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The populism intertwined in Louisiana’s political culture contains a fatal conceit that has held back the state for so long, which expressed itself in the Senate’s decision henceforth to hold secret ballots for Senate leaders that ultimately will change little, and perhaps for the worse, because the problems deemed solved by this do not come from outside the Legislature, but from within its own members.
Under current rules, a voice vote determines the presidency. Under the new rule passed yesterday, the president and president pro tempore will be selected by secret ballot in two rounds if necessary. Currently, the House follows the current procedure, but it could make a similar change today.
The rationale stated by some for the switch that attracted all but five votes was that it increased legislative independence. Supposedly by having a public vote this would prevent a governor from backing a particular candidate, where knowledge of who voted for whom would guide the chief executive in decisions such as concerning members’ bills to support or veto these, capital outlay items to recommend, whether to veto those, and in influencing committee assignments as the president makes those appointments. In essence, a governor could not visit retribution lacking this information, and it could increase the chances of election of somebody less allied with the governor, for by breaking the governor’s stranglehold senators now will have gained the liberty to vote for whomever, so the assertion goes.
From comments proffered by state Rep. Lance Harris, leader of the GOP House delegation, at a meeting of Baton Rouge Republicans, we can draw two conclusions: level of government, national or state, doesn’t affect the tendency for party leaders in elected offices to lose touch with the people that elected them and that it takes some self-deception and delusion to hold that office, that personifies the products of this year’s session of the Legislature stemming from the state’s political culture.
Harris seemed taken aback when members of the conservative audience queried why the party’s House contingent seemed overly eager to embrace non-conservative solutions in dealing with the troubled state budget, such as the largest tax increase in the aggregate in the state’s history, rather than by making more of an effort to right-size state government. Perhaps his lower lip trembled when he replied, and what he said deserves full rendition to understand the incredible lack of self-awareness contained within it:
You don’t have the LGBT agenda this year. You don’t have the pro-choice agenda this year. You don’t have the expansion of Medicaid this year. You have gotten everything you wanted as a conservative on the social issues you want. Period. But we still have to govern as the Republican Party when it comes to the finances of the state of Louisiana. And to call some of us liberals because we have to make that tough choice …. We have taken care of 90 percent of what conservatives want taken care of.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:45
What began as a session promising to accomplish major strides in bring Louisiana higher education into the 21st century, and perhaps set up even more beneficial future change, instead looks to have come completely undone.
The House’s refusal to send SB 155 by state Sen. Jack Donahue to the voters to amend the Constitution to get the Legislature out of the tuition-setting business certainly erases a major reform tool in higher education policy. This means that not only does the Legislature, contrary to the practice in almost every state where higher education systems make tuition and fee decisions without interference, continues to have a veto power over these kinds of decisions, but also it need muster only a third or more of the members of one chamber to block any of these, the only state where a legislative supermajority must approve of these increases.
It’s a horrible policy that has led to the inappropriately low pricing of tuition – only 38th highest for baccalaureate-and-above institutions in a state that ranks 30th in per capita income – and thereby overreliance on taxpayers to subsidize it. Too many lawmakers enjoy claiming they prevent the cost of higher education from being too high to those who benefit directly from it by having this veto in place to provide cover, while spreading out the costs among taxpayers who don’t have as intense feelings about the issue as do the beneficiaries (who typically are significantly wealthier than the mass public thereby better able to mobilize lobbying resources to magnify their persuasive abilities). If Louisiana higher education ever has a chance of becoming efficient in delivery – both by the process and in its structure, at present wildly overbuilt at the top – it needs greater discipline induced by leaning less on taxpayers and more on its own resources, and this amendment could have provided that.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:00
Bad choices made by both legislators and New Orleans imperil funding that could go to reducing the large backlog of services for people with disabilities in Louisiana’s fiscal year 2016 budget.
Advocates for and the disabilities community initially were cheered, if not overjoyed, when the House of Representatives sent to the Senate a budget that included around $61 million that not only would restore funding for recipients of New Opportunities Waivers frozen as a result of mid-year budget cuts but also could open up thousands more. By apportioning around $23 million in state general funds, federal funding could make up the difference.
But any such joy would be short-lived upon discovery that the state match relied upon defunding the Office of Public Health, in what the legislator whose amendment to the budget provided the means of finance state Rep. Chris Broadwater would admit catered to a constituent’s request designed only to get attention about alleged shortcomings at the agency. The Senate Finance Committee reversed the decision and when the Senate takes up the budget today it will consider funding only $3.5 million in state money, enough to unfreeze the slots.
This space warned two years ago that the parts of the gun had been made, and implored voters not to put it together. But they either were ignorant of or ignored that and did it. Now the Louisiana Legislature has put the bullet in the chamber, leaving it only in the hands of next year’s new body and governor to fire the bullet into the corpus of the people of Louisiana.
The passage of HCR 75 by Speaker Chuck Kleckley took the next step, steeped in subterfuge, of trying to shovel money into Louisiana’s budget to satisfy short-term electoral whims of legislators at the expense of needlessly costing Louisianans more in the long run. This resolution allows the state to decide within the first three months of next year whether to have general urban larger hospitals, which they and their affiliated doctors receive the lion’s share of Medicaid funds, pony up money to use as a match for Medicaid – hidden code to foist wasteful and counterproductive expansion of the program through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The facts establishing that expansion would have a negligible, if not negative, impact on the health care of its clients while costing far more than at present are well known. And the studies that demonstrate Louisiana would pay upwards of $2 billion extra over the next decade through expansion in return for health outcomes of those covered likely no better than under the current system where health care is delivered to the indigent upon request regardless of their ability to pay probably understate that unnecessary extra expense: data from states that already have expanded show significantly lower forecasts of extra costs than what actually has transpired.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:55