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.
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.
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.
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.
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.