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LA state parks must become more self-sustaining

Another year, another set of budgetary difficulties for Louisiana’s state parks and historic sites. But, rather than depending upon taxpayers, policy-makers could help themselves out on this issue.

The Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism has braced itself for more budget cuts to parks in fiscal year 2019. This has led to shorter operational hours (and some sites open only by appointment) and deferred maintenance at the 22 parks and 19 historic sites. Already, parts of many stay closed, and some amenities that generate revenue have fallen into disrepair, creating a vicious cycle where the agency finds it harder to raise money to fix these things.

Yet, to some degree, CRT officials and lawmakers bear the blame for such problems by promoting an inefficient model. In 2012, the Legislative Auditor released a report that included suggestions on better running the operation. Five years later, at best only lukewarm implementation of these has occurred.


All well that ends well for LA, Angelle

Continually rejected by Louisiana voters, it seems Scott Angelle has hit his stride to aid the state in his post at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Tapped to lead the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the Republican has become a point person in GOP Pres. Donald Trump’s drive to disband overregulation and curb politicization of science that marked policies of the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama. Through a combination of specific strictures aimed at the energy industry and more generally draconian standards imposed in the area of the environment, perhaps no activity bore the heaviest burden from Obama’s heavy hand than energy.

Refreshingly, now that has changed. In Angelle’s bailiwick, he will monitor vastly opened acreage of exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and newly available land and seabed in the Arctic Ocean. He also will guide policy on extraction on federal lands and in implementing safety regulations.


Christmas Day, 2017

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


Article misleads on LA climate change impact

The state’s journalistic source for promoting catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW), the New Orleans Times-Picayune, strikes again with another push to accepting the poorly-backed hypothesis.

Earlier this month, a piece it published took note of an academic journal article commenting upon sea level rise (SLR). The article used geographic information system data to map sites of archaeological and historical importance, land areas, and the populations associated with these in the southeastern United States (excepting Mississippi for site data) that would suffer at varying degrees of SLR over the next century.

As research it appears solid, and its text displays an even hand, not launching into polemics about what may cause SLR (which could come from temperature rises or subsidence, among others things) or what to do about it. Louisiana, as expected from its geography and population, would be hit perhaps harder than any other state. Even a 100 cm rise would inundate 2,700 archeological sites and 207 historical places, displace at current levels more than 1 million people, and cover over 23,000 square km. Only isolated stretches south of the Northshore, south of north of Baton Rouge, south of Lafayette, and south of north of Lake Charles would stay above water, mainly around most rivers and select bayous.


Poll numbers disguise Edwards' vulnerability

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards shouldn’t break his arm patting himself on the back. His latest poll numbers do nothing to remove his underdog status for reelection.

Southern Media Opinion Research released a survey asking for the popularity of several state political figures and opinion on a few issues. Three prominent national Republicans from Louisiana polled between 45-55 percent approval, but Edwards topped them at 65 percent. One, Sen. John Kennedy who drew 54 percent, some speculate may run against Edwards in 2019.

But history has demonstrated only the foolhardy extrapolate polling numbers not at the extremes to electoral strength. Disregarding that things can change in a hurry even to make very high or low numbers not indicative of future electoral performance – witness the sky-high ratings of former Pres. George H. W. Bush yet his losing reelection fewer than two years later – approval ratings occur in isolation, while elections do not. As a case in point, former Pres. Barack Obama’s number stayed under 50 percent for most of his first term, yet because the GOP put up a relatively weak candidate, he managed to score a second term.


LA, its people better off from impending tax reform

It’s official: wide-ranging federal income tax cuts begin in 2018 that promise to boost economic growth and let most people keep more of what they earn. And while tax reform always produces winners and losers, in general Louisiana and Louisianans come out winners.

As previously noted, the state benefits from changes in rules about deductions. The typical taxpayer will see a cut in his federal tax bill, but will take a portion of that to pay a higher Louisiana tax assessment (as the federal rate at all levels exceeds the state rate).

