner liberal keeps muddying his narrative

Incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards throughout his campaign tried to distance himself from his image as a wild-eyed liberal. Yet leopards don’t change their spots, as a recent comment of his validated.

On perhaps no issue did Democrat Edwards differentiate himself from his GOP rivals than on tort reform. Long an ally of trial lawyers, as one example of his fealty towards them Edwards opposed efforts to remove the ability of state regional bodies to bring suit on matters over which the state or parishes had ultimate policy-making authority, voting against such a measure.

That law specifically applied to the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s attempt to extract money from nearly 100 companies that had explored and extracted oil in its jurisdiction over the decades. It alleged them primarily liable for environmental damage in the billions of dollars despite that science does not corroborate the impact to that extent and with few exceptions had followed the law with the state’s blessing in their activities throughout.


Other shoe may drop on LA unconstitutional taxation

Before Louisiana policy-makers breathe a sigh of relief over the state’s current fiscal year budget, they need to realize the real trouble could lie ahead, either financially or as a threat to representative democracy in the state.

Last week, state District Court Judge Michael Caldwell ruled against the Louisiana Chemical Association in its suit against the state for the outcome of HCR 8 of 2015. That resolution suspended a penny of the four cent sales tax exemption on business utilities essentially for the fiscal year, which will raise an estimated over $100 million and allowed the budget passed to balance.

Caldwell noted, as has this space, that the Constitution allows for suspension of tax breaks from the time passed until 60 days after the end of the next year’s regular legislative session by a simple majority, the same required to put a tax exception in place. The LCA had claimed something like this did not need a two-thirds majority in each chamber through a convoluted argument that the supermajority provision applied only if the Legislature had suspended the entire statute that set up the tax, not a “portion” of it.


LA GOP hopes to move past majority growing pains

That so many Louisiana Republicans have come out the woodwork to run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat next year illustrates the maturation and but possible continued immaturity of the party that gave away its control of the governorship this year.

Loser of that election runoff Sen. David Vitter decided to call it quits in his current spot after that debacle Republicans inflicted upon themselves. Throughout most of that cycle observers considered a GOP candidate a lock to win, and Vitter the favorite to do so.

Republicans have put themselves in the strong position they hold in the state now – near supermajority status in the Legislature; control of the Supreme Court, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Service Commission; holders of every state statewide office except soon governor; of the seven U.S. House seats serve in six of them; and have both senators – at the state level less for what they have done than the self-destruction arranged by state Democrats with their insistence on following national Democrats ever further leftward ideologically. This hari-kari encouraged factionalism among Republicans since Democrats made themselves too weak to offer the necessary incentive for the GOP to emphasize the winning conservative ideology that earned them the state’s majority and instead lazily allowed Republicans to base their candidacies and policies on the state’s common past political cultural themes of populism and personalism, making personalities rather than ideology the flashpoints of conflict and policy-making.


Gridlock produces better LA govt than leftist agenda

As the run-up to the inauguration of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards proceeds, increasingly the left and its media allies will try to propagate the narrative that the best policy outcomes will come from the Republican-led legislature bending to the will of the new Democrat governor, ignoring the flaw fatal to that argument.

My Advocate colleague Stephanie Grace attempts this in defending the attempt of Edwards to swing the election of House Speaker to a Democrat, despite the fact that Republicans have about 60 percent of the seats in the body. This affront to the notion of majority rule and popular representation she justifies on two bases, that it has happened before and it would provide for more “productive” government.

I addressed that first notion recently, pointing out that when the minority Republicans corralled the job in 2007 they trailed Democrats by just one seat and no party had an absolute majority, the only time this occurred in modern House history. A precedent of a party as small as the House Democrats today nevertheless having one of its own made chamber leader did occur during Republican former Gov. Mike Foster’s second term, but Foster himself did not differ tremendously in ideology with the then-majority Democrats, having been one himself right up to his first election.


Top job to speak volumes about Edwards, Democrats

Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards and the rest of Louisiana’s Democrats face a decision the answer to which can influence whether his shock victory this fall signals any real life in the party as a relevant statewide political agent.

