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29.12.20

Unfortunate outcome has electoral ripples

Sadly, for the third time in its history Louisiana has had someone duly elected to Congress die before taking office for the first time, with this regrettable occurrence reverberating outside of the state that could trigger distasteful Democrat calculations.

The unpredictable Wuhan coronavirus struck down Republican Luke Letlow mere days before he would have been sworn in to serve the state’s Fifth Congressional District. In 1872 and then in 1882 it had happened, although in both instances just after the election and well before the next Congress would meet.

His new House neighbor GOP Rep. Mike Johnson, a few years older than Letlow’s relatively youthful 41, earlier this month weathered a bout of the virus with little difficulty, and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, a couple of decades older, did the same earlier this year. Unfortunately, you never know with this virus, and at this difficult time Louisianans should offer up prayers for him and his family.

Unlike Newsom, Edwards unworried about recall

Each state has a botched Wuhan coronavirus pandemic response by its Democrat governor, who also turns out to be a hypocrite on the issue. As a consequence, each state suffers economically. Yet only one stands a good chance of enduring a recall election, telling us about the state’s politics and culture

California Gov. Gavin Newsom faces increasingly rough waters over this discontent. Actually, in terms of his initial response, things started out about as well as they could given the pandemic’s circumstances. Newsom acted swiftly in its early days with a flexible strategy of restrictions that allowed for much of the economy to stay open while California rang up a comparatively low number of cases and deaths despite being on the shore of the virus’ origin, the People’s Republic of China.

But eventually cases and deaths began a steady march upwards while Newsom, although with some temporary retreats, steadily clamped down harder and more widely on the economy. The fallout triggered depopulation to the point likely now the state will lose a seat in the House of Representatives in the upcoming reapportionment and a cascade of significant employers decamping to low-tax states.

28.12.20

Confused conservatives impede LA evolution

For fundamental change to occur in Louisiana politics – more specifically, evolution away from a state government-centric, primarily redistributive, and populist system – conservatives have to understand why things are as they are before they can act to make things different. Including when they are their own worst enemies.

A couple of examples surfaced last week illuminating how some conservatives don’t get it; one from the world of electoral politics and the other from the milieu that provides the intellectual ammunition for conservative ideas to triumph. In the aftermath of state central committee elections earlier this month, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone announced his intentions to lead the state party.

Prior to his run for governor, where he almost knocked off Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, Rispone had worked behind the scenes to elect conservatives. During the latest round of governance elections, he backed several candidates. In a sense, this desire for the GOP’s chairmanship merely extends his history of building an infrastructure to elect conservatives.

27.12.20

Pandemic tale of two states not good for LA

Accelerated by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the “end of cities” isn’t confined to Louisiana’s urban areas as an indictment of the state’s direction the last five years under Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Up to the production of 2020 population estimates – which in a couple of weeks the actual Apr. 1, 2020 census numbers will supersede – analysts ruminated about the hollowing out seen in a number of American cities, and about others that have see a surge in new residents over the year. Relatively heavy outflows came from New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC, while the likes of Austin, Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Dallas, Charleston, Denver, Tulsa, Louisville, Burlington, Knoxville, Syracuse, and Little Rock appear to have picked up significant numbers of new residents.

Notice something? Losing cities were in states (and DC) with Democrat control of government, while among winning cities only Denver, Syracuse, and Las Vegas were the same, with every other city (except Burlington) located in a state with complete Republican control (Vermont has a Democrat-led Legislature). More anecdotal evidence confirms flight from overtaxed, overregulated leftist states towards friendlier conservative ones.

25.12.20

Christmas Day, 2020

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

23.12.20

Edwards virus policy shows rot of liberalism

This week, again letting politics take precedence over science, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards continued until Jan. 13 an unproductive and intrusive set of government restrictions on public behavior to address the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. To understand why he and many on the political left persist in promoting and imposing this erroneous policy, an understanding of their ideology illuminates their mistaken actions.

Because the data show they clearly are mistaken. After many months, data have accumulated about the consequences of economic and behavioral restrictions, to the point from a public policy perspective we can draw certain conclusions: (1) degree of restrictiveness doesn’t vary with deaths caused by the virus (established through quasi-experimental methods), (2) as a corollary, excess deaths not attributed to the virus rose more the more restrictions existed (3) the relative ineffectiveness of wearing face coverings makes their mandatory use effective only in environments where inside recommended physical distancing for longer lengths of time cannot be established or for high-risk medical facilities, (4) in this pandemic hospital system capacity has not been significantly more strained compared to recent influenza seasons and the last (2009 swine flu) pandemic, and (5) deaths and hospitalizations for those under age 20 are almost nonexistent and extremely few occur among adults under 65 who don’t have some underlying co-morbidity factor.

To put it in public policy terms, nearly universal restrictions reaching far that match what Edwards has promulgated have produced essentially no additional societal benefits than policies with much less restrictiveness. As a point of departure, these restrictions include a statewide mask mandate when in public indoor and some outdoor locations; restaurants, gyms, salons, casinos, malls and other nonessential businesses must limit customer numbers to 50 percent of their occupancy rate; churches are restricted to 75 percent of occupancy; and venues like outdoor sports stadiums are set at 50 percent; bars are limited to takeout, delivery and outside seating, if parishes don’t meet the low percentages of coronavirus tests returning positive required to allow indoor drinking at bars; and indoor gatherings for weddings and events are restricted to 75 people or a maximum of 25 percent occupancy, whichever is less.