Additionally, while some economists take a less optimistic view of long-term growth as a result of the changes than do others, all agree in the short run a noticeable pickup in economic activity, which will increase organically Louisiana’s tax base. As a result, the Revenue Estimating Conference at its next meeting in the first quarter of 2018 must factor in both sources of revenue boosting, which will reduce any projected deficit and thereby any need to increase taxes after temporary ones roll off at the end of the second quarter.


Edwards loses on contract dispute, but not much

Maybe they both blinked a little, but it seems the more severe eye-watering came from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Although, for him, maybe not for naught.

Last week, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approved contracts for Medicaid service providers that manage insurance for 1.5 million Louisianans. It took four tries for Edwards to have approved the $15.4 billion worth of business, or about a quarter of state spending for the next two years, to pass legislators’ muster.

Originally, almost two months ago, the House wanted some changes, primarily to ensure close scrutiny by the Legislative Auditor. The Edwards Administration admitted the benefits of such language and did not argue it could not add that with difficulty. But Edwards, looking to manufacture controversy that could aid his reelection campaign, dug in his heels and refused to do so.


Trending? Another GOP LA representative leaves

When Republican former state Rep. Chris Broadwater told the world he had quit his post to spend more time with his family, no doubt he meant it. But he also joined some lawmakers recently departed who may have lost their enthusiasm as they struggled with marginalized places in the House of Representatives.

Broadwater became the fifth ally of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to jump ship prior to the end of his term since the inauguration. The group includes former state Reps. Bryan Adams and Joe Lopinto, both Republicans even through that party controls the chamber, and Democrats Jack Montoucet and Ed Price.

In the 2016 organizational session of the House, Adams and Lopinto crossed party lines, voting for Democrat state Rep. Walter Leger to be Speaker. Other Republicans still in the body who did so include state Reps. Bubba Chaney, Chris Hazel, Rogers Pope, and Rob Shadoin.


Congress polarization good unless too personal

Some Louisiana former members of Congress got together recently to whine about Congress. Analyzing past their carping, one can discern the real reasons triggering their views of increased divisiveness in the chambers and its larger meaning.

Rodney Alexander, John Breaux, and Billy Tauzin recently addressed the Council for a Better Louisiana on their perceptions of today’s Congress. All served in the House of Representatives and Breaux additionally in the Senate, which he departed in 2005. Tauzin also left then, and Alexander took off in 2013.

Thus, only Alexander’s experience is reasonably recent, although all have maintained somewhat close connections to the institutions, because they work as lobbyists. That fact clues us in to understanding the insularity of their observations. Nothing like hanging around the same clique, even if it refreshes it membership, for 35 years like Breaux to isolate yourself exceptionally from the rest of the country and the typical citizen.


LA public defense allocations deserve scrutiny

Lots of different sources receive blame for the chronic money shortages faced by Louisiana’s public defenders. And they all deserve it, including the public defenders themselves.

Last year, a new law mandated distribution of at least 65 percent of regular revenues flowing to state public defense go to individual districts. While this increased the total going to districts, controversy has broken out over these allocations.

Public defense funding in Louisiana always has had problems, because so much of the amount for each district derives from local court adjudication. This relies heavily on law enforcement activity; for example, greater diligence in writing traffic tickets means more money for public defense. Thus, defenders suffer the vagaries of enforcement decisions as well as growing attempts by prosecutors to divert that flow of money to defenders through court diversion programs.


Edwards spins to deflect from tax, spend agenda

Gov. John Bel Edwards depends upon the public missing the real story whenever investigating state finances, and he’ll do his best to deflect attention from it.

Last week, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor released its annual report on money kept at the Department of the Treasury. It noted that the total amount bankrolled (which excludes certain funds like for pensions) came to around $6 billion, a decrease from $8.4 billion in fiscal year 2013. Most of that decrease came from state investment funds, some $2.2 billion. The amount available actually had gone down to $1.9 billion in FY 2016, but recovered by a half-billion this year mainly due to $600 million in increased tax revenues.

The Edwards Administration was ready, willing, and able to spin these numbers: “The Legislative Auditor’s report on the state treasury department findings further underscores what … Edwards has been saying about the state’s budget problems. Multiple funds sweeps and other irresponsible and deceptive practices that were used by the previous administration to artificially balance the budget with one-time funds created the state’s current fiscal crisis. Those types of decisions reduced state assets held in the treasury to the point where the state had to take out revenue anticipation notes to make sure its bills were paid on time.”


