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GOP leadership failure risks popular bills

What could have turned out to be a session-defining game of chicken fell flat, due to poor legislative leadership more interested in avoiding conflict than in promoting the goals of the Republican majority, reflecting voters’ wishes.

A number of important bills muscled their way through the two chambers despite the lukewarm support given, if not outright hostility displayed to them, by GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Sen. Pres. Page Cortez. Although leaders have discretion in the fate of bills, such as in point of order rulings, committee assignments of members and (in the case of some bills) bill disposition, and in timing when to move legislation, when an overwhelming portion of the majority party membership wants something to pass, they can’t stop it.

But if they concede to do the bidding of the governor, they can find a way to sabotage such bills from becoming law. The surest way uses methods to slow down bill passage just enough so that a bill doesn’t go to the governor for signature or veto within 15 days prior to the end of the session. This is because bills passed in identical form have three days for transmission to the governor, ten days for gubernatorial decision (failing to veto within that span makes the bill law), and if vetoed two days for transmission back to the chamber.


Deal good, if LA lawmakers keep their resolve

The deal struck in the Louisiana Legislature to advance roads construction works well on many levels – if lawmakers resist falling into a trap.

State senators whipsawed again HB 514 by Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee. It now steers starting in fiscal year 2023 a quarter, then for FY 2024 half, and finally for FY 2025 and beyond three-quarters of the estimated $500 million a year in vehicle sales taxation away from the general fund and towards transportation infrastructure. Something close to its present form should emerge from conference before the end of the session.

The instrument hardly resembles it original posture, which would have taxed medical marijuana and sent a portion of that to roads. In the interim, it became a vehicle for extending one temporary sales tax and making another permanent, dedicating much of that to roads.


Edwards idleness bonus tactic masks agenda

Who does Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards think he’s kidding?

Under pressure from state employer interest groups and Republican elected officials, Edwards has resisted terminating early extra $300 weekly payments from the federal government, due to expire Sep. 6. Research continues to build showing that the presence of this bonus, which in many states can hike the weekly stipend by more than double, plays a significant role in discouraging work which then constrains business operations, leaving employers a choice of whether to go out of business because wage demands become distorted higher or cutting back on service hours.

But the data demonstrating this largely are anecdotal and survey-based because of the short interval since the bonus went into effect and that only next week do the first of the half of all states ending it early start to implement this. Only one study, tangentially related – and not particularly applicable to the current policy question because it reviewed data about the previous $600 level and modeled the impact on middle-class wages – has addressed the issue, which showed that roughly one of seven people who refused work did so because of the bonus.


LA should resist changing school grade formula

Louisiana should tread carefully, if at all, down a path of deemphasizing actual knowledge and thinking ability imparted by its public schools when assessing their performances.

Next week, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will debate whether to change the calculation of school performance scores, which provide a method for comparison and assessment that could affect whether schools continue to operate as well as a way for families to evaluate them. The formula varies for the level of schooling involved:

  • Kindergarten through Grade 3 – 75 percent from aggregate student statewide assessments, 25 percent from student progress from testing prior to the school year
  • Grades 4 through 8 – 70 percent from assessments, 25 percent from progress, and 5 percent from how many course credits the past year’s eighth graders earned in Grade 9
  • Grades 9 through 12 – 25 percent from assessments (although a sixth of this actually come from language and math progress), 25 percent from standardized higher education testing or its equivalent, 25 percent from the rolling four-year graduation rate, and 25 percent from how past students have fared in accumulating college credit or certifications (a measure of the quality of the secondary education)


New conservative caucus proving merit already

The new Louisiana Conservative Caucus doesn’t promise the world, so it needs to pass its first test.

This new House of Representatives group of Republicans formed last month pledging fiscal conservatism, pursuing pro-life advocacy, and backing Second Amendment protections, and only adds new members after invitation. It largely mirrors the House GOP segment that in early 2020 voted for Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack to become Speaker, with 38 of its 41 confirmed members having supported Mack (two others won special elections to the chamber afterwards). The one exception who backed GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder – as did all 35 Democrats, both no party members, and 21 other Republicans (one other noninvited Republican recently won a special election) – GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo – Schexnayder recently dumped as a committee chairman because Garofalo insisted on pursuing legislation that would forbid neo-racist ideas from propagation through the public schools and in state higher education.

Importantly, the LCC didn’t form, as has been implied, over Schexnayder selling out Garofalo after Democrats complained about the bill and the reaction to it. So far, it has limited its public intervention to one issue – a statement saying its members would vote against an attempt in HB 514 by GOP state Rep. Tanner Magee to maintain the 2016/2018 sales tax hike of 0.45 percent past 2025. Besides not intervening on behalf of Garofalo’s bill, it hasn’t gotten involved in controversy over bills forwarded by its member Republican state Rep. Valarie Hodges that would mandate teaching in schools pivotal moments in American history and civic literacy that a Senate committee watered down last week.