Despite a hard left agenda masked by moderate platitudes here and there, Edwards took advantage of fluky conditions to become the first state statewide-elected official to win as a Democrat since 2007. This glimmer of hope for a battered party will stay a one-off event unless Democrats act to capitalize by forsaking a hyper-liberal agenda in a center-right state and governing, as Edwards alleges he will, in the center.

And thus comes a big test for Edwards to practice what he preached. Recently candidate qualification occurred for each major party’s state central committee (and parish executive committee) seats. For Democrats, registered Democrats during the presidential preference primary election in March may select a male and female candidate in each state House district, although many will not have that chance as the majority of these spots were uncontested.


Decision again looms for Kennedy's political future

At this time last year, Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy contemplated whether he should leverage an assumedly successful reelection into a run for the Senate in 2016 or to take a stab at running for governor this year. Now at this time this year, the Republican contemplates whether he should leverage a successful reelection into a run for the Senate next year or to take a stab at running for governor in 2019.

Facing a crowded field of Republicans, then Kennedy had no guarantee that he could outpace it, especially with Sen. David Vitter leading it. By contrast, no likely Senate competitors had enough positive statewide exposure as did he, or nearly as much money at his disposal. In the end, Kennedy deferred by endorsing Vitter, the favorite who if won then could appoint his own successor to fill out the term. Kennedy very well might have scored that bonus as among major Republicans only he and Vitter had built political careers trying to fuse populism and conservatism.

Then the voters pulled a fast one and sent Vitter down to defeat at the hands of Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, which caused Vitter to keep his office in play by announcing he would not run for reelection. As Kennedy stood a decent chance of becoming the Senate placeholder, a new job that would have brought electoral benefits, this actually slightly degraded his chances for next fall. But as a survey showed, commissioned by the political action committee formed to support him, he still retains the advantage over names anticipated to run that could win.


Moving N.O. monuments lacks foresight, tolerance

At a public meeting to gather input on whether New Orleans should tear down four historic monuments, the intemperance and intolerance most often exhibited by supporters of that notion illustrates exactly the imperative of, for the most part, their preservation as is.

An idea harbored by Democrat New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that he made public almost six months ago advocates removal of statues of three historical figures – Robert E. Lee at the top of a column within Lee Circle, P.G.T. Beauregard at the main entrance to City Park, Jefferson Davis at the intersection of Canal Street and the eponymous Parkway – and the Battle of Liberty Place monument, which doesn’t actually reside at the location where the Reconstruction-era fracas occurred, from city grounds, with installation of them perhaps in museums. All of these fixtures having existed a minimum of a century, many don’t want them removed (including a healthy minority of blacks) even as some special interests have argued that somehow these offend because they appear to valorize figures and events that promote racism.

The meeting turned raucous with bombastic displays from representatives of both sides of the argument, but with the excitability heavily weighed towards the monument opponents, demonstrating again that in robust democracies that the right to take offense at some assumed slight exists only because full political rights and protection against discrimination already have been achieved by the group claiming aggrieved status. No one has the right not to feel offended in our system of government, but as the objects in question reside on public property, informed democratic vetting by policy-makers as to whether the city should allow these to stand their grounds should prevail.


The Advocate column, Dec. 13, 2015

Religious liberty executive order would do more harm than good


Incident exposes hypocrisy of Edwards, Democrats

While Democrat state Sen. Troy Brown faces no ethical responsibility to resign his position, his self-inflicted problems expose the hypocrites comprising his political party.

Recently, authorities arrested Brown on a complaint of striking a woman, apparently after a sustained period of partying. Turns out he has carried on an affair with the alleged victim for a decade, according to her. Meanwhile, he appears to spend more of his time at an address outside of the district at the residence where his wife registered to vote, and gave that address to arresting authorities. He also gets his mail there and more often than not in filling out disclosure forms uses that address.

None of this automatically should compel his resignation. A court has yet to find him guilty of any charge, much less a felony that would force him out of the Legislature as dictated by the Constitution. And while someone has filed suit trying to remove him from office for failure to reside in the district he represents, the procedure by law to do this remains not yet invoked.