No, EBR can't stop St. George from incorporating

You can be sure that somebody’s argument operates from incredible weakness when they talk about how complicated is an issue. Case in point: the possibility of blocking creation of the city of St. George in regards to the contents of East Baton Rouge Parish’s Plan of Government.

On the surface, it might surprise observers that, during the protracted battle to incorporate St. George out of most of the southern unincorporated area of the parish, Sec. 1.05 of the document never came up. Its last sentence, after exempting Baker, Central, and Zachary, reads, “No additional city, town or village shall be incorporated in East Baton Rouge Parish.”

If enforced, that would have stopped St. George in its tracks. Indeed, Parish Attorney Lee Anne Batson said, decades ago when the Plan and metropolitan government came into existence, it explicitly wished to write in only the existing cities of Baton Rouge, Baker, and Zachary, prohibiting all others.


Scrap new N.O. personnel rules that discriminate

Although the problem may find proper resolution beforehand, when New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell assumes office in five months she may have the chance to prevent a flaw in city civil service rules from violating Louisiana’s Constitution if not individuals’ civil rights.

Last week, the city’s personnel director Lisa Hudson ruled a batch of Fire Department promotions were tainted by discrimination. In 2016, Chief Timothy McConnell promoted dozens of firefighters to captain’s rank, under revised rules stemming from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s “Great Place to Work” Initiative. The package’s promotion claims the effort is to “create a merit-based employment structure where decisions about hiring, promotion, and pay are made based on the individual employee’s abilities and performance” and it would “modernize – not eliminate – our civil service system.”

Civil service systems exist to ensure extraneous factors that don’t bear on doing the best job possible don’t influence decisions to hire, fire, promote, demote, or other reward or punish government employees. But changes made under the initiative’s aegis allowed precisely this.


Kennedy tactic questions Edwards' competence

Perhaps Republican Sen. John Kennedy’s attack on Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ criminal sentencing reform package contained more than one layer in a bid to challenge him in 2019.

In my most recent Baton Rouge Advocate column, I noted how criticisms Kennedy levied against measures championed by Edwards to reduce numbers and lengths of sentences of incarceration appealed to a law-and-order populist crowd. He did this in a way to suggest Edwards had put public safety at risk by reducing prison populations without putting in place enough resources to discourage recidivism, but more overtly by calling the Department of Corrections incompetent to handle the transition.

He made this charge by reminding of numerous black eyes suffered by DOC over the past few years. But he also lumped in the Department of Public Safety, increasingly in the spotlight for the nervy antics of its former commander Mike Edmonson. Apparently, investigators believe Edmonson engaged in corrupt behavior that escalated in brashness over time, ripping off taxpayers and winking at other favored individuals who did the same, even obstructing investigations.


Shreveport contracting process needs reform

As Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler enters a reelection year, changes she could galvanize City Council support to alter city’s contracting procedures, both giving voters a reason to return her to office and injecting greater confidence into city use of taxpayer dollars.

Shreveport sends deals exceeding $10,000 through its Architectural/Engineering Selection Committee for contracting in these areas. This fall, criticisms, particularly from City Councilman James Flurry, have come that its current structure and procedures in the city’s ordinances present too many opportunities for a mayor to enforce a pay-for-play regime that puts rewarding political allies first.

The committee has nine members, but the mayor in reality appoints six entirely controlled by her – four city department heads she can fire at will and two citizen appointees. Another she must appoint but does not employ is the director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission. The Shreveport City Council selects its chairman and clerk for the other two.


Abandonment highlights LA anti-competitive taxes

So, how’s that convoluted Louisiana corporate tax code that requires state-sanctioned bribery working out?

It appears Jefferson Parish-based Smoothie King will emulate a number of larger past Louisiana-headquartered corporations and head to greener pastures. All signs seem to indicate inevitable decampment to Texas by the franchiser with nearly 1,000 locations.

That could have happened 5 years ago, but the state stepped in with an incentive package for it to stay, that looks to end up costing taxpayers over $2 million. This figure could have gone a bit higher, except the firm did not hit all of its job and payroll numbers.


