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LA public defense needs to help itself first

It’s a new year, but the same two stories for the Louisiana Public Defense Board and the system it oversees: a need for additional resources, but also a failure of its districts to help themselves.

This year, dire warnings of system collapse came in front of a task force set up to review criminal justice changes that went into effect last year. About 57 percent of all indigent defense funding comes from local sources, which comes from a $45 fee assessed to those convicted and those who forfeit bonds, a $40 application fee, $2 of a $15 fee for every bond posted in a district, a cut of bond license proceeds paid by bailsmen, another bond forfeiture fee, partial reimbursement by clients, and any monies provided by grants or local governments.

In recent years, system representatives have stressed the precipitous loss of fees from a decline in writing traffic tickets that go to court. With a growing number of jurisdictions opting for diversion strategies that bypass courts, the $45 fee has shrunk as a source for funding. In the 41st District (Orleans Parish), for example, in the busiest jurisdiction in the state in less than a decade the number of such tickets has shrunk (through 2017) by almost three-quarters.


Christmas Day, 2019

This column publishes every Monday through Friday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) 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 Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

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


Data reveal another Medicaid expansion myth

But, Medicaid expansion!

As the data pile up, that has become a less and less satisfactory answer supposed to solve for several issues facing Louisiana:
  • It supposedly created greater access to care. It never did for many, because the proportion of clients having to wait to see a doctor on Medicaid rose by a factor of 14 after expansion
  • It supposedly saved money. It never did, because it wasted so much on ineligible enrollees and the increased wait times still had people flooding higher-cost emergency rooms
  • It supposedly paid for itself. It never did, not only because of the waste but also because it relied on tax increases that, beginning next year, won’t even cover additional taxpayer costs
  • It supposedly brought economic benefits. It never did, because the alleged benefits have fallen far short of the money extracted from the people to pay for it that could have gone to more economically productive purposes
  • It supposedly gave the uninsured health insurance. It never did, not only because of Louisiana’s anachronistic free charity care predated expansion, but that a third to a half of enrollees already had insurance


Clarify process to tame Edwards law breaking

As has become his habit, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards showed the Louisiana Constitution his index, middle, and ring fingers and said to read between the lines. Now it’s up to the Republican-majority Legislature to respond to that in a way differently from the past.

Just as he did earlier this year, Edwards last week declared he would ignore the state’s governing charter and said he planned to introduce a budget not conforming to its rules. This continues a pattern where Edwards consistently has tried to operate outside the law, only to have constitutional checks imposed by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and the judiciary slap him down.

That happened last spring when Edwards tried to introduce a budget that included revenues beyond what the state’s official arm for forecasting these, the Revenue Estimating Conference, had established. Put into the Constitution in 1990 to ensure reliable budgeting that didn’t depend on fantasy numbers, the panel’s four members that include representatives of the governor, House, and Senate, and an independent economist must agree unanimously to change an existing prediction.