Caddo must rectify unconstitutional scheme now

The Caddo Parish Commission would end its term on a high note by dismantling what has become increasingly obviously an unconstitutional scheme that enriches its members at the expense of the public and making taxpayers whole.

Last week, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued a blistering report castigating the parish for violating the state Constitution with its inclusion of its elected legislators in the Caddo Parish Employees Retirement System. The parish established CPERS in the wake of federal law mandating that local government employees must join Social Security unless they had a specific retirement system run by local or state governments in which to participate.

While Louisiana has the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System that permits unclassified parish employees, a designation that includes elected officials, to join in lieu of Social Security, in 1997 Art. X Sec. 29.1 of the Constitution went into effect that barred part-time public servant membership in any pension plan, which includes Caddo Parish commissioners (even if, because of subsequent legislation, they now pay themselves at a rate as if they had a legally-defined full-time job). Caddo had participated in PERS, forcibly because of a court decision since 1993, until a 1999 change to state law. Yet when in 2000 Caddo set up its own pension system, it included commissioners in that despite the Constitution’s unambiguous language.


Dardenne appointment designed to provide fig leaf

Confirming the worst-kept secret of the past month or so, yesterday state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the incoming governor, named Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne his commissioner of administration starting early next year. While perhaps intended to connote “bipartisanship” from the incoming Democrat in selecting a lifelong Republican for the most important appointive job in an administration, it merely provides a fig leaf for his true agenda.

Both men denied the appointment as the culmination of a deal allegedly struck after the general election, or that they even spoke of it specifically, when Dardenne, having finished fourth, without much delay endorsed Edwards against his fellow Republican Sen. David Vitter. This smacked of 1979 when an endorsement by vanquished gubernatorial candidate Democrat House Speaker Bubba Henry of Republican Rep. Dave Treen in the runoff against Democrat Public Service Commissioner Louis Lambert preceded Treen naming Henry to the same job after his narrow defeat of Lambert. However, the governors do not hand out this highly-sought position trivially or by extra-sensory perception; let’s just say a fact checker would give them both zero stars for veracity on that assertion.

Departures from the truth, judging by Gov.-elect Honor Code’s campaigning, don’t represent anything different from him, but a lack of forthrightness marks unusual behavior from Dardenne. As a state senator, Dardenne often backed measures for greater accountability and transparency in a state government then in the thrall of populism. As Edwards and others try to resurrect this fully back into policy, with its emphasis on privileging others at the expense of the people as a whole, Dardenne will find himself asked to facilitate this.


SAVE credit demise may imperil higher education

So Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, when he assumes Louisiana’s governorship in about a month, wants to have the Legislature repeal the Student Assessment for a Valuable Education tax credit later next year. This should make Louisiana’s higher education interests nervous.

The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration formulated the SAVE credit as a method to hide large-scale tax increases in the main approved by Edwards and majorities in the legislature last year, making these dollars appear offset by the credit one gets by instituting a new fee for college that students must pay but then allowing its write-off in entirety, conveniently without the enrollee having to do any paperwork.

However, to make it work in that fashion, this produced a practical effect of dedicating $350 million to higher education, or roughly a quarter of all state money budgeted for higher education in fiscal year 2016. Doing this fulfilled the desires expressed by a number of higher education officials, who for years, even decades, found their funding buffeted by the vagaries of a budget that dedicated a large portion of revenues to specific purposes – but except for the Taylor Opportunity Programs for Scholars awards and some grant monies, none dedicated to higher education. This meant that in times of shortfall this area disproportionately took reductions, so dependent upon the general fund and funds sweeps it has become.


Despite win margin, Edwards received no mandate

As part of their plan to control government, State Rep. John Bel Edwards and state Democrats will try to convince the world that he received a mandate with his election to governor. Some already have bought into that. Don’t, because it was not.

When Gov. Bobby Jindal won reelection four years ago, from some came the opposite reaction, that despite his winning about two-thirds of the vote without even having to endure a runoff this did not constitute a mandate, which is large and widespread agreement with a candidate’s agenda that the electorate wishes to see enacted or continued. Analysis of the election’s data and comparison of it to the 2007 results demonstrated a mandate existed, not just because of Jindal’s historic win margin but also as, even as turnout declined as a result of the uncompetitiveness of the contest at the top of the ballot, other more competitive statewide contests saw even steeper drop-offs in turnout. Further analysis showed reduced turnout for the governor’s race was more a product of satisfaction of the preceding four years that of disinterest.