22.12.20

Medicaid waste inflating LA budget woes

As red ink prepares to wash over Louisiana as a result of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Wuhan coronavirus restrictions, the low-hanging fruit to help ameliorate that would be reversal of Medicaid expansion, but at the very least establishment of realistic protocols to vet the waste-ridden program.

Louisiana’s taxpayers now pay (according to the latest fiscal year 2019 data) an extra $312 million annually to foot the bill for expansion, where roughly a third to half of these recipients used to pay their own way. Worse, a fair amount of it involves dollars wasted through inept government administration if not paying outright fraudulent premiums and claims.

Since 2014, nationally the improper payment rate to Medicaid clients has soared from just under 7 to nearly 22 percent. Analysis of the difference in large part attributes this to expansion, particularly in the vetting of initial applicants and periodic review. In a report, Louisiana was singled out as one of the more egregious violators in this regard.

21.12.20

Pandemic politics may finish off I-Bowl

After all its efforts to survive, Shreveport’s Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl may have received its death knell at the hands of a microscopic organism doing its things and the politics and vanities of the humans it lives in.

This week, game officials announced that, after a run of 44 years, the contest would not occur this year. Initially scheduled just after Christmas, the cancellation came when the Pac 12 football conference declared it “couldn’t” fulfill its obligation to produce a bowl-eligible team to face off against Army. For the next few years, the bowl follows a schedule where in alternating years where Army (if eligible) faces a Pac 12 team or independent Brigham Young University (if eligible) squares off against a Conference USA squad (that has several schools within 400 miles including Louisiana Tech just down the road).

In reality, this is one of the poorest potential sets of matchups in the existing bowl system, but despite this being the case throughout most of its history, the I-Bowl has a remarkable record of longevity. Except for the six most prominent bowls that alternate as sites for the College Football Playoff, only four other games have lasted longer.

20.12.20

Conservative pox on nascent LA CD2 hopefuls

Because they will determine the next Louisiana Second Congressional District representative with the resignation of Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, conservatives must choose carefully – if they have any real choice at all.

In that district that spans from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, demographics work against any conservative from winning, barring unusual circumstances. Those actually arose in 2008, when GOP former Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao defeated the indicted incumbent Democrat former Rep. Bill Jefferson, but the district then confined itself to the general New Orleans area. At present, its voter base is 63 percent Democrat and 61 percent black, practically meaning that a liberal black Democrat likely will emerge as the winner.

Maybe. Already two black New Orleans-based Democrat state senators, Troy Carter and Karen Peterson, have said they’ll run. Probable to jump in as well are Democrat New Orleans City Council member Helena Moreno, who’s Hispanic, and far-left black activist Gary Chambers from Baton Rouge. No Republican has indicated a willingness to throw his hat into the ring.

17.12.20

No matter where, pork shouldn't prevail

It depends on which side of the Red River you live whether it’s legal. But, regardless of whether a river runs through it, it’s unethical.

Tomorrow, the Shreveport City Council will try to find a way to evade the city’s charter. Prompted by Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkinsno stranger to trying to sidestep the law in various ways such as spending city tax dollars on his inauguration, double-billing on his automobile usage, and city appointments – the Council had budgeted in 2021 to give each of its seven members authority to direct $250,000 for road work in their districts. Sec. 4.32 flat out prohibits this, which begs the question whether the Perkins Administration or councilors and staff even bothered to read the charter.

With plenty of winks and nods, Republican Councilor James Flurry will try to salvage the deal by shuttling funds to the city’s Office of Community Development – which has authority over workforce development, business development, affordable housing and improvements, homelessness, public services, public facilities, and program funding for federal grants but not roads – and have him and his colleagues “pick up the phone and [ask] ‘Say can you do this? Can you help us on this? I have a need.’ And they come up with the funds. But this time we'll have our own funds there.”

16.12.20

Lawmaker ignorance subverts good care policy

If you’re going to make bad policy, at least know what you’re talking about, a lesson that Republican state Rep. Larry Bagley needs to learn.

This week, the Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee had one of its occasional meetings to review matters of interest. One concerned a rule change that would shovel over $5 million more to nursing homes that would convert more rooms to single occupancy even though it would appear this would not reduce the overgenerous compensation these providers receive,  nor discourage payment for excess licensed beds in a system that disproportionately sends Medicaid clients to nursing homes instead of almost-always less expensive home- and community-based care.

The counter-intuitiveness of the change hasn’t fazed key legislators who could trigger a review and its potential veto, leading them to scramble in justifying it. This includes Bagley, who has attempted to fend off criticism of it, which equates to criticism of him, for as chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee he could have called his committee to meet by the end of the week to vet the change.

15.12.20

LA finally gets rural broadband right -- for now

This is how you do rural broadband right – if you can keep it.

After over a decade of false starts, it appears over the next decade Louisiana will start filling in the rural broadband gaps. Award notices from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund went out, with Louisiana picking up over $342 million worth of services intended to reach over 175,000 addresses in areas currently unserved by broadband.

Twice the state has attempted to obtain federal dollars to expand the provision, off of initiatives from the Democrat former Pres. Barack Obama Administration. Twice it wisely abandoned the efforts because of the strangulation of red tape and concentration on achieving political objectives at the expense of service provision.

14.12.20

New name doesn't change need to sell BC arena

The first step is to rename Bossier City’s CenturyLink Center Drive and the city’s CenturyLink Center Arena Special Revenue Fund. The next is to sell the renamed Brookshire Grocery Arena.

Under whatever name, the two-decades-old arena near the foot of the Jimmie Davis Bridge consistently has lost money. Its siting in open space closer to residential areas than any commercial activity, much less the kind that could leverage off the facility such as entertainment establishments, with somewhat constricted road access came for political, not economic, reasons that might otherwise have caused its building around the Interstate 20/220 intersection by Louisiana Downs.

