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30.1.23

Major overhaul can solve LA roads underfunding

As complaints about Louisiana roads in quality and quantity have increased continually, if anything expect things to get worse on these accounts before they get better unless big changes are in the offing.

That implication came through in a recent discussion arranged by the Public Affairs Research Council, involving policy-makers and group representatives. They emphasized a recent Legislative Auditor report that noted the retail fuel excise tax will erode significantly in its ability to provide money for roads in order to tackle a $15 billion in expressed needs.

Two trends drive that: slow but steady improvement in overall gasoline efficiency and slow but steady growth in the proportion of non-fossil fuel engines on the road. Both reduce the amount of gas sold thus tax collected.

29.1.23

LA can't miss again on protecting children

Here’s a chance, after previous missed opportunities, for Louisiana to get atypically out in front and on the right side of an issue and protect children.

It’s the last state to convene its legislature, and many others aren’t waiting to file bills that prevent potentially destructive pharmaceutical and surgical interventions on children. Some already have acted to prohibit sexual transition surgery on children and the administration of puberty blockers without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports such a position, with an excellent recitation of it as of last year contained in HR 158 by Republican Rep. Gabe Firment, a bill passed in last year’s regular session. Mounting evidence since then has led additional public health authorities worldwide to take that more cautious view encapsulated in the bills now advancing in about 20 statehouses.

26.1.23

BC to bus riders: take a hike, see the statue

The Jan. 24 meeting of the Bossier City Council provided a perfect summary of the last 25 years of city governance: building monuments instead of helping people.

It started off innocently enough, with a bid opening. When the city bids out business (much less often than it should according to best practices), interested bidders have theirs revealed to the Council publicly, and then the city makes the decision who to go with or, if just one qualifying one received, whether to rebid.

The project was to construct a statue of Walter O. Bigby, the politician for whom the northern extension of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway is named, at the completed roundabout. That decision was made over two years ago as Ordinance 165 of 2020 at its Dec. 15, 2020 meeting as holidays approached and Wuhan coronavirus restrictions remained in effect. The projected maximum bid was $330,000 and attracted several supplicants.

25.1.23

Looming short special session driven by politics

The short-but-sweet special session of the Louisiana Legislature to kick off next week came more from politics than any genuine need for urgency.

The very narrowly-defined call by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards leaves legislators only the option to choose how many of just-recognized excess dollars from last month’s Revenue Estimating Conference forecast to pour into a special fund designed to attract property insurers into the state. At the behest of Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, $45 million of the almost $925 million would go for this purpose.

The vehicle used will be an overhaul of an effort over 15 years ago in response to insurers either dissolving or refusing to write policies in the state after the hurricane disasters of 2005. A series of lesser storms over the past couple of years has triggered a similar situation and pushing at least 20 insurers out of the state, driving the population of the state-overseen nonprofit insurer Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to levels last seen in the aftermath of 2005 comprising about a tenth of all insured properties. Further, rates for Citizens clients on average will increase 63 percent.

24.1.23

Top spot race action ripples to lower LA offices

The flurry of activity surrounding Louisiana’s governor’s race has had an impact on other constitutional statewide offices up for grabs later in the year as well.

Long thought to seek the state’s top job, instead Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser opted to vie for reelection. That may not be a slam dunk, for GOP former Rep. John Fleming months ago declared his candidacy, after having said he would wait on Nungesser to decide who dithered until about a week ago.

While that may imply Fleming could abandon the effort, having gone a few months into it he well might keep going. He would pose a real challenge to Nungesser, who has alienated a good portion of state Republican activists over sniping with them about endorsements for Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry for governor as well as differences over key issues. Those disgruntled with Nungesser would give Fleming a long look, who has an impeccable conservatism record although the position largely is nonideological and who is flush enough to finance his own campaign.

23.1.23

Term limits beneficial for Bossier, LA govts

It’s a tall order given the power elites involved, but the Bossier Parish Republican Parish Executive Committee has launched some initiatives worthy of emulation statewide.

Last week, the PEC endorsed that the Bossier City Council convene a charter committee with the intent of installing a three-term limit to its members and the mayor’s office. This route requires city registered voter signatures equal to a third of the turnout in last mayoral contest, or 2,742 to place the matter in front of the Council where if it doesn’t ratify the result by a majority then the matter would go to referendum at the next scheduled election, where a majority in favor implements.