By contrast, the 2015 election runoff, with higher overall turnout than in 2011 (keep in mind that typically turnout increases by roughly a half of a percentage point from state office general elections to runoffs; in this case, by that margin), displayed indicators of lack of voter enthusiasm for the contest. Interestingly, despite the more competitive nature of this contest versus the 2007 general election in which Jindal won an absolute majority and defeated his nearest competitor by 37 points, 145,000 more people voted in that election than in this recent one.


LSU head's statement too inviting of speech code

With the transmission of a curiously tone-deaf note to the university community, Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander gave notice that the University seemed ready to surrender its role as an instigator and propagator of critical inquiry, robust debate, and advancement of learning.

After the University of Missouri’s leadership committed professional hari-kari last month in the face of emotion-laden, mindless protests over administrative clumsiness in dealing with alleged racial incidents on its Columbia campus, Alexander felt compelled to send out a memo addressing the issue. He wrote, “Freedom of speech is an integral part of the collegiate experience, but no one is entitled to express their views in a way that diminishes others” because that means “members of our community do not feel safe and welcome at their own university.” Thus, “Oppressive behavior, whether symbolic, verbal, or physical, cannot and will not be tolerated at LSU.”

Unfortunately and problematically, Alexander did not elaborate on what he considers constitutes “oppressive behavior,” although he pledged campus-wide discussion on the matter. Nonetheless, while claiming “Freedom of expression is a sacred right,” he added “that right should be exercised hand-in-hand with a demonstration of our mutual respect for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.”


Edwards positioned to break campaign pledge

On the issue of Medicaid expansion, state Rep. John Bel Edwards will have the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is immediately when he takes over as governor in early January, confirming whether he meant what he said during the campaign that he wishes to work together with his political opponents for the good of the state, or if he demonstrates that his habit of dissembling continues.

The Democrat with a Republican legislature near supermajority status in the wake of a report from the Legislative Fiscal Office must deal with a monkey wrench laying waste to plans to push an indirect tax onto health care insurance ratepayers, consumers, and taxpayers. He as well as most of the Legislature intended for last session’s HCR 75 to fund the state’s portion of the expansion by charging most hospitals a fee related to their revenues. In turn, they would pass these higher costs along, causing insurers to raise their rates, taxpayers to pay more for state employee health benefits and for the 2.25 percent tax on health insurance plans for new policies under the state’s managed capitation Bayou Health program that serves Medicaid enrollees, and consumers to have out-of-pocket expenses increase for health care.

But when the LFO picked over the particulars of the resolution, it concluded that the state would receive little if any “savings” – the difference between state costs associated with accepting the federal dollars and the funding responsibilities that go along with it – forecast for the first four or five years (depending on the scenario). This happens because the resolution’s wording in essence does not allow for the swapping out of Disproportionate Share Hospital dollars – federal grant money the state matches for uncompensated care of the indigent uninsured – to go to other Medicaid programmatic uses, and the constitutional amendment that set all of this up creates a funding mechanism starting at a base rate that cannot go lower without cutting of other Medicaid programmatic elements similarly and two-thirds of the Legislature or its Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget overriding, when the Revenue Estimating Conference makes a deficit declaration.


GOP to blame for possible loss of House leadership

While Louisiana Republicans can blame the state’s peculiar political culture, their elected officials deserve opprobrium as well for allowing a real possibility that, despite a clear majority in the House of Representatives, this chamber may elect a leadership controlled by Democrats.

Last week, jockeying for the speakership of the House commenced, with Democrat state Rep. Walt Leger proclaiming himself in the lead. Alleging that he has at this time enough votes to secure the post, this means that since Republicans hold 61 seats in the 105-member body, assuming that the two independents voted his way he would need nine GOP defectors to forsake their party’s choice for speaker. In part this might be due to the influence of Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the incoming governor, following the informal norm that allows that official some discretion over determining chamber leadership.