Emergence of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic illuminated even more brightly its white elephant status. With essentially no activity occurring in the arena for most of the year and perhaps several months into 2021, its deficit grew so large that the city last month the City Council swiped $500,000 – nearly the entire ending 2019 Disaster Relief Fund balance – to pay off 2020 property taxes on the structure and the first two months of 2021 (non)operating expenses. (Whether the legal restrictions that came with the grant of that money would permit such use is another matter.)

13.12.20

Edwards, legislators squander Medicaid dollars

It’s bad enough that both Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana’s Republican legislative leaders have adopted as their main fiscal strategy pennies from heaven. It’s unconscionable that they have to make matters worse for taxpayers and the infirm on top of that.

Rather than start the long overdue paring of state government, imperative more than ever with revenue shortfalls courtesy of Edwards mandates in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Edwards and GOP leaders just cross their fingers and hope money rains down on the state from federal taxpayers to stave off a huge budget deficit, looming perhaps as soon as early next year. The last thing they need to do in this environment is to aggravate matters with extra needless, if not counterproductive, spending.

But that’s exactly what they seem poised to do. This fall, the Department of Health issued a rule revision that would shovel more money to nursing homes paid through Medicaid. The latest data indicate that Medicaid covers about four-fifths of state nursing home residents, which means, since typically other payment sources are charged higher rates, that around three-quarters of industry revenues come from taxpayers. All in all, state taxpayers funnel around $1.2 billion yearly into nursing home operators’ pockets.

10.12.20

Edwards tries to delay likely day of reckoning

It’s too common for Louisiana elected officials to break the law, but in this particular instance the anxiety prompting this reflects a larger policy failure.

This week, the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference announced it would it abrogate its legal duty to met before the end of the year. The REC provides revenues estimates for the current fiscal year, which could require executive and legislative actions to trim an ongoing budget deficit, and for future fiscal years, particularly for the upcoming one where a revenue baseline it determines sets the maximum amount that state government can spend in the budgeting process commencing this spring.

One of its four members, current chairman Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne who represents Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, asked for this. With a wink and a nod, the other members – House Speaker Republican Clay Schexnayder, Senate Pres. Republican Page Cortez, and university economist Stephen Barnes – assented.

9.12.20

Reverse Robin Hood should trigger TOPS rethink

While those who value effectiveness and efficiency over political patronage and wealth redistribution – upwards – prepare to fend off Democrat presumptive Pres. Joe Biden’s suspension of student loan debt, few states will see less impact from this than Louisiana even as the issue highlights where the state can do better.

To start, Biden’s idea of using executive branch discretion permitted in the law authorizing this lending by the federal government to forgive anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 abuses the law and seems incredibly unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny. Which is why he’ll try it, even if it is doomed to failure, and understanding the dynamics of the debt held explains this.

While the average debt outstanding was around $29,000 (in 2019), the median was only $17,000 (in 2016, when the average was about the same). This reflects a heavy skew towards graduate education and private schooling. In fact, the large majority of total debt is held by households with high incomes whose members attended expensive schools and/or pursued graduate – usually professional – degrees. The typical household could pay off that average amount at fewer than $200 a month for 20 years, and usually has income that can support that.

8.12.20

Election results confirm GOP takeover of LA

This past weekend’s elections put the final touches on the takeover of Louisiana by the Republican Party.

At the statewide and parish level, the only contest settled in partisan fashion was the Public Service Commission District 1 race where incumbent Republican Eric Skrmetta won a third and final term, leaving the PSC with a 3-2 Republican majority. This complements the GOP majorities on the Louisiana Supreme Court and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and every other single statewide executive office save for that of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Last year, when Republicans swept to a seat more than a supermajority in the Senate and came up just two short of the same in the House, plus winning handily all but the governorship where Edwards squeaked out reelection, much comment occurred about these topline results. Almost unobserved was a quiet revolution in courthouses that began with sheriffs’ elections in 2019 and concluded with district attorney contests this fall.

7.12.20

Engaged LA voters sent amendment to defeat

Misunderstanding why Amendment 1 failed last weekend serves as a larger metaphor for the steady erosion of leftist legacy media influence in Louisiana.

That amendment would have allowed out-of-state residents to serve on state governing boards of higher education. The majority of states permit this, with proponents arguing that it allows for broader perspectives on higher education management, and certainly the state’s very underachieving system of higher education in the state could benefit from this additional input.

But Louisiana higher education management won’t benefit from a larger knowledge base until it moves away from its long-standing tendency to have too many political hacks awarded seats by the governor who appoints them with rubber-stamp Senate approval, who essentially buy their way onto a board. Let’s just review campaign contributions from the Board of Regents appointments made by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

6.12.20

Progressive mayors costing LA; relief needed

Where is the Kevin Lincoln for Shreveport and New Orleans?

Republican Lincoln will assume the mayoralty of Stockton, CA next month. A native, he joined the Marines, rising to become part of the elite unit guarding the president on helicopter trips. Out of the service, back home he became a pastor, then challenged incumbent Democrat Michael Tubbs. (Technically, the office is nonpartisan, but the candidates are widely labelled as above.)

Elected at 26 after a term on the city council, Tubbs was the left’s rock star. A majority-minority electorate gave him 70 percent of the vote to become the city’s first black mayor, whereupon he began implementing a progressive agenda, largely funded by hitting up starry-eyed leftist philanthropies. Since Stockton has a council-manager system of government (the city council appoints a professional manager to run most city functions), the amount of money he raised for these programs far exceeded his austere official city budget.