LA Democrats continue their globetrotting ways

What is it with Louisiana Democrats and their vacations on the taxpayer’s dime?

Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards with first lady Donna in tow continued their global gallivanting with a trip to Puerto Rico, ostensibly for the commonwealth to learn from a state well experienced in disaster recovery. At least he stayed within the U.S. this time, even if he left the continental shores; other overseas trips he has taken in his fewer than two years in office include stops in Rome and Cuba.

In the case of the junket to Rome, the stated purpose of this travel being to share information on approaches to combat human trafficking, sending lower-level officials or just making phone calls and exchanging e-mail could have gotten the job done. And even as the state didn’t pay much to fund his and other officials’ travel to Cuba, that mostly funded by its communist government, because of current U.S. policy the trip had zero possibility of payoff any time before the distant future.


Cantrell ignorance shows N.O. in for rough ride

On the basis of a post-election interview, it appears that New Orleans just elected an ignoramus as its mayor.

Shortly after she triumphed, Democrat Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell sat down with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which asked her about her background. And off the bat, she made some breathtakingly stupid comments about the political atmosphere in her Los Angeles youth:

Ronald Reagan was elected president and I saw that everything changed. Social programs went away. Crack cocaine engulfed the neighborhoods. The streets blocks [sic] changed ….

The whole focus on "welfare queens," the social programs …. And I just remember stark change when those programs were cut …. Being in an urban environment and just kind of seeing that change and when those drugs really inundated the community.


Moore allegations illustrate LA senators' divide

The volatile Alabama Senate contest has illuminated a fundamental divergence in ideological comfort between Republican Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy.

The Republican nominee in the special election to take the place of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, should have had a cakewalk into office, except for two things. First, Moore has a checkered populist history that twice got him tossed for defying national judicial orders he saw, with some justification, as poor jurisprudential decisions. Perhaps no politician, not even Republican Pres. Donald Trump who backed another GOP candidate in the primary, can claim the mantle as insurgent more honestly than Moore, making him a target to the more accommodationist establishment branch of the party.

Yet their unhappiness could not have derailed his election against the solidly but unspectacularly liberal Democrat nominee, former prosecutor Doug Jones who runs the same playbook as Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards – accentuate the relatively few socially conservative views he alleges to have and downplay the rest except when in front of leftist audiences. Only something salacious and shocking had a chance of stopping Moore’s triumph.


Liberalism's invalidity consternates leftists

It always brings both a chuckle and a head shake when the political left expresses surprise at something embodying its values turning out hideously, with the latest example coming from the opinion pages of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Its headline sums up neatly the consternation and perplexity felt by liberals such as the column’s author Jarvis DeBerry when events like this (all too often for them) occur: “We used to sing Zimbabwe's praises, but had to change our tune.” To which an person all of informed, open-minded, and astute at critical thinking would have to respond, for two reasons, “Really?”

Because when the Marxist revolutionary Robert Mugabe successfully helped prosecute, then maneuvered himself into leadership after, a guerilla war that overthrew the white minority government of Rhodesia in 1980, anybody who knew the facts and applied them intellectually could see the disaster that would unfold under his and his political party’s rule. Nobody in that position who thought clearly could possibly conclude otherwise; Mugabe’s long history of articulating Marxism and bloodthirsty actions then made for immediate understanding that Zimbabwe would become a debacle under his rule.


Thanksgiving Day, 2017

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday around  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. 23 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Maness at crossroads: contributor or joke?

Has Louisiana seen the last of now-perennial candidate Republican Rob Maness? His four years in public view would suggest not.

The third time was not the charm for Maness, who lost last week to Covington city council member Mark Wright, also of the GOP, for state representative House District 77. The special election came after its former occupant, incoming state Treasurer John Schroder, left his seat earlier to concentrate on his successful campaign.

Maness came onto the state’s radar when in 2013 he announced a run for U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu. This came despite the fact he had resided in the state for only about a year and that conservative Bill Cassidy, then in the U.S. House of Representatives, had signaled to the world he would take on Landrieu.


Bossier City chooses better on development

Deciding to be itself holds more promise as a development strategy for Bossier City than its many missteps of the past almost quarter-century.