It doesn’t appear that House Republicans have settled on a candidate at this time, but a meeting of the caucus produced a document of 51 signatures pledging a vote for a Republican, implying that as many as 10 possibly could defect, making Leger’s possibility of claiming the top chamber spot a potential reality. In all likelihood, these ten include those who have given public support in one form or fashion to Edwards during and after the campaign – state Reps. Bryan Adams, Chris Broadwater, Thomas Carmody, Kenny Havard, Joe Lopinto, and Rob Shadoin – and maybe others who often have bucked the party leadership on certain issues aligning with Edwards, such as state Rep. Rogers Pope, hardly distinguishable from Edwards on education issues.


Thanksgiving Day, 2015

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time 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 Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. My column for The Advocate will run on Easter Sunday.

With Thursday, Nov. 26 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Fluke election result won't alter LA politics maturation

Politically attentive conservatives in Louisiana must feel like the Frank Costello character in the movie The Departed, groaning “How … did this happen?” with the election of Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards as governor. Understanding how leads to the realization that its uniqueness likely does not change the evolution of Louisiana’s political culture.

Costello uttered this plaintive question after having gotten shot in a police ambush organized by his mole in the state troopers, betrayed because the mole thought Costello would betray him to federal authorities. In this instance, conservatives statewide suffered betrayal at the hands of some voters who typically cast ballots for Republicans in statewide contests but did not this time because they feared delivering the state’s top office into the hands of Republican Sen. David Vitter. After all, they got told often and long enough, even by Republicans, that Vitter was mean and that Edwards served in the military.

The state’s populist heritage played some role in this, a trait that Edwards skillfully exploited. With a public conditioned so long to evaluate politics on the basis of personalities and not issues, the Edwards campaign hammered at this and obfuscated as best it could, if not falsified, to mass audiences that large majority of his issue preferences incongruent with the Louisiana public’s, with some obvious success.


NW LA produces most surprising 2015 election results

Perhaps the most surprising, and deviant, results from Louisiana’s round of state and local elections in 2015 came in the northwest part of the state – where big money outside of the area appears to have played significant roles in these contests.

In one instance, that accrued to the advantage of conservative political elements. Republican businessman Tony Davis narrowly defeated appointed incumbent Republican educator Mary Harris for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education District 4 seat. Davis entered late, backing the Common Core for State Standards Initiative and worked to expand school choice, while Harris opposed both.

Aided by large spending on his behalf by political action committees that favored education reform, Davis overcame a 43-36 percent deficit coming out of the general election, where the opponent who did not make the runoff sounded more like Harris than he. Possibly a change in rhetoric by Davis, from supporting Common Core to stating a desire to “scrap” it and to “revise and replace Common Core with our own Louisiana standards” – in other words, follow the current process taking place under the auspices of the Department of Education and Legislature – may have helped win over some voters.


For LA, quadrennial winter will pass, leaving better future

I recommend reading the series of seven articles at The Hayride by site publisher Scott McKay (perhaps easiest would be to start here and then find links to the remainder of these as “related links”). While perhaps too pessimistic, a broad review of their general themes and fine-tuning the their implications indicates that the pain and suffering most of Louisiana seems set to undergo to enrich a few in the end likely will produce something positive and enduring for all.

McKay correctly worries that the ascent of Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards to the Governor’s Mansion early next year constitutes a clear step backwards for those interested in a better quality of life, greater prosperity, and safeguarding individual liberty for Louisianans. Edwards’ cornfield liberalism directly descends from the state’s horror show history with populism, which for decades made it the laughingstock of the country, ranked near the bottom in almost positive indicator for a person’s life prospects and towards the top of almost every negative indicator of such. Not only do he and his cronies think along the lines that produced this agonizing waste of human potential and happiness, some of them actually aided and abetted in the operation of this fiefdom, and show either indifference to the wages of their foolishness or revel in it as they attempt to extend their command and control over society to their benefit and society’s detriment.

