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Disingenuous Cassidy completes his disgrace

His explanation, and he, were bogus all along.

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy drew an avalanche of criticism concerning his vote to proceed with the Senate trial attendant to (another dubious) impeachment of GOP former Pres. Donald Trump, Cassidy took to social media to attempt a defense of it. He had the raw material to do a credible job; while the case that trying a former officer of the U.S. has merit through a reading of the Constitution and past argumentation during impeachment trials, the case against is stronger. Still, he could have offered a principled defense of his decision that he used reasoned judgment to make the call.

Instead, he mostly rehashed his initial explanation. He said the Democrats who comprised the majority in the House of Representatives managing the trial – the prosecutors, in essence – spoke to an learned case for permissibility of late impeachment, although briefly adding that the sources for this came from Constitutional scholars, including some allied with the Federalist Society which is an organization that promotes interpreting the Constitution through original source materials supplemented by learned extrapolation, often favored by conservatives. By contrast, he said the defense lawyers provided little of the same, which clinched his affirmative vote.


Another failure to justify LA gas tax hike

When somebody starts disgorging any and every argument to buttress his position, you know he’s losing the debate. Recently, Republican state Rep. Jack McFarland exemplified that concerning his putative bill to jack up the gasoline tax at the pump.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, McFarland outlined his conception of the as-yet unfiled bill for the Louisiana Legislature’s 2021 regular session, which would increase the gas tax by 10 cents, then add 2 cents a year until the increase reaches 22 cents. Besides the usual litany that the state has a huge road maintenance backlog – he said $15 billion – and a wish list for new capacity on top of that – he said $13 billion – he tossed in a new wrinkle: that relieving drivers and consumers of this additional money would help the state recover from the negative economic effects of commercial restrictions laid down by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

That statement only goes to show how McFarland misunderstands the nature of this man-caused crisis. When Democrat former Gov. Huey Long suggested something similar, spending more for a massive increase in roads improvement and building that would increase the state’s transportation capacity, and eventually to dovetail under his successor with New Deal demand-stimulative policy pursued by the federal government, that came in response came from a perceived liquidity trap holding back the economy. That is, with an undersupply of investment resources due to adverse equity declines, an oversupply of labor from economic contraction, and low confidence in future business success, the private sector had reduced incentive to engage in capital-intensive economic activities. People preferred to hold onto cash rather than invest because they saw perceived future returns as too close to zero, so they don’t invest in enterprises that create jobs.


Cassidy derelict in thoughtless trial vote

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy isn’t unthoughtful about his view concerning the constitutionality of GOP former Pres. Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The problem is he is so thoughtless about it.

This week, on a pivotal Senate vote on a motion to scrap this second, and equally as idiotic, impeachment of Trump, along with five other GOP senators Cassidy joined in opposing the move, which contested whether impeachment could occur against a former officer of the United States. The Democrat-led House of Representatives had impeached Trump just prior to his departing office, but the constitutional question remained of whether the Senate could try him after he became a private citizen.

Jurisprudence and legal thinking on the issue produce a mixed picture. Good arguments exist for and against, although the latter has more validity. Proponents have argued that even if removal has disappeared as a rationale for trial, disqualification from future office remains as a means of deterrence for bad behavior in office. However, the Framers of the Constitution gave no indication that the two punishments existed independently of each other, through the record of their debate nor in a reading of The Federalist.


PAR reforms: right ideas, wrong path to these

The best way to sum up (yet) another effort by the interest group Public Affairs Research Council to improve Louisiana’s governance is right ideas, wrong way to get there.

PAR has a long-time obsession with constitutional reform which, as its latest installment demonstrates, isn’t unreasonable. About every decade it cranks out arguments about how this should happen and why that would benefit Louisiana, even as it has varied in approach (such as the utility of a convention or whether a limited one legally may exist and should be pursued). The latest effort, its most extensive ever, started in 2019 with a report on general principles that should guide a constitution in the process of which asserting that Louisiana’s needs more fiscal flexibility, and at the beginning of this month issued the latest that mainly deals with restructure of constitutional funds to acquire that freedom to match better funding with priorities.

Insofar as its basic argument that few of the present 28 dedicated funds protected in the Constitution should stay unchanged, a few more should stay but with proceeds more widely distributable, and the remainder downgraded into statute or thrown into the dumpster, there’s little reason to dissent. However, more interestingly this second part delves into the question of how constitutional change should occur, which expands upon cursory remarks PAR made on the subject almost two decades ago.


LA needs to initiate emergency legal revisions

The Louisiana Legislature needs to take a cue from its counterparts in several states to improve its emergency policy-making.

As the sciences, both of the hard and social kind, continue to confirm that heavy-handed responses to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic don’t do much to limit transmission while foisting burdensome costs to life and liberty, a number of governors before, during, and after revelation of this information didn’t follow the knowledge base. In many cases, states vested insufficient checks on gubernatorial power in use of these emergency powers that led to poor policy-making choices.

Emergency policy-making should be centralized in the executive, for more efficiency and the greater holistic view of the state. At the same time, these full-time executives are distant from the population over which they may have near dictatorial emergency powers, and face greater temptations to make these decisions on political bases, as reactions to the pandemic have illuminated.


Bad times mutate bad bill into better option

The unusual nature of the times may make a bill that should be unacceptable to the Louisiana Legislature in more ordinary days now agreeable.

Such is the case with SB 1 by Republicans state Sen. Barrow Peacock. The bill would divert, starting in fiscal year 2023 and for the following two, respectively four-ninths, seven-ninths, and all of the avails from the 2018 sales tax hike renewal of 0.45 percent to infrastructure spending, directly on projects equally among the state’s nine transportation districts.

We’ve seen this before. After the 2018 increase, in the 2019 and 2020 regular sessions Peacock made basically the same proposal, except portioned over five and four years, respectively. There’s a defensible logic to this: government should treat a temporary tax, no less one propping up government larger than necessary, as a windfall and spend it accordingly on nonrecurring items, with paring an extensive transportation backlog a great place to employ this strategy.