3.12.20

Edwards photo blunder making him unelectable

Hammer another nail into the political coffin of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, of the self-inflicted variety.

If Edwards seeks another elected office outside of his home Tangipahoa Parish, his opposition will have a field day with a photograph taken of him last month at the Baton Rouge Country Club. In it, he leans over in an outdoor dining terrace to converse, clearly within six feet of people. And he’s not wearing a mask.

For months, while other governors have eschewed this requirement attendant to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Edwards has ordered utilizing face coverings both indoors and outdoors in public venues, in additional to asking for people to keep their distance from each other in public, backed by rules limiting business capacity. Then he appears hypocritically breaking his own rules, suggesting he doesn’t have to follow these – rules that have led to closing a number of Louisiana businesses, some permanently, and putting hundreds of thousands of Louisianans out of work and many into poverty.

2.12.20

Local transport subsidizing robbing LA roads

I’ll take up the offer made by Republican state Rep. Jack McFarland, and show him why he needs to abandon his sponsorship of a bill to raise the gas tax.

McFarland recently announced he would front this effort, at this point backed by the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration and special interests associated with those who would benefit monetarily from motorists paying more at the pump, construction contractors. He has presented only nebulous details to date, stating that he wishes to outline broad parameters to generate discussion before introducing the final product for the 2021 Regular Session of the Legislature.

Basically, as currently envisioned, the bill would increase the gas tax from the 20 cents a gallon the state currently now to 30 cents in its first year followed by two cents increases every other year to account for inflation until 42 cents are reached in 2033. It also would cap current Department of Transportation and Development spending and divert 4 cents of the existing 16-cent general tax along with the new tax dollars into a sub-fund dedicated by voters solely for construction and preservation of roads and bridges. Additionally, it would charge a new $400 annual fee at registration for electric vehicles while hybrid vehicles would pay $200.

1.12.20

On virus, too many LA schools stuck on stupid

At least a number of Louisiana policy-makers, some later to the party than others, are choosing not to stay stuck on stupid when dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, school superintendents asked both Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to revise their rules regarding schools and the virus. They question the BESE decision that students exposed to another student who tests positive for the virus must then stay away from school for 14 days. In many, but not in all cases, they can access online learning in the interim.

Joining the plea made to the House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee by several district leaders, state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley argued later that the state should adopt the procedures used by Missouri, where only students who are sick or test positive must isolate, as long as all students in close contact were wearing masks – which Louisiana schools require. Brumley agreed with several district superintendents that learning outcomes suffer the fewer in-person classroom days a child has.

30.11.20

Husband's tax sin may transfer to wife's bid

Especially now might not be the right time for Republican state Rep. Jack McFarland to go all in on foisting a gas tax hike onto Louisianans.

McFarland has said next spring he will carry a bill sought by contractors and by supporters not particularly interest in efficient use of tax dollars to accomplish just this, citing a large backlog of transportation projects. Already politicians and interest groups have lined up against the concept, which constitutionally faces an uphill battle in need of two-thirds majorities in each legislative chamber that has or is close to having a GOP supermajority (although apparently blessed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards).

That this will face considerable opposition makes McFarland’s insertion inopportune – or, perhaps another way of looking at it, makes his wife Shelly’s nascent political career more inconvenient. With a vacancy early next year opening up on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon notice of this she threw her hat into the ring for that.

29.11.20

Bossier voters must reject property tax hike

Bossier Parish is trying to do what Bossier City did. Parish voters should turn it down.

The parish’s electorate is being asked to renew, with a rate increase, the 10-year property tax dedicated to funding correctional activities that expires at the end of 2021. This funds the substance abuse/reentry, medium security, and maximum security facilities operated by the parish sheriff.

Originally, voters authorized 3.00 mills for the task, which baseline should raise a bit over $3 million annually for operation. Because of the vagaries of the state’s required quadrennial reassessment – before this year’s last occurring at a time when property values had decreased – the maximum allowed levy rose to 3.14, although most recently taxpayers were hit up for 3.08.

26.11.20

Thanksgiving Day, 2020

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday 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 Sunday through Thursday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Easter, 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 Thursday, Nov. 25 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore this link.

25.11.20

Pro-life win with decision boxing in Edwards

It sounds like great news: a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that federal law allows Louisiana and other states to cut off Medicaid funding to facilities “not qualified” under their regulations. However, the impact in Louisiana, particularly concerning abortion provision, is unclear, while directly affecting Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ political future.

This week, the full Circuit held that Medicaid recipients of services had no cause of action in federal court to contest the decisions of Texas and Louisiana to withhold Medicaid reimbursement funding from Planned Parenthood. In the wake of 2015 revelations of body part-harvesting going on in the organization’s clinics – contested by it but, as the Circuit noted, demonstrably verifiable – both states declared the organization unqualified and would not reimburse for any Medicaid procedure. This would have meant denying the organization around $300,000 annually in Louisiana.

That has yet to happen, since the organization successfully garnered an injunction against that. With the Circuit’s decision, that denial now may proceed as it has in Arkansas, where a different circuit court upheld its cutoff. Five other circuits have ruled the other way, meaning a denied provider can rally Medicaid recipients to intervene on their behalf in federal courts, which would be expected to overturn state denials under another part the Medicaid statute that grants freedom of provider choice for recipients, in those states in addition to pursuing administrative relief in state executive and judicial forums.

24.11.20

Report promotes big govt, wastes tax dollars

At best, the report issued by the Resilient Louisiana Commission as a policy roadmap for the state’s future is uneven. At worst, it rehashes too many failed shibboleths and injects trendy but useless notions designed to grow government and its power at the people’s expense.