No doubt that as governor Edwards can do considerable harm to the people. I noted in a recent Advocate column just some of the negative policy decisions he has a chance unilaterally to produce, given the powers of the office. Forcing the public regardless of its rights to religious freedom to act in ways that validates homosexual behavior as normative, raising the state’s minimum wage paid out by contractors that kills jobs, engaging in sue-and-settle tactics to impose policy bypassing democratic means (although, as McKay points out in general terms, incoming Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry might have the capability to restrict that exercise of executive power), condemning more families and children to substandard education by defunding some school choice options, all Edwards can inflict through use of administrative discretion, executive orders, and line item veto decisions.


Senate election politics impinge on LA governor's race

Politics dictates that Louisiana can’t even get through its gubernatorial election before senatorial election considerations come into play, illustrating a past potentially bad political call.

From the Republican perspective, the continued silence of erstwhile candidate for governor Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle regarding any endorsement for Republican Sen. David Vitter for the office speaks unwanted volumes. It might seem the most natural thing in the world to lend his support, as Angelle made a conscious effort to position himself as a conservative alternative to Vitter for voters inclined to the GOP.

However, given Vitter’s underperformance to date in securing the office, Angelle now may think that, regardless of Vitter winning, losing, or drawing, he’ll pursue the Senate seat of Vitter’s in 2016, making an endorsement now of a potential future opponent for another office counterproductive. That reticence brought a rebuke this week from Republican Treasurer John Kennedy, whose motives for doing so don’t seem quite as clear.


Bad timing, Obama policy failures cause Jindal exit

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign ended abruptly today, the most serious candidacy ever by a Louisianan ironically ultimately undone by a divisive and unpopular president’s policies that put the Republican in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When Jindal assumed office in 2008, he seemed set up well to target the White House down the road. A brilliant, principled conservative paired with a Legislature still controlled nominally by Democrats but teetering on the brink of passing over to Republican control, a success story awaited him: by instituting a conservative agenda to wrench the state away from its populist past, in the years ahead after implementing those fundamental changes he could have the chance to point to that record of accomplishment as a reason to promote him.

But he achieved only partial results. Wisely, he started with the easy stuff with a wide mandate like ethics reform, and then broached out in a technocratic manner to make government work more efficiently by curbing the giveaway mentality that so infused Louisiana public policy, latent populism assigning as it did government the role of redistributor in chief, through policy such as Medicaid reform. The strategy then dictated building up political capital this way through not asking the Legislature for big policy changes and concentrating on what could be altered through changes in administrative practices. Ensuring this way a second term and hopefully GOP legislative majorities (which happened), then the first part of that one he could dedicate to big policy changes to position himself with an excellent résumé should a presidential run still seem possible and desirable.


Debate shows lying like breathing to Edwards

We already know from last week that, as surely as the sun rises in the east, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. David Vitter whoops up on his head-shaking Democrat opponent state Rep. John Bel Edwards in debates. Tonight, it’s not so important that Vitter went Holly Holm on Edwards’ Ronda Rousey in forensics as typically understood, but that Edwards displays an alternative set of forensic abilities that allows him to tell tall tales without a hint that he acts aberrantly.

While Edwards obfuscated, misdirected, distorted, and lied throughout the hour-long affair, his biggest departures from the facts occurred early in the affair, and showed his considerable range in torturing reality. Right off the bat, on a question addressing Syrian refugees, Vitter gigged Edwards on the shifting sand under the latter’s position, pointing out that in Facebook posts Edwards first enunciated a policy to “accommodate” federal government plans to resettle refugees, then changed it to the more independent-sounding “assist,” and finally issued a statement that he would do neither and wanted those resettlement plans to stop.

Brazening it out, Edwards denied that he had changed his mind, but problematically for him the enterprising website The Hayride busted him hours earlier on that. Of course, he likely figured the typical viewer probably had no knowledge of his record on this so he could get away with it.

Bossier, Caddo should defeat again hotel tax hike

A bad idea repackaged slightly still is a bad idea, and on Nov. 21 Bossier and Caddo Parish voters should vote accordingly negative on the proposal to fund the parishes’ joint Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau’s 1.5 percent tax on hotel and overnight camping fees.