This week brings the formal dedication of the city’s East Bank District, which runs roughly down Barksdale Boulevard from the river and consists of the only thing close to a traditional downtown within the municipality’s borders. The city spent a considerable sum to narrow the street and renovate it into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly avenue, hoping to anchor a district of food, drink, entertainment, and walk-in commercial establishments around the nexus of the East Bank Theatre, Flying Heart Brewery, and Li’l Italiano restaurant. Already it has brought back in Destiny Day Spa and Salon, which left years ago for the Louisiana Boardwalk.

The Boardwalk, which also will fall under new zoning regulations attached to the new district, was over a decade ago the city’s next try at importing something from the outside as a way to make itself more than just a bedroom neighborhood of Shreveport. Featuring now mainly chain stores from elsewhere, the outdoor mall has teetered on bankruptcy as the promise Bossier City politicians made, that if it offered enough items for sale people would come to spend the city into prosperity, never panned out.


Times change, yellow dog Democrats stay same

Louisiana’s special election for treasurer surprised only in winning margin for incoming Treas. John Schroder, proving the state’s yellow dog Democrats are alive and well.

As expected, Republican Schroder defeated Democrat Derrick Edwards, but only by a margin of 56-44 percent. The statewide turnout of one-in-eight voters came after, through almost the end of October this year, Schroder had spent over $917,000 or about $4.40 per vote and Edwards $23,000 or around $0.14 per vote.

Schroder’s victory by just 12 percent despite outspending until recently Edwards over 300:1 came as a result of maniacal party discipline by Democrats – even though the state party refused to endorse him, an attorney who had run for U.S. Senate last year and received a pittance of the vote, until it became too politically inconvenient not to. Edwards did next to no campaigning and, when he did make rare statements about the office, never spoke of its duties.


Crybaby illegal alien not kind of citizen LA needs

Break out the violins for a criminal facing likely deportation from the U.S., who created his own problems and now hides out in a New Orleans church claiming victim status.

One Jose Torres has sought sanctuary in First Grace United Methodist Church. First illegally travelling through Mexico to get here, the citizen of El Salvador has lived in this country illegally for about a dozen years, a crime. Most of that time he has lived around New Orleans and started a family with his wife, also apparently illegally in the country, which produced two anchor babies. He says that his two American citizen daughters are unfortunate enough to have medical problems.

Despite having been here since 2005, Torres apparently never sought out American citizenship. He did, however, find enough time to get convicted on drunk driving charges in 2015, a crime, as well as to assist fellow criminals in organizing a method to flout their illegal status while selling their labor to another set of criminals, businesses who knowingly employ undocumented workers.


Change ticket policy to enhance LA academics

Louisiana State University athletic department leaders hyperventilating over a change in the tax code reminds us of the lack of seriousness behind providing quality higher education in the state.

As part of tax reform in Washington, Congress is considering whether to eliminate the tax deductibility of donations to collegiate charitable sports foundations, worth 80 percent off income. Interestingly, LSU pioneered the idea three decades ago and now rakes in tens of millions of dollars a year by having a surcharge for tickets to seats to contests for several of its athletic squads.

The effort to do so has sent LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva into apoplexy, telling anyone who will listen that it would cost $50 million a year and send LSU athletics into the poorhouse. He and other flaks also remind anyone who will listen that athletics contributes millions a year to the academic side of the school.


LA higher education privatization moves desirable

With its announcement of two major gifts to establish an entrepreneurship program taking center stage, it might have been easy to overlook the salutary path taken by Louisiana State University’s E.J. Ourso College of Business towards privatization.

Years ago, prompted by efforts in Oregon to remove state oversight of the operations of the state’s eight public senior/graduate institutions, suggestions were made that Louisiana ought to do the same. As of two years ago, Oregon had set up each of its institutions with independent governing boards, with its three largest also taking over all organization maintenance functions and responsibility for capital outlay. Altogether, only about 10 percent of revenues now come from the state, with the proportion of state funds going to the schools that have gone the furthest in controlling their own business even lower. This compares to about three times that figure for Louisiana schools, not counting Taylor Opportunity Program for Students money that acts like a general fund contribution. 