It also announced another petitioning project for parish voters requesting the same on Bossier Parish Police Jury members. As one of the 36 parishes in the state whose government operates without a charter, it functions under state law, requiring legislators to pass a law placing limits which would be unprecedented. It also called upon the Jury to resolve whether it endorses the idea.

22.1.23

Caddo debates criminalizing political dissent

The great Caddo Parish Commission showdown never materialized and maybe cooler heads eventually will prevail on free speech issues aggravated by thin-skinned commissioners.

Last Tuesday at a Commission work session’s end, local publisher John Settle and Democrat Commissioner Steven Jackson got into a verbal altercation. Witnesses say other commissioners and parish workers had to restrain Jackson after Settle made critical remarks about him, apparently referring to the recent arrest of Jackson for impersonating a police officer, which Settle believes may be related to extracurricular amorous activities of Jackson, who also faces issuance of a domestic protective order against him.

Shortly thereafter, on behalf of Democrat Commission Pres. Roy Burrell a letter was sent to a deputy with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office supposedly overseeing Commission security, in which he claimed commissioners were so worried about Settle’s alleged comportment at meetings that he would be banned from attending meetings henceforth. In particular, it claimed that he “has threatened Commissioners, regularly makes outbursts from his seat during the meeting, violates posted restricted area notices regularly, made comments that staff and commissioners [sic] intentionally uncomfortable, and his provocations have led to multiple physical confrontations in recent years both in and outside the chamber.”

19.1.23

Spirited GOP jockeying shouldn't repeat 2015

Now that Republican candidates for Louisiana governor have come like throws from a carnival float, is a repeat of 2015 in the offing as some senior party activists fret?

Last week, after GOP Sen. John Kennedy and GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser announced they would pass on the race, first Republican Treasurer John Schroder threw his hat into the ring followed shortly by Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt. With GOP Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry in it for months, that makes for three quality Republican candidates on offer. A fourth, state Rep. Richard Nelson, jumped in earlier this week.

Which was the case in 2015, with Sen. David Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Even with Vitter presumed the frontrunner, he made the runoff but behind then-little known Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who defeated Vitter heads-up even facing a center-right voting public.

18.1.23

Other GOP candidates offer what Nelson can't

Now GOP state Rep. Richard Nelson has joined the Louisiana gubernatorial fray. Compared to the other candidates already announced, this one seems premature if not half-baked.

The first-term legislator joined two-term state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, two-term Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, and almost two-term Treas. John Schroder, who also served over two terms in the Legislature, all Republicans, in the contest. He obliquely but quite pithily referred to these competitors as “career politicians” in contrast to him who he alluded to as providing “real solutions.”

Of course, they may appear as careerists in contrast to him, as he has been an elected official for just three years – although in proportional terms, he has served almost a tenth of his life in office, at age 36, whereas Hewitt has served just slightly at seven years out of 64, and by years end he’ll have spent as much proportionally of his life in office as she. And therein lies the problem with his candidacy.

17.1.23

Graves has tough, risky choice to pursue top job

As Republican Rep. Garret Graves ponders whether to enter the Louisiana governor’s race this year, a lot of competing considerations make it a tough call.

In the race so far among major candidates, all Republicans, are state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, and Treas. John Schroder. Democrats almost assuredly will offer up a quality candidate because they can’t concede the only lever of power they have any shot at having for their own, they need a decent candidate at the top to help down ballot candidates, and they don’t want to risk allowing an insurgent to wrest party control from the white elite and its black allies who currently run it (with the recent election of Democrat Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis replacing part of that cabal a warning to them to prevent this).

All three are solid conservatives, with perhaps only Schroder willing to waver on that account. This leaves establishment Republicans – think rent seekers who want to keep their fingers in the pie of special tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies and/or who feel indifferent, if not look down on, voters driven by cultural issues – basically bereft, with Schroder their best but fairly imperfect bet for a horse to back in that lineup.

16.1.23

Hewitt quality, but with tough road to top job

So-called moderates pining for a candidate in Louisiana’s governor’s race this year won’t find one in Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, but she does provide a home for conservatives disenchanted with the frontrunner.

Hewitt jumped into the race last week to provide conservatives with yet a third choice. She followed GOP Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and GOP Treas. John Schroder. The latter joined in only days before her, but Landry kicked things off months ago and since has amassed an impressive array of endorsements including the state party’s and a truckload of cash to spread his message.