Voters narrowly rejected this retread just over a year ago, with this version differing only in that it asks for a half-cent fewer. It would commence on Pearl Harbor Day of this year and last nearly a dozen years, the proceeds of which would go to trying to attract sporting events, teams to play in Independence Stadium, and airlines and flights in and out of Shreveport Regional Airport.

As previously noted in this space, the Bureau continues to sit on lots of cash – over $5 million of which over $3 million in unrestricted – a growing total as it takes in more than it spends. And the airport’s problem is its high fares as it continues to rank among the most expensive for airports with 100,000 to 200,000 originating passengers. There’s no reason to throw unneeded dollars at the Bureau nor will more money solve for the inefficiencies at the airport.


Veterans' Day, 2015

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday before noon (sometimes after; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time 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 on another day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas.

With Wednesday, Nov. 11 being Veterans' Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.


Debate brightens Vitter's gubernatorial chances

Perhaps Republican Sen. David Vitter in retrospect will regret not trying harder to attend more televised debates earlier in the gubernatorial campaign from the way he mopped the floor with Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the first of two runoff debates for the office.

Each candidate brought a different agenda to the spectacle. Vitter, who needs to tap into the right-of-center Louisiana electorate’s natural tendencies, had to keep the affair focused on issues and ideology. He also had to look for chances to tie Edwards to general dissatisfaction over fiscal budgeting in the Legislature, with a special emphasis on exposing where the rhetoric of the leader of House Democrats clashed with his actual record as a proxy attack on his credibility. For his part, Edwards had to dodge revelation of issues preferences where his liberalism and comity with Pres. Barack Obama stood out, preferably by keeping the spotlight on alleged character comparisons. In addition, he could look to launch selective attacks on Vitter’s record in Washington and join him to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who many hold responsible for the state’s fiscal uncertainties with whom he and the Legislature cooperated in producing.

And both embarked on their charted courses, except Vitter ended up chugging along while Edwards hit numerous roadblocks. Granted, Vitter had the advantage in that the debate sponsors Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the interest group Council for a Better Louisiana designed it mainly to focus on issues, but the degree to which he successfully parried Edwards’ attacks while keeping Edwards on the defensive impressed.

Endorsement choices illustrate LA GOP shortcomings

While state general election results confirmed that Republicans remain Louisiana’s majority party, the behavior of some of its leading elected officials shows it has yet to learn how to govern in the fashion the state deserves and needs.

When the dust settles after Nov. 21, the GOP almost certainly will have extended slightly its legislative majorities and should continue to maintain an iron grip on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, it may not replicate its sweep of statewide elective offices, and most vexingly the one most likely to flip would be the most important, governor.

Although endorsements typically sway few voters, in this apparently close race they could make the difference. And so the failure not only of third-placed gubernatorial candidate Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle to endorse second-placed Republican Sen. David Vitter in the runoff, but also the endorsement by fourth-placed Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of the first-placed Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards could prove costly to the GOP retaining the governor’s mansion.


LA Democrats indeed dead, but not yet gone

With all due respect to Shreveport native and political analyst Charlie Cook (who once graciously guest lectured in one of my classes), he’s only half-right when he declares that if Republican Sen. David Vitter wins the upcoming gubernatorial runoff “we can declare Louisiana’s Democratic Party dead and gone.”

With that statement, he tries to make the point that for this specific election, Democrats have had everything go their way. Despite general majority public support for his issue preferences, Vitter has run an indifferent campaign that only occasionally exploits that advantage. He carries with him the taint of Washington, an uncomfortable past admission, and a take-no-prisoners style of politics that while adhering to Louisiana’s populist heritage does so at the cost of making it too easy for members of his own party to get hung up on personality rather than issues that then becomes divisive.

These dynamics allowed his runoff opponent Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards to take his blank slate and manipulate the less attentive public into thinking he is much more moderate than his lifetime Louisiana Legislature Log voting score of 25, one of the most liberal/populist among all legislators in his period in the Legislature, shows he really is. These also have kept the contest discourse much more on personality than on policy, to the GOP’s disadvantage as over the past decade Republicans have proven if they make elections ideological, they win.


Counterintuitive polling data suggests unpredictable race

If Louisianans wondering what is up with this year’s state races across the country and at home have learned, it’s that it’s hard to predict what’s going to transpire in the state’s gubernatorial contest.