The Ourso College plans something like that for itself, bolstered by the recent donations. Not counting TOPS money, only 20 percent of its revenues now come from the state. Theoretically, a combination of private giving, tuition increases, and efficiency savings from being able to run its own affairs could bridge that gap, following the path of some other universities’ business schools, some of whom accomplished this years ago.


LSU abstains from drama in accepting gift

Let’s hope Louisiana’s political left and its members ensconced at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge act maturely regarding a recent gift to the school’s E.J. Ourso College of Business.

The school will receive $5.6 million to launch hiring of faculty, staff, and graduate assistants for a program in entrepreneurship. The money will give it unprecedented authority in these personnel decisions. Officials praised their largesse and outlined for this area of study an exciting future, possible in part because of such generosity.

That reaction stands in great contrast to the one people in some places have given to awards from the Charles Koch Foundation. Yes, it was founded by that Koch, head of Koch Industries, worth about $100 billion now, assisted by his brother David whom together the left regards as evil incarnate for their willingness to put their money where their conservative public policy mouths are.


LA saves for real with Medicaid user responsibility

Members from Louisiana’s House of Representatives blocked immediate approval of Medicaid managed care contracts over cost concerns, but requests for more efficient delivery only scratch the surface of how state government can save money.

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget last week asked the Department of Health to come back with better offers to the five providers of these services. Almost all Medicaid enrollees in the state potentially at least partially have services rendered to them mediated by these outfits. Without dramatic changes in spending patterns, the 23-month deals worth $15 billion will eat up a quarter of all state expenditures in this period.

Republican members of the committee, comprised of budget leaders from each chamber, led the charge to slow the process. Their Senate counterparts had no objection, but majorities of both must agree and the GOP makes up most of the House contingent. They argued the state should negotiate more savings and tighter oversight, pointing to recent audits that revealed problems in enforcing accountability.


Better chance lightning strikes than Schroder loses

It ain’t going to happen, unless he gets caught with a live boy or dead girl.

My Baton Rouge Advocate colleague Mark Ballard recently mused about whether Republican former state Rep. John Schroder possibly could lose the Nov. 18 special election for treasurer. While he finished runner-up to lawyer Democrat Derrick Edwards, trailing Edwards’ 31 percent by 7 points, other GOP candidates drew the remaining votes in this race. Schroder spent about 100 times what Edwards did and may do so again in the runoff; he remains a heavy favorite.

Ballard did his best to come up with a scenario that gave Edwards, who received votes merely as the only Democrat on the ballot, the victory. He figured that if statewide turnout could dip by almost half but Orleans Parish saw an increase by one third – stimulated by a mayoral runoff election – if the proportions voting for Edwards stayed the same, then it would be neck-and-neck.


Prator right to note how reform can go wrong

Last week Pandora’s box opened, according to some northwest Louisiana crime-fighters, when Democrats Gov. John Bel Edwards took the next step in making good on a risky campaign promise.

On Wednesday, the state began to release prisoners as a result of new guidelines. Legislation passed earlier this year shortened sentences for some, an estimated 1,900 or a bit over 5 percent of the state’s total prison population. Designed to give a break to non-violent, non-habitual offenders who did not misbehave while in prison, this meant the vast majority would come from parish prisons housing state offenders. Given that the typical month sees 1,500 or so set free, the freeing acted as if an extra month’s worth appeared, distilled into a few days.

Skeptics including both sheriffs and district attorneys spoke warily of the event’s impact. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator emerged as perhaps the biggest critic, maybe as Caddo saw the most convicts of any parish released early courtesy of the new law. He gained a lot of publicity for his negative remarks about it, including lamenting that the ones leaving early disproportionately could work on jail duties or on work release, saving or earning his office money.


Data must drive policy to halt LA STD epidemic

Grasping fully the implications and necessities of public policy in combatting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) requires some amplifications and extensions of remarks I made in my recent Baton Rouge Advocate column.