The end product comes after six months of study launched as the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic entered its most virulent stage by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards at taxpayer expense. It intends to lead Louisiana out of the virus wilderness and improve economic development beyond that, but with the majority of members picked by Edwards and steered by his government appointees, its conclusions point throughout to indulgence in big government.

It calls for 16 clearly identified new government programs and/or significant boosts in spending on existing ones, with perhaps many more tucked away in vague wording. At three points, it exhorts the federal government to shovel more money at the state. And on three occasions it recommends tying into conclusions by other Edwards-commissioned panels that separately advance the growth of government.

23.11.20

LA clout boosted with Johnson ascension

The news of Louisiana Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond’s impending resignation for a White House gig overshadowed what will become a more consequential and longer-term promotion within the state’s congressional delegation that will amplify the state’s clout in Washington for perhaps decades to come.

Having Richmond serve as a top aide in – assuming this holds true after various legal controversies and ballot recounts – a Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden Administration certainly will give the state inroads into the highest levels of the executive branch. But, realistically, this won’t last long. Biden seems unlikely to serve more than one term – if even that long – and Richmond may not even stick around that long.

As for the other majoritarian branch, last week in Republican House caucus elections Louisiana saw First District GOP Rep. Steve Scalise reelected whip without dissent, in power behind only California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader. McCarthy thus stands in line to become House Speaker in 2023, with the result of the 2022 midterm elections widely expected to erase Democrats’ narrow advantage to make the GOP the majority. Scalise, then, would become the second most powerful House member.

22.11.20

LA left aims to poach PSC, BESE seats

Louisiana’s political left hopes to steal some influence through upcoming elections for collective state executive organs.

First up comes a runoff election Dec. 5 for Public Service Commission District 1, with Republican incumbent Eric Skrmetta challenged by trial lawyer Democrat Allen Borne. The GOP holds a 3-2 advantage.

Skrmetta on the PSC has participated in an era that has seen Louisiana electricity rates paid (except in Orleans Parish, where the City Council regulates power provision) fall steeply relative to other states. He ran a lackadaisical campaign six years ago against an environmental leftist who qualified as a Republican, and only narrowly won reelection. This time, he ran more energetically and was rewarded by cruising into the runoff over some spirited competition.

19.11.20

Natl results spell trouble for LA Democrats

Louisiana Democrats received bad news going forward about their statewide prospects from the 2020 elections, both in state and nationally.

In a year that supposedly some “blue wave” would swamp the country, little evidence of that showed up nationally and in Louisiana. At the national level, while Democrats likely narrowly won the presidency, they likely barely kept control of the House of Representative and likely gained hardly any Senate seats, too few to take control of the chamber.

Specific to Louisiana, Republican Pres. Donald Trump received about the same proportion of the vote as he did in 2016, 58 percent. Republican members of the House cruised to reelection, with only the Second District’s Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond chalking up one for his party in a district drawn heavily in the party’s favor. Incumbent GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy easily dispatched a baker’s dozen of opponents, with Democrat endorsee Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins drawing a humiliating 19 percent of the vote and candidates running under the party label obtaining just 35 percent total.

18.11.20

Bridge toll poll brings out demagoguery

Word about continuing efforts to build a toll bridge to replace the Jimmie Davis Bridge shook up south Bossier City and some of its politicians, underscored by looming city council elections.

Last week, a firm styling itself Opinion Strategies called from an upstate New York area code to quiz area residents about their approval of a new bridge for State Highway 511 that crosses the Red River. The survey operated in “push poll” fashion, with questions and their ordering designed to entice positive responses.

The impetus for this likely came from a Louisiana Transportation Authority meeting in June. There, the firm United Bridge Partners made an unsolicited pitch to build a four-lane bridge, remove the old two-lane bridge, and then collect the revenue from it for 75 years while not exporting any costs to the state. The more the state contributed up front, the lower the tolls would be, although the company declined to reveal tolling prices.

17.11.20

Reduced prospects, Biden need entice Richmond

Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond’s risky intended departure from Congress reveals both something about his own personal political ambitions and the precariousness of a putative former vice president Joe Biden presidential administration.

With Biden inching closer to winning the recent presidential election, Richmond said he would resign soon to take an unspecified but senior role in the White House, but obviously only if Biden’s victory withstands legal challenges. If this comes to pass, he gives up much.

By doing this, Richmond trades out essentially a job for life. He also forfeits the chance to orbit among the most influential Democrats in Congress, having already headed up the Congressional Black Caucus that makes up almost a quarter of Democrats in the House of Representatives and still is relatively young with plenty of upside. Being a pal of Biden’s – he co-led his campaign committee – would have magnified his power further in the chamber.

16.11.20

Edwards vetoes for bogus, politicized reasons

Always count on Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to politicize matters instead of relying on principle that better serves the people.

That tendency he put on display again when he vetoed from the 2020 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature two helpful bills. One, SB 20, would have changed the emergency elections procedure to increase its flexibility.

Under current law, under an emergency the secretary of state can propose temporary changes to the election code with the force of law. These then would have to obtain legislative and gubernatorial approval. The change would have allowed a pair of chamber panels meeting together to suggest changes to the secretary that it would approve before the entire chamber and governor would review. It also gave the chambers the option of overriding a gubernatorial veto.

15.11.20

Ludicrous petition ruling defies common sense

It was such a ludicrous decision concerning Louisiana Revised Statute 29:768 that the exceptionally poor reasoning involved seems unlikely to be a product of mere blundering.

