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Separate LA officer budgets constitutionally valid

While unusual, the move to separate out appropriations for a constitutional office as done earlier this week in Louisiana’s House Appropriations Committee is not, as defenders of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards allege, unconstitutional, or even uncouth.

At the request of Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, the GOP-controlled committee removed references to the Department of Justice in the general appropriations bill HB 1 and instead tucked these into a separate HB 105. Further, the separate bill contained instructions giving Landry the authority to make cuts in any fashion within the department should revenue shortfalls occur during the fiscal year. In response, Democrats on the committee as well as Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne opined that they thought handling appropriations in this fashion did not comply with the Constitution.

But nothing in the Constitution disallows such an approach. Art. III Sec. 16 declares that the Legislature produce a general appropriations bill “itemized and shall contain only appropriations for the ordinary operating expenses of government, public charities, pensions, and the public debt or interest thereon.” It then allows that “All other bills for appropriating money shall be for a specific purpose and amount.” As such, HB 105 appears to meet this standard – as do the several other appropriations bills other than the general one typically passed each year, for the legislative and judicial branches and ancillary expenditures.


Edwards' expansion trick invites costly fraud

Such is his eagerness to impose upon Louisianans a program that costs too much and delivers badly that Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to expedite Medicaid expansion by grabbing eligibility data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That shortcut only would compound the mistake.

While his administration plans on this and other tactics to try to get people into the system for a Jul. 1 start, it also touts this move as a way to launch expansion more quickly and more cheaply, as in Louisiana SNAP qualifiers not already part of Medicaid theoretically also meet the same test standards to receive its expanded version. However, to do so risks wasting taxpayer dollars beyond the inherent characteristics of the program and population it serves, because of the error rate involved with SNAP dollars.

Misleadingly, the Pres. Barack Obama Administration tries to create the impression that improper payments amount to just 1.3 percent of the total. Yet it derives that figure not from a calculation of eligibility, but from the vendor fraud rate without explaining why it equates the two very different things – the former assesses whether the actual users of SNAP benefits should qualify legally, while the latter looks at stores’ illegal sale of SNAP benefits for cash or other ineligible items. In fact, as detailed in a General Accounting Office report, the federal government really has no idea of the fraud rate from benefits going to ineligible people, but evidence suggests that to be at least triple the erroneously-cited figure.


Edwards seems likely to hit landmine on abortion

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards continues to dance faster to avoid the landmines, but it seems inevitable that soon he will touch off one dealing with human life that will contrast negatively his actions with his words.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Edwards succeeded in making a sufficient portion of the voting public believe that he was conservative enough on social issues to obscure his garden-variety leftism on most others and get himself elected. To anyone who listened he alleged his Catholicism informed his views on these issues, asserting as a man of faith he followed his religion’s doctrines on such matters as when life began and the evil of abortion – despite his statement when contemplating a run for Congress in 2006 that “Abortion is the freedom of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.”

But now as governor he has to put his money where his mouth is, and legislation carried by social conservatives will put him to the test. Interestingly, bills that have the effect of curtailing abortion that go much farther than Louisiana ever has since the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to mean that states could not regulate the gruesome act have sprung up this session, despite that there would have been no question of their acceptability in previous years given the unimpeachable pro-life views and actions of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.


Edwards' vision manifests through oyster shucking

If you want an illustration of the shortsightedness and stupidity of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ policies, generally speaking, check out oyster shucking.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a feature on a day in the life of working at an oyster processing plant. The industry pays a couple of bucks above minimum wage, although high producers can earn more, to a workforce almost exclusively foreign – legal immigrants brought in under a seasonal guest worker program, because almost no American citizens will work the job. At the facility profiled, of those citizens who do, they significantly underperform compared to the foreigners.

Perhaps paying higher wages might attract more Americans to the job, which takes a narrow but necessary skill set to develop, or make them more reliable: the company in question says that the American workers miss many more days of work than do the legal immigrants. At the same time, raising wages too much more, asserts the company, would drive up costs significantly in the labor-intensive industry and price out fare that includes oysters from most buyers.