Online publication not tied to a physical presentation liberates one from space constraints. Yesterday, I had published a barebones argument about government’s shaping and pursuing policy that would ameliorate Louisiana’s alarmingly-high rates in the three most commonly tracked STDs, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. To quote:

Political, civic and religious institutions must do what they can to affirm the values of chastity and self-respect for all citizens. By promoting government policies that advance self-reliance and celebrate the sanctity of life, the state’s leaders can nurture a culture that values delayed gratification as a personal and civic good. More aggressive enforcement and prosecution of sex trafficking and prostitution would help, too.


Landry frustrating Edwards' jackpot justice tactic

What has become a bad legal week for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards doesn’t look to get any brighter in the future, thanks to Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry.

At the week’s beginning, the U.S. Supreme Court served notice of its refusal to hear the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s suit against nearly 100 companies that explored and extracted oil for decades, leaving intact numerous lower court rulings against it. Thus ended with a whimper the attempt by a rogue government to squeeze money out of the private sector to finance its activities through a nuisance jackpot justice gambit.

(It also became a major financial setback for the Jones, Swanson, Huddell and Garrison firm, which had signed a huge contingency contract that could have swiped nearly a third of any award. Instead, they get nothing; how many millions of dollars they lost remains private.)


Antics in 19th JDC should affect decision on 32nd

A Louisiana 19th Judicial District judge’s behavior provides the perfect illustration why federal courts should not disdain alterative electoral systems in other districts.

Seven months have passed, and East Baton Rouge Parish’s Judge Janice Clark has yet to act upon a tutorship request for the estate of Helen Plummer. The will for Plummer, who died in March, left a portion of her estate to a minor great-granddaughter, and the mother of the child in order to settle the estate must become legally empowered to act in her child’s name.

As originally written, this would not have caused a problem as the will had specified a trustee would have such power over a trust created for the child upon Plummer’s death. But that trustee turned out to be Tasha Clark-Amar, Clark’s daughter, who the will specified who get extremely generous remuneration for a very modest estate. Clark-Amar heads the East Baton Rouge Council for Aging, where Plummer was a client.


Medicaid contract renewal leads some to posture

Short memories and posturing politicians make for spreading blame aplenty as Louisiana considers how to extend management of Medicaid services to the end of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ term.

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget last week considered renewing contracts with the five providers for Louisiana’s Healthy Louisiana program. These allow operators to manage the state’s Medicaid care, although for services not dealing with mental health not for the elderly nor disabled, nor including those who live in nursing homes. Amid calls for further study by committee members, the panel postponed consideration until this week.

Republican state Sen. Jack Donahue helpfully pointed out more and better metrics would help evaluating whether the deals best benefit taxpayers. Less productively, Democrat state Sen. Eric LaFleur said the time to take this approach had long passed, claiming that he and other lawmakers didn't dissect the deals enough when first put in place, criticizing the Republican then-Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration for a hurried contracting process with too little quality assurance.


LA must discard big govt to help children

You see the problem. You can have great data by which to understand it. But if you don’t think critically about it, you’ll never solve it but make it worse, musings from a special interest group about the issue of varying financial success by race in America shows.

Beginning three years ago, the Annie E. Casey Foundation compiled a report on the future prospects for children. The leftist organization advocates for government policies to benefit children, principally through expanding government and redistributing wealth.

The 2017 edition highlights disparity in financial resources enjoyed by the typical child among regions, races, and the intersection of both. It creates the index by combining a dozen indicators, some measuring context like whether parents have a high school diploma and others measuring achievement like proficiency in school, to come up with a score.


LA makes progress on roads without tax hike

Maybe the sky isn’t falling after all regarding transportation needs in Louisiana despite legislators’ unwillingness to impose higher taxes

All spring, the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration lectured the state on the allegedly crucial nature of a gasoline tax hike. Breathless and loud proclamations echoed across the land, about how only such an increase, ideally 17 cents or an 85 percent increase over the current level, could permit the state to fund roads beyond the margins. Worse, it argued, the state would not have enough money to take advantage fully of federal matching dollars.

Of course, the attempt to panic policy-makers and the public into raising taxes would have served more to inflate government than to act as a necessary tool to address surface transportation priorities. When sifting through giveaways to local governments and the private sector, unnecessary programs, and bucks spent on air and water infrastructure, $120 million a year could be redirected to roads if policy-makers wanted without any taxes going higher.