Last week, Republican 19th District Judge William Morvant declared part of this law unconstitutional. It allowed one house of the Legislature to end gubernatorially-declared states of public health emergencies, which the House did in late October to the then-extant proclamation made by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards concerning the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

Morvant clearly wanted nothing to do with it, as indicated by an attempt to sidestep the whole controversy. He made two distinct rulings, the first that the matter was moot because the petition addressed proclamation 134 JBE 2020, and that had expired with replacement by 158 JBE 2020.

12.11.20

Left misdiagnoses LA amendment defeats

And this is why the Louisiana left doesn’t win elections in aggregate.

The state’s electorate made subpar decisions to vote down Amendments #4 and #5 earlier this month, at the urging of the political left. The former would have changed the formula that computes the state’s annual spending limit and put a potential five percent cap on it, while the latter would have made it more practical for entities to enter into payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangements with local governments.

Neither would have made more than a marginal change. The new formula over the past few years would have resulted in smaller potential expenditures increases, and none of its results in recent years would have hit the proposed percentage cap – which, because of an up-and-down revenue picture never got close to hitting the overall dollar cap, which the Legislature twice moved downwards as permitted by a two-thirds vote. And PILOTs already are being constructed across the state, but some owners hesitate to transfer property title to the local governments in question.

11.11.20

Veterans Day, 2020

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday 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 Sunday through Thursday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Easter, 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 Wednesday, Nov. 11 being Veterans' Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.

10.11.20

Don't count on Edwards, Richmond leaving soon

Are they staying or are they going? Chances are the former for Democrats Gov. John Bel Edwards and Rep. Cedric Richmond, but for different reasons.

With more certainty that Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden will secure enough electoral votes to win election to the White House, speculation has started about the futures of the two most prominent Democrats in the state, that they could move on to jobs in a future Biden Administration. Richmond is a Biden friend and co-chairman of his campaign, while Edwards is the party’s only governor in the deep south, a region that Democrats hoped to improve upon their performance but instead, outside of the razor-thin presidential contest in Georgia, as a whole underperformed.

But Richmond has plenty of reasons to stay in his post, starting with it’s his job for life that could lead to a prominent congressional career. Already having headed the Congressional Black Caucus, within a decade he could be jockeying for party leadership in the chamber. Additionally, over the next four years he could wield much influence particularly from 2023-24 because of his friendship with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican. With Democrats barely holding onto a House majority, history assures the GOP will take control of the House in two years, and because of a White House connection Richmond will be the most powerful Democrat when they become the minority with his ability to grab Scalise’s ear.

9.11.20

Biden, voters finish off what Edwards started

Democrat Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, spotted heaping straw onto the camel’s back, naturally denied it last week when the creature’s back broke.

It’s no accident that just as election returns showed Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden taking a lead in the close 2020 presidential election, Royal Dutch Shell announced it would close its Convent refinery. It has tried to sell the plant for months, as part of a larger strategy to shed its free-standing refineries and retaining integrated units that include its Norco facility in favor of developing more alternative energy and focusing more on chemicals production. It was quite a turnaround from just three years ago, when Shell bought out its partner at Convent.

Days before the sale announcement, it had warned it might have to shutter plants couldn’t sell. It didn’t matter that the Convent location was fairly current technologically. It becomes the largest of the nine refineries closed in North America in 2020 and comes on the heels of Calcasieu Refining’s shutting down its Lake Charles refinery.

6.11.20

GOP makes electoral progress in NW LA

Mirroring their party’s declining statewide fortunes, Republicans continued to solidify their grasp with the upper hand in Caddo Parish elections, which may hold consequences for Democrat-majority Shreveport.

You can’t say the same about Bossier Parish – because Democrats there already are an endangered species. In and around Bossier City excepting the small towns to the north, what few races even had a Republican being contested, with several GOP candidates drawing no opposition including the 26th District Attorney Schuyler Marvin, produced GOP winners, with the most high-profile being the passing of the city judge post from retiring Tommy Wilson to ally Santi Parks.

As another indicator of evaporating Democrat fortunes in Bossier, Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell – a fixture in Bossier elections for nearly a half-century – barely squeaked back into office. No thanks to Bossier, which handily gave it support to his GOP opponent from Ouachita Parish who hardly campaigned.

5.11.20

Perkins loss hints at his early political exit

The strange political saga of Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins continues, and at this rate his political career won’t last past 2022 – a slide that has the potential to put a shadow Republican in the city’s top spot.

When Perkins announced this summer that he would take on incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, the political left swooned with visions of him as “the perfect candidate” (“the next Obama!”). That it would look solely at the demographics and ignore his checkered, short record as mayor – which only became more controversial as the campaign progressed – speaks volumes that they couldn’t spot a doomed candidacy from the start.

Naturally, Cassidy blew Perkins out of the water, with the party suffering its worst Senate electoral showing in history. Worse for him, the increased attention the contest invited onto his tenure compounded his difficulty in gaining reelection.

4.11.20

LA not ready to reject liberalism populism

Just when you think Louisiana might have turned from its liberal populism ….

A review of Louisiana’s election results might may one think this ancient trait in the state’s political culture may have receded further. Several contests provided data, beginning with Republican incumbent Sen. Bill Cassidy’s defense. Cassidy never was in any danger, but because 13 challengers flooded the field, including well-funded Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and Democrat Derrick “Champ” Edwards, who racked up as much as 44 percent in a previous statewide try, the multiplicity of competition might hold him under 50 percent.

