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DeSoto case could reshape reapportionment law

Even as the nation charts an uncertain course through a recent dubious U.S. Supreme Court decision where cases involving reapportionment for Louisiana’s Legislature and congressional districts may provide greater definition or even upheaval, the most consequential case of all actually might come from DeSoto Parish.

For over a year controversy has swirled around the reapportionment plan passed by its Police Jury. Originally, it created five majority-minority districts out of its 11, maintaining that arrangement as the parish’s population hardly changed from the 2010 to 2020 census.

Problem was, that masked a shift in population towards the north, facilitated with majority-black Mansfield losing about six percent of its population reducing it to town status below 5,000 residents, and a significant change in the racial composition of the parish that saw its proportion residents claiming any black ancestry fall from 39.4 percent to fall to 37.2 percent. Nonetheless, under that plan M/M seats remained at 45.5 percent where one fewer seat would have represented 36.4 of these.


GOP chamber majorities little affected by ruling

The surprising and flawed U.S. Supreme Court decision in Allen v. Milligan not only might have an impact on Louisiana’s congressional districts, but also could affect its state legislative maps – in both cases not immediately but eventually, if at all.

Recently issued regarding Alabama’s division of seven congressional districts that left just one majority-minority district where about two-sevenths of the population is black – defined as when somebody claims any black ancestry on the census – the ruling said because a number of jurisdictions nationwide had reapportioned on the basis of interpreting the Voting Rights Act as amended and reauthorized to draw the proportion of M/M districts roughly similar to that of the population, that they should despite the actual wording of the VRA that forbids such a practice. In other words, apply bad law long enough and it magically becomes acceptable due to an unsupportable undue reliance on precedent.

Louisiana has a similar situation where its population is almost a third black (31.2 percent) but of its six districts only one was made M/M. It has a pair of cases addressing this presently in the hands of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and an offshoot where a lower court had arrogated its appealed decision against the state to the Fifth Circuit into an attempt to draw its own map. The Supreme Court placed a stay on all of this activity pending the Alabama decision.


Fiscally responsible legislators punished

Adopting the rhetoric of spousal abusers, Republican state Senate Pres. Page Cortez blamed  Bossier Parish victims because they dared stand up for taxpayers when he collaborated with GOP state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder in stripping a net nearly $140 million from parish projects.

Republican state Reps. Raymond Crews, Dodie Horton, and Danny McCormick a day before the massacre had voted against busting the state’s spending cap to the tune of $250 million over the next two weeks and $1.4 billion over the succeeding year. While much of it ended up going to one-time items, a shell game maneuvered nearly $200 million towards education pay raises.

Crews, Horton, and McCormick along with local GOP state Rep. Alan Seabaugh and some other representatives across the state who voted against busting the cap but who couldn’t stop it, had a better way to secure those hikes. By paying down state pension unfunded accrued liabilities, they planned on facilitating local education agencies to dole out raises from money saved as a result of the paying down. That could be accomplished without breaching the cap.


Session did little good, but avoided disaster

It wasn’t a very helpful