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LSU defiance illustrates LA dysfunction

It’s confirmed: Louisiana State University, backed by its system’s Board of Supervisors, continues to thumb its nose at the Louisiana Board of Regents. Now the Regents have to decide what to do, if they can do anything, pointing out again the dysfunctional way in which state higher education is organized.

Last year, a policy choice made by LSU that violates Regents’ assigned admissions standards became public. The current class at the time admitted by LSU contained almost twice the proportion of exceptional admittances, where the school surreptitiously relaxed standards that didn’t automatically reject those with an American College Test score of 22 and a grade point average of 3.0/4.0 and 19 core hours.

As a result, the Regents pledged to audit admissions at all universities. Louisiana operates under a three-tiered system, where LSU has the highest bar and may enroll only four percent of a class that does not meet the standards, both metrics established by the Regents. Although the audit had some questions about data submitted by some institutions that will require following up, it confirmed that only LSU unambiguously violated policy by admitting 7.5 percent of its class through exception.


LA shouldn't fund directly legal services

You might say it’s “only” $500,000, but it’s money better spent at the state level elsewhere and continues Louisiana’s unhealthy habit of having the state finance what should be local matters.

Tucked into HB 392, that amount of money would go to the state’s three legal services corporations contracted with the federal government’s Legal Services Corporation. That entity funnels money to area providers within states to fund legal services rendered to low-income individuals in most civil matters (some it legally cannot underwrite).

Proponents have argued the infusion by state taxpayers will increase the representation of these people in matters such as family law, housing, successions, and labor. They say that the organizations, which receive funding from numerous sources besides federal government contracts, with this will become eligible for more funds from foundations that insist a state chip in some money before they’ll grant money to such groups.


Edwards creates problem, takes credit for solution

On the issue of Medicaid expansion, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards hopes people forget he’s the one who created the problem of inappropriate and unnecessary payments.

The state received some good news recently when it announced it would spend $400 million fewer on Medicaid, about 3 percent less than budgeted. It identified as a major contributor cleansing the rolls of ineligible recipients, almost all of them coming from Medicaid expansion, through a technology upgrade that allows for more frequent verification. Since then, Edwards Administration officials have all but broken their arms patting themselves on the back for the discovery of (for now) over 30,000 ineligible participants to save the state money, and the public can expect Edwards to repeat that party line ad naseum as he runs for reelection.

But in all this Edwards wishes to bury a dirty secret. The reason why so many erroneous clients, who comprised about six percent of all expansion enrollees, gained illegal access to service is because of two policies that Edwards instituted, by design, that makes it easier for ineligible individuals to enroll.


Nuisance candidates set to annoy incumbents

With the Louisiana Legislature out of substantive action hopefully for at least nine more months and an election in between, it’s time for nuisance candidates to come out of the woodwork, which a pair of northwest Louisiana incumbents running for reelection this fall must endure.

Given the voting behavior of its legislators, southeast Shreveport might have the most conservative electorate in the state. That area houses Senate District 37 represented by Republican state Sen. Barrow Peacock and House District 5 with GOP state Rep. Alan Seabaugh. The former has averaged over 80 this past term (not including this year) according to the Louisiana Legislature Log’s voting scorecard and the latter has had a mean of 75 (with 100 the maximum conservative/reform score).

Conservatives statewide consider both as standard bearers, in different ways. Peacock prefers staying out of the limelight and tackling nuts-and-bolts issues, while Seabaugh vigorously pushes high-profile issue preferences detested by the political left. Perhaps most famously, Seabaugh was the leading figure in preventing a vote last year to renew a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent. When subsequently only a 0.45 percent hike passed (which he also opposed), in essence he saved Louisiana taxpayers around $240 million a year over seven years.


Race exacerbating political conflict in Webster

The circus continues its run in Webster Parish, which looks generally bucolic and peaceful but the tumultuous, racially-tinged politics surrounding it tries the citizenry’s patience.

Its largest municipality Minden has gone through turmoil since the beginning of the year. A power struggle has developed between a black Democrat majority on the City Council and the white Republican mayor, Terry Gardner elected last year, often backed by the two minority white Republicans on the Council. The town has a narrow black population majority.

The tussle has flared particularly over the police department. Gardner and the new no-party white elected chief of police, Steve Cropper, have argued the department faces a staffing crisis and have promoted the hiring of more officers. But in March, the three Democrats rejected the hiring of two apparently qualified candidates. Gardner then vetoed the rejection. Still, this led to the majority’s authoring an ordinance that interposed the Council between the chief’s recommendation and the mayor’s hiring, effectively giving it a veto power over hiring.