With over her last term, as the party leader in the chamber, a Louisiana Legislative Log score of over 98 and the chamber’s highest (where 100 would be a conservative/reform vote every time), she would fit the bill for anybody-but-Landry conservatives. Her problem is that this alone won’t be enough to catapult her into office.

15.1.23

Bossier Jury must value honesty in hiring choice

We’ll see whether this week the continuing controversy over whether Parish Administrator Joe E. “Butch” Ford legally may serve in that position has anything to do with the Jury giving him another year on the job.

Ford gained the position as the result of a unanimous Jan. 19, 2022 vote by the Jury as the only nominee and secured a one year contract. However, technically he legally could not have been appointed since he was not a registered voter in the parish, as required by state law. Not only did the Jury overlook that, it did so for 10 months until Ford brought himself into compliance, after published reports highlighted that he continued to remain registered at a residence in Caddo Parish.

However, in making this switch, Ford created another legal hassle. He registered at a Bossier address that he doesn’t own, thereby making himself unable to claim that as a homestead and has continued to maintain a homestead exemption at the Caddo residence he and his wife owns even up to this post’s publishing. This puts him in violation of state law that says if you claim a homestead exemption, you can register to vote only at that location.

13.1.23

Again, Caddo GOP district has Democrat imposed

If once isn’t enough to residents of District 8 of the Caddo Parish Commission, apparently a thousand times won’t be too many.

Last week, responding to the resignation of Republican Jim Taliaferro to take a Shreveport City Council seat, the Commission by a vote of 8-3 appointed Democrat Ronald Cothran to the district’s spot through October. Because legally inauguration of the next 2024-28 term happens a little too late to overlap the interim appointment according to the parish charter, simultaneously the fall ballot will have an election to cover the seat until the end of the year and then for the next term.

Controversially, the district is one of the most Republican-oriented in the state, with 48 percent of registrants with that party and just 30 percent Democrats. Prior to that, the Commission had six Democrats, four Republicans, and no party Mario Chavez, who had been elected twice as a Republican but changed his registration earlier this year when running unsuccessfully for Shreveport mayor.

12.1.23

Use speed cameras for safety only, not money

You could cite any number of instrumental reasons why placing red light cameras around Bossier City is a bad idea – traffic enforcement performed by an outside party, questionable validity, administrative problems, constitutional issues – but the philosophical one provides the strongest argument against their installation around school zones: where is the need?

If the stalking horse no doubt to be trotted out by proponents – principally Blue Line Solutions, the proposed vendor who stands to get half of the revenues from any such operation, during the special workshop next work held for the purpose by the Bossier City Council – is safety, then they need to prove its necessity. Prove that there is a problem in school zones with speeding cars mowing down vulnerable children before taking such a drastic step.

(Actually, should this be a problem? After all, the city will pay nearly $20,000 this year to the Bossier Parish School District so that the BPSD can hire Bossier Parish Sheriff Office deputies to direct traffic during the designated hours around the two schools supposedly most in need of traffic control at these times.)

11.1.23

Schroder in, might fit anybody-but-Landry bill

Enter, as an imperfect fit for the anybody-but-Landry set of Republicans ensconced in Louisiana, GOP state Treasurer John Schroder for governor.

Within a day of each other, GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser backed away from but Schroder made formal his entrance into the contest against Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry. It was perhaps the only combination of circumstances that gives him any chance to win.

Nungesser, a self-described “moderate” Republican, had hoped to thread a needle between Landry, with staunch conservative credentials, and any state-party-backed Democrat who entered the contest. A Democrat with party mandarins’ blessing must contest the office, and almost certainly a non-white, because Democrats can’t win if they don’t play and desperately need to retain the office to have any governing influence over the next four years, they must have a topline candidate to help carry down ballot candidates, and they best run an establishment racial minority ally to prevent another of the outsider woke kind from capturing the party’s base from them. Given the electorate’s climate of increasingly searching for a candidate to challenge oversized state government too inclined to redistribute to favored clientele and declining citizen fortunes, he didn’t fit the bill.

10.1.23

Nungesser couldn't beat something with nothing

Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s best shot in his expected plea for people to elect him governor was frontrunner GOP Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry has a nasty political style and is “not a nice” person. And explains why he passed on exiting his current post.