No worries; Cassidy stomped the field with 59 percent of the vote, the largest margin in a general election since 1998. Perkins led the also-rans, but humiliatingly with the smallest proportion that the highest-polling Democrat received since senators became object of a popular vote. Altogether, Democrats received only 36 percent, the least of any major party since 1984.

3.11.20

LA politicos invite reaping violence they sow

If a past lamentable event echoes prominently in a recent similar event, Louisiana Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal provides the framework to understand why.

Last week, Donnell Linwood Hassell allegedly shot New Orleans Police Officer Trevor Abney, while injuring Office Brooks Duncan IV. Abney and Duncan were patrolling in their cruiser when with no apparent provocation Hassell fired at the car from a pedicab, evidence shows. Hassell appeared to be so under the influence of substances that upon arrest he took a detour to hospital before booking.

A black suspect trying to pick off white law enforcement officers uncomfortably reminds of events in Baton Rouge in the summer of 2016. Then, Gavin Eugene Long staked out and attempted to assassinate a half dozen officers, killing half and wounding the others. Long, who was black, proved less picky on the race of his victims by killing black Baton Rouge Officer Montrell Jackson, and intended to die that day in the course of taking out officers, in which he was obliged. He was drugged up at the time.

2.11.20

Cantrell politicizes with abdicating of duty

Even as it seems the problem won’t appear, it’s worth noting the marriage of politicization of an election and abdication of responsibility performed by Democrat New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

This past weekend, Cantrell complained that Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office would not “provide support for generators” in as many as 11 precincts affected by Hurricane Zeta. The storm didn’t directly strike New Orleans last week, but it did topple power lines that blacked out these precinct locations. If the situation persisted into Tuesday, no power through electrical outlets would be available to run voting machines and other site utilities.

As it turned out, by Monday eights sites were on the way to power restoration. As for the other three, provider Entergy New Orleans said it would pony up a generator for one and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness would scrounge two more, while Entergy would take care of installation and transport of these.

1.11.20

LA higher education to suffer less from virus

Louisiana’s higher education institutions crow about enrollment gains in the face of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but a leading research outfit says the state lost such students. Who’s right and what does it mean?

Many observers expected declines nationally with the virus running around. That could discourage attendance and might have stretched pocketbooks too thinly to have students and families shell out for tuition needed. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center seemed to bear this out. Its latest update in mid-October using late September data showed a national loss of 3 percent, with undergraduate enrollment down 4 percent.

This continued a trend over the past several years nationally, while Louisiana has seen a drop in undergraduate students every year except from academic year 2017-2018 since 2011. Most alarmingly, first-time freshmen numbers nationally fell by over 16 percent. The organization said it had data representing almost 70 percent of Louisiana enrollment covered in its data.

29.10.20

Small comfort for hemorrhaging LA Democrats

Despite massive registration losses and obscured by the substitution effect relative to when to vote, Democrats have been making incremental gains on Republicans that could provide slight inconvenience to the GOP in next week’s elections.

Early voting has become the trendy thing, with the nationwide total already over half of all counted in 2016. For its part, Louisiana fell just under that figure. Further, Democrats have outpaced Republican substantially in states that record registration by party.

However, this likely won’t reveal much as far as the final numbers go. Nationally, in the few presidential elections where there has happened any substantial amount of it, Democrats historically have outvoted Republicans, but disproportionately when compared to election day. In 2016, despite more Democrats casting ballots prior to that day in large swing states, those went to GOP Pres. Donald Trump.

28.10.20

Edwards' pandering veto turns into self-parody

When there’s an opportunity to posture, rest assured Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards will pounce on it like a crazed parade-goer eyeballing a loose Zulu coconut.

HB 4 from the recently-completed special session of the Legislature afforded him such an opportunity. The bill would have placed a one-house legislative check on parts or all of emergency proclamations after 30 days by a majority vote of the chamber.

Edwards vetoed it, for reasons that reveal a poverty of understanding the Louisiana Constitution and a surfeit of hubris in the most politicized way. It begins with his, whether obtuse, misdirection about the bill’s subject.

27.10.20

Backers double down on failed LA virus policy

When wrong about something, some people think becoming more strident and adamant about their mistaken view makes it less likely they’ll be exposed as wrong. Such is the case with Louisiana’s new head public health officer, Dr. Joe Kanter, on state policy concerning the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

To date, the heavy-handed response by to it by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has produced the worst health outcomes of any state. As of the week’s beginning, the state ranked third in cases per capita and fifth in deaths per capita, far and away the worst combined showing of any state.

The opposite approach has been taken by Sweden. Except for closing tertiary education institutions for a few weeks in the spring and limiting gatherings to 50 for an extended period, its government didn’t impose any economic restrictions. It did exhort people to cover their faces, keep distanced, and restrict interactions with the elderly.

26.10.20

Bill opponents misunderstand roles of govts

In the ashes of the failure of Republican state Rep. Lance HarrisHB 38 from the just-concluded special session of the Louisiana Legislature, most disappointing was the demonstrated ignorance of some opponents to it.

The bill would have allowed the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to review local governments that perform functions of or are law enforcement agencies that decreased spending on that function a quarter or more, unless their tax collections in the period dropped. If the JLCB determined the decrease harmed public safety, the offending government would lose the chance to receive capital outlay money from the state and any appropriations for sale tax dedications.

Harris, who is running for Congress, pitched the bill as a proactive antidote to the actions of a handful of cities nationwide that have made efforts to defund police departments under the allegation that they perform in a systematically racist way. None in Louisiana have attempted this, although extremist elements have called for this in New Orleans.

23.10.20

Bungled session leaves little to commend it

Thanks to monumental leadership ineptitude, if not bad faith, a promising special session of the Louisiana Legislature collapsed to take the political fortunes of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards out of intensive care.