Earlier this week, voters delivered verdicts in elections in Kentucky and Virginia that defied expectations and polling, bringing a Republican ticket home in the Bluegrass State and keeping the statehouse in GOP hands in the Old Dominion. The seeming surprise of it all matches that observed at present in the Bayou State.

In the last couple of days, governor’s contest polls with varying partisan backers and records of accuracy (one historically overestimating Democrat strength, another this year having continually showed different results from others that were more consistent with the actual outcome) all gave Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards a lead over Republican Sen. David Vitter, even enough margin for an outright win regardless of which way the undecided portions would swing. Such results are entirely counterintuitive from the general election results, where Republican candidates lead the Democrats running by 15 percent.


Will Angelle, Dardenne sulk or show statesmanship?

Will a Republican firing squad help Louisiana’s Democrats in 2015 party like it’s 1979 in reverse?

In last year’s win by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy over Democratic former Sen. Mary Landrieu, which could have happened about a month earlier had military retiree Rob Maness not run in a race that he should have realized he never had a chance to win as he differed little from Cassidy on the issues, Maness did eventually, perhaps grudgingly, give Cassidy an endorsement. Maness being in the contest made Cassidy unable to win the general election outright, and six days after it Maness put his money where his mouth had been to back up his saying during the campaign that he would prefer Cassidy over Landrieu.

It’s now been well over a week since Republican Sen. David Vitter made it into a runoff with Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, yet the two Republicans vanquished as a result, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, have yet to utter a peep about whom they would prefer. During the campaign, Angelle deferred in releasing such information, but Dardenne implied that he would not endorse Vitter in such a circumstance.


Turnout, not endorsements, key to Landry hopes

A key endorsement picked up by attorney general candidate former Rep. Jeff Landry will help, but does not establish him as the favorite in the runoff election with fellow Republican incumbent Buddy Caldwell.

Caldwell, whose chumminess with trial lawyers, related to his habit of reeling out contingency contracts for state business, and his poor choices in what cases to pursue and how made conservatives suspicious enough of the former Democrat to have the state GOP endorse Landry. The general election saw Caldwell pull only 35 percent of the vote, narrowly leading Landry’s 33 percent.

In third place came Gerri Broussard-Baloney, the officially-endorsed Democrat who drew 18 percent. Recently, she surprisingly endorsed Landry despite her long-time affiliation with the left wing of state Democrats, citing his reform agenda for the office.


"Ban the box" produces no benefits, only costs

If one newly-elected member of the Louisiana Legislature has her way, Baton Rouge and perhaps all of Louisiana would emulate bad policy followed by New Orleans.

Current East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Councilor Denise Marcelle, fresh off an election win that will send her to the state House of Representatives next year, as a swan song has proposed that the consolidated government adopt a “ban the box” ordinance for its hiring. This means that its employment applications no longer would contain a request for a prospective employee to indicate whether he had committed felonies and to provide information about those.

In 2014, the Legislature sidelined numerous bills to try to impose this for differing kinds of hiring in the state. New Orleans, which leads local governments in Louisiana in all things stupid, adopted this for its city hiring a couple of years ago. State regulations strongly suggest but do not outright prohibit state agency hiring of felons, but does not address those with misdemeanor-only records.


Campaign modes depressed LA general election turnout

The abnormally low turnout for the 2015 Louisiana state general elections seems mainly a consequence of campaign-specific factors more than for longer term, secular reasons.

Unofficially, turnout for the governor’s race only reached 38.5 percent, with lower figures for other offices and ballot items. It does barely exceed the 2011 figure by about a point, but that was a 50-point blowout resulting in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s reelection. With four strong candidates, this year’s was supposed to excite the electorate into participating at a much higher rate.

This result has led to much musing about the causes of this quiescence, not all of it informed or accurate. Contrary to one report, which claimed that vote totals in gubernatorial contests have declined every election since 1983, that’s true only insofar as general elections. Runoffs typically see higher totals, because some Louisiana voters treat the general election as if it were (which it often is mistakenly called) a primary election and aren’t motivated enough to join the fun until the runoff.