Search This Blog


Call content good; politicized timing for it bad

Right idea, wrong time; a day late, a dollar short; pick your pithy aphorism but regardless they accurately describe the request by state Rep. Joe Harrison to have a special session of the Louisiana Legislature called prior to this year’s regular session.

Harrison wants the subject matter to encompass the loosening of budgetary dedications that steer revenues to specified expenditures; some end up funding items well beyond any actual need and then forces the state to sweep these funds into other areas of higher priority, a cumbersome and confusing process that has turned annual and makes responsible budgeting chaotic. He also hopes that such a convening would take the opportunity to discard tax exceptions that do not stimulate economic development in a cost-effective fashion that also generate budgetary inefficiency.

Both are good ideas and worthy of pursuit. It’s just that the timing’s all wrong. The upcoming regular session the Constitution specifies as “fiscal-only;” after the session’s commencement, each member may introduce only five each non-fiscal bills, and only during these regular sessions may matters that have the effect of raising taxes be introduced. In other words, even as it is shorter than the “general” kind of regular session that occurs every even-numbered year alternating with this, it exists precisely to concentrate on the kind of fiscal matters Harrison proposes.


LA should pursue beneifts of increased civic literacy

As the amount of rhetoric increases concerning policy responsiveness by government, Louisiana would do well to embrace a growing sentiment that emphasizes civic literacy to address this.

Several other states are considering either increasing secondary and/or college requirements regarding basic knowledge about American government or requiring high school students for their diploma to pass tests based upon the citizenship test for naturalized citizens, or both. Interestingly, education in civics has declined in the past decade because of the implementation of No Child Left Behind education standards that emphasized science and language content. Testing of high school and college graduates on the subject of how their government formed, works, and basic facts about it and the political figures part of it often show discouraging levels of knowledge overall.

By increasing this knowledge, even if it’s just elementary facts based upon historical and current events, it’s argued that this increases awareness about the political world that spurs participation and reasoned deliberation in it. Political scientists long have noted that the more familiar that people are with the political world, the less intimidated they feel in trying to understand and participate in it; people shy away from engaging in an activity if they do not understand it and/or do not feel competence in trying to interact with it. Presumably increased efficacy on these attitudes would spur more people into voting, spending more time considering their vote, become more active through other modes in political participation, and might trigger discussion of politics more with others, perhaps encouraging them to increase their attentiveness to and participation in politics as well.


Double standard: Scalise guilty before proven innocent

In the aftermath of the guilt-by-association show trial that some persist in waging against Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, an interesting observation raised is that Scalise could have avoided problems of this nature by proactively disavowing extremist political figures and their messages. As it turns out, such advice applies only selectively and reflects a larger narrow-mindedness in the minds of those who give it.

Louisiana’s Scalise, then a state representative in 2002 and along with the Red Cross and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, addressed a neighborhood association organized by one of its officers, his topic being an impending tax vote. Yet that organizer also was an official in a white supremacist organization that hours later would use the same room for its meeting, and says some of the look-in audience to Scalise’s brief speech was comprised of members of that latter group.

Gossip about that hit the media last week. Scalise, barely remembering the episode and as most politicians of the time having no idea about the racist group, allowed discretion to be the better part of valor and apologized anyway, considering the odiousness of the group’s views. No sane politician who wanted any kind of political career since the 1970s knowingly would have anything to do with such a toxic group, such would be the backlash if discovered. Indeed, testimonials by others in the world of politics about his character and his record in office show Scalise would be one of the last people not to be repelled by hanging around such a group.


Kennedy move would help Kleckley, hurt Caldwell

The odd musical chairs that comes about every four years in Louisiana, only accelerated by the introduction of legislative term limits that first took hold in the 2007 election cycle, again has elected officials positioning themselves to abandon current offices in seek of higher/different callings later this year, with dominoes falling as a result.

The gubernatorial term limitation already has the current lieutenant governor, a current Public Service Commissioner, and a state representative ready to rumble for that office (and a sitting U.S. senator). For the vacated lieutenant governor’s post, a big-city mayor, a recently-retired parish president, a continuing parish president, and a state senator have pledged they’ll run. A former congressman looks to take on the current attorney general for that post. None are term limited.

Regardless of limits, potential candidates often feel an imperative to run for something for other reasons of timing. They may feel if they aspire to such an office if they wait longer they may get too old to run effectively, or that the near-term dynamics of the contest may be less favorable to them in the future than in the present.


LA tax rate relief, exception paring possible in 2015

It’s never not the time to discuss state tax rate relief in Louisiana. In fact, it may provide the way by which to get rid of counterproductive tax exceptions.

Increasingly both lawmakers and analysts have decried the presence of some of these on the books as sapping the state’s revenues for little beneficial impact. The trenchancy of this condition has accelerated as the state continues to fight its way past revenues over the past few years that struggled to keep up with escalating costs. Some lawmakers hope to deal with this issue in the upcoming legislative session, but the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds vote this year to disband these plus Gov. Bobby Jindal’s strong tendency to see these as tax increases the concept of which he doesn’t support makes that difficult. And as in 2016 constitutionally the Legislature cannot take up these items in a regular session that may push back reforms until 2017.

Yet a number of states lead by Republicans are looking to make tax cuts in this coming years. Fresh off of elections that in some cases brought them to power and in other cases increased their majorities – in some cases because they cut taxes – these states look to continue momentum in this direction, even if cautiously given that some states have budget environments not dissimilar to Louisiana’s.