At its start almost a month ago, the session convened by the Republican leadership of Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Pres. Page Cortez looked to make several advancements. Primarily, it could have, through passing a combination of resolutions to commence immediately and laws aimed at the future, pushed Edwards into wiser policy-making concerning the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, made strides towards addressing the unemployment benefits trust fund deficit without weakening the system, and handled matters relative to this year’s hurricane disasters.

Insofar as the disaster legislation went, it got the job done. It failed miserably on the other pair of priorities, and in a way that revived Edwards’ moribund power that it had hamstrung during the regular session and prior special session.

22.10.20

Jefferson school leaders stupidly dig deeper

If you’ve already made yourself look idiotic by digging a hole you’re in, don’t keep digging. That’s a lesson Louisiana’s lobby for school superintendents, and especially the Jefferson Parish school chief and some of its board members, should have learned long ago.

Last month, the parish’s school superintendent James Gray senselessly suspended 4th grader Ka’Mauri Harrison for briefly having a BB gun in view of his computer camera while receiving virtual instruction. Shortly thereafter, 6th grader Tomie Brown got suspended for three days for roughly the same thing.

It boggles the mind in the first place why the district would consider having a gun visible from afar, as opposed to having one in the classroom, an infraction. It’s as if Jefferson school mandarins think children are vampires that must be shielded from a cross lest they endure trauma, as if the image of a firearm in and of itself was something revolting. However do they survive viewing pictures of war from their history textbooks?

21.10.20

Bossier Jury last big NW LA sunshine holdout

Now that the Bossier City Council has dragged itself into the 21st century, it’s past time for that to happen to the last holdout among the large governing authorities in northwest Louisiana that has resisted transparency – the Bossier Parish Police Jury.

Last week, for the first time, the City Council began publishing on its web site descriptions of its agenda items, including the texts of ordinances when introduced and considered. The move brings welcome relief to citizens who now can review easily, without having to trek to City Hall, matters before the Council meets in order to give input before or at the meeting.

Perhaps the change came as a result of looming elections. Three months prior to qualification, already more candidates have committed to challenging incumbents than in 2017. One, District 1 challenger Republican Shane Cheatham who currently sits on the Bossier Parish School Board, in publicly pledged to making agenda item information available online prior to meetings, emulating the Board’s policy as well as that of Shreveport’s City Council. Then, almost simultaneously, the Bossier City Council broke its maiden.

20.10.20

Tweak program to reduce LA's water woes

A promising program that could save Louisiana taxpayers money scored its first success, but it needs a heavier foot on the gas pedal.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, Congress established a program that led to creation of Louisiana’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. Each year, the federal government allocates money for this, matched by the state at a 4:1 ratio. The nearly $20 million combined, as well as monies accumulated from the past loaned and repaid, mainly may go to further low-interest lending to aid in improving the provision of drinking water by both local government and nongovernment agencies, but also can subsidize providers to defined disadvantaged populations, refinancing for government providers, as well as set-asides to secure adherence to regulations to address public health priorities.

Last year, within the program following the creation of a commission to study the issue, the state additionally instituted a mechanism to aid disadvantaged communities, defined as a population that faces an imminent threat to public safety from regulatory noncompliance in its system, has fewer than 10,000 people, and has a median household income below the national figure. It allows these systems to draw upon an interest-free, forgivable loan to consolidate with other systems in better financial and structural shape.

19.10.20

LA needs to stay on education reform course

The fault in Louisiana’s continuing drop in ACT Test scores lies in us, even in the face of a similar national trend.

Louisiana’s decline has gone from 19.5 (out of 36 points) in 2017 to 19.2 in 2018 to 18.8 in 2019 and 18.7 in 2020. However, that trend also appears nationally. Among the other 11 states where all students took the ACT in this period, only two had an increase from 2017-18, one had an increase from 2018-19, one had an increase from 2019-20, and only Nevada’s rose in this period – and it’s the lowest performer. Nationally, which includes all students including those in states they may take it voluntarily (which disproportionately excludes lower performers), scores also dropped from 21 to 20.6.

This can’t be written off as an artifact of fewer students taking it – which has seen a drop every year from 2017 of 2.03 million to 1.67 million in 2020 – because less able students typically eschew it. As well, the pattern downward replicated across the must-take states.

16.10.20

GOP leaders forfeit claim to fiscal prudence

With one boneheaded, tone-deaf piece of legislation, Louisiana’s Republican legislative leadership threw away any chance they had to differentiate clearly a GOP-led Legislature from spender-in-chief Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards – and on a silver platter handed Edwards a means to diffuse criticism of him.

HB 39 in the special session started off innocuously enough. Author Republican state Rep. Zee Zeringue – as head of the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, a top lieutenant of GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayderoriginally asked only to take $15 million out of apparently leftover dollars, from a federal government boost the portion of Medicaid it finances through the end of the year and let the Louisiana Public Defender Board use it to buy office space for its constituent districts. This would free up rent money that could go to supplementing a system chronically short of funds that has triggered a suit over that lacking, which allegedly causes inadequate representation.

The simplicity obscured that the bill would serve as the vehicle for other adjustments in the budget as since the fiscal year commenced the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic continued and the state received two hurricane blows, and cybersecurity matters increasingly gained in importance. Principally – and leaders had articulated this as one of the two major reasons to have the session – it would trigger a refill of the Unemployment Compensation Fund, as economic retrenchment due to restrictions imposed by Edwards had caused a spike in unemployment that increased benefits going out and reduction in business that reduced tax collections from employers going in.