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GOP must keep free-spending Edwards boxed in

Louisiana’s House of Representatives Republican leadership put the budget ball in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ court this week – a playing surface Edwards finds contracting in size.

Speaker Taylor Barras transmitted a letter to Edwards outlining GOP caucus demands attached to any revenue-raising package. They include enhanced spending transparency, a change in the expenditure limit calculations, and patient responsibility and work or other requirements for able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients not pregnant, exempting parents of newborns or children with disabilities and people in drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs.

The easier dissemination of expenditures would build upon efforts begun under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, something Edwards should not contest. As for the other issues, expect obfuscation and counterattacks because the realization of Republicans’ goals would separate Edwards too much from his desire to lock in inflated state government.


Diversity unnecessary for an impartial judiciary

So, are we to assume that Louisiana’s electoral system suppresses an inherent goodness of racial and gender diversity on the bench, utilized by males in a white majority electorate indifferent to the place of racial minorities and women in the courtroom?

That’s the implication from a report issued by Tulane University researchers, who compiled a profile of the racial and sexual characteristics of Louisiana’s judges the municipal level all the way to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the authors have not released it online where the public could judge the comprehensiveness and quality of their efforts.

They note that, in demographic terms, minorities and women remain underrepresented in robes, at both the state level and typically at the parish level, with one major exception. They do not ascribe causes for this, but assert that benefits would accrue from ameliorating this condition, saying that efforts to “demystify” the judiciary would produce greater proportions of minorities and women wielding the gavel to bring more “credibility.”


Medicaid expansion defenses again mislead

You always can tell when a response to an opinion column comes from Louisiana’s Health Secretary Rebekah Gee, for these ignore the points made by the authors and distract from the validity of these through dubious and non sequitur assertions.

Readers of the Baton Rouge Advocate received two doses of that last week in separate letters published. The first came after a column by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt. In that, Hewitt made the points that the state pays $500 per person enrolled in Medicaid every month and a third of those able-bodied Louisianans enrolled reported earning no income. Further, fewer than 17 percent of those enrolled are actually using the physician services provided through expansion. These numbers buttressed her larger point that the state could use work requirements or substitutes for able-bodied adults to receive Medicaid, as other states are pursuing.

A week later, in a letter Gee belittled that view, even though she tangentially at best addressed the twin issue of non-working able-bodied adults getting free Medicaid and large-scale underuse of Medicaid. She claimed work criteria should not apply to the majority of Medicaid recipients who are children or disabled – but Hewitt never proposed they should be.


LA Democrats sinking further their fortunes

The point isn’t so much that Democrats’ positions continue to deteriorate in Louisiana, or even why, but why Democrats continue to let it happen.

My Advocate colleague Tyler Bridges wrote a piece on how, despite enthusiasm stemming from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2015 upset win, indicators keep showing the party’s fortunes declining. Updating statistics that have appeared in this space on several occasions, it shows the sea change as the state hurtles towards a Republican registration plurality for the first time in recorded history.

It repeats that Republicans, through a series of special elections and party switches, gained a majority in the state House in 2010 and in the state Senate in 2011, for the first time since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Those majorities increased in 2011 and stayed essentially locked in as a result of the 2015 elections.


The Advocate column, Jan. 28, 2018

Instead of blasting Rick Scott's visit to Louisiana, Gov. Edwards should take notes