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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.