With Republican Sen. John Kennedy expectedly opting out of running, Nungesser seemed poised this week formally to announce he will take the plunge. There was little time to wait as Landry stole a march on all opponents months ago with his formal announcement, since then piling up campaign dollars and racking up endorsements, including the state party’s, to Nungesser’s chagrin.

Nungesser has a poll, commissioned by him and not released publicly, showing him neck and neck with Landry, which is the first such that hasn’t put him considerably behind Landry. That may be as others have included Kennedy’s name, yet that omission questionably explains the difference. The fact is, Kennedy is significantly closer to Landry on the issues than to Nungesser, so without Kennedy in the contest the bulk of his intended voters should switch allegiance to Landry.

9.1.23

Report falls short defending justice changes

Sometimes you should cut your losses and make the best of it, as Louisiana’s Pelican Institute is discovering on its backing of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwardscriminal justice changes.

After a period of some stagnation, in the past few years Pelican has proven itself valuable in articulating a conservative agenda tailored to the state. But it went out on a limb when it threw its support behind Edwards’ alterations that shortened sentences for some convicts and reduced punishments for some nonviolent crimes. This followed the lead of some conservatives who based their support on allegedly “smart” ways of tackling crime that would save money.

The problem was the Edwards’ modifications lent themselves more to saving money and following political fashion than creating a well-designed attempt to ensure such adjustments didn’t present opportunities for reduced criminal deterrence. The Edwards Administration knows this and, among other reactions, spent much of the latest annual report on the changes trying to convince readers of cost savings supposedly caused by these.

5.1.23

Dardenne forces questionable drug deal onto LA

When Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne gave Louisiana's Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget a Boy Scout salute, but with his index and ring fingers curled down, it launched a series of events still unresolved that has thrown health care of many state employees and retirees into turmoil starting earlier this week, as well as potentially wasting state tax dollars.

Last fall, the JLCB considered awarding a pharmacy benefits manager contract to Caremark PCSHealth, continuing a tortuous journey now extending almost three years. In spring, 2020 the state solicited bids for this service provision, the largest by dollars in the state, for its Office of Group Benefits that oversees employment benefits for most state employees and retirees and their families, as well as many public school teachers and retirees and families or nearly 200,000 affected plan members. Five PBMs contested it, with Caremark, whose parent also owns the CVS Pharmacy chain and mail order businesses, winning out.

Legal challenges ensued, and the matter was put on hold. In the meantime, the state issued some short-term contracts that spent just under $500 million a shot although the maximum allowed was just over $600 million. Litigation wasn’t initially resolved until last summer, two years after, that confirmed Caremark had won the contract within the confines of the law.

4.1.23

Some issues will make or break Arceneaux

Only a few days into his administration, Republican Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux faces four paramount issues that if he can resolve satisfactorily even just a couple will give him a tremendous leg up in an uphill battle for reelection.

As a white Republican helming a city with a plurality of black Democrats in the electorate, Arceneaux won in part because of frustration that several looming problems seemed unaddressed. They’re substantial, yet because of that success in dealing with them could win him great credit among an electorate inclined to give the greatest support to candidates of a different skin color and party and allow him to double his time in office.

From least to most problematic:

3.1.23

Data show how bad policy makes people flee LA

Another year, another indicator of how Louisiana keeps bad company among flailing states – but also coming with clues on how to reverse that.

The Census Bureau released its annual end-of-year report on population changes in the states. In percentage terms, Louisiana fared third worst at barely under 0.8 percent population loss, continuing a trend throughout the governorship of Democrat John Bel Edwards as being one of the highest ranked losers annually in out-migration to other states.

Joining the state in the top ten losers were New York and Illinois ahead, with West Virginia, Hawai’i, Oregon, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Oregon behind. By contrast, in order the top ten gaining states were Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, Texas, South Dakota, Montana, Delaware, Arizona, North Carolina, and Utah.

2.1.23

GOP incumbent, newcomer to battle for HD 9

In this fall’s elections a reconstituted state House District 9 looks to draw a challenger in a decidedly uphill intraparty battle.

At the end of the year, businessman Chris Turner sent Christmas greetings to households with zip codes in the district, with part of that indicating his candidacy. That distribution would seem guaranteed to require campaign finance disclosure due to the assumed expense, which would have to occur before the middle of February and give more details about his campaign.

Turner currently is registered as a Republican. He spent decades in the military and law enforcement, mostly and most recently working for the U.S. Marshals service before retiring last year to open a combination liquor store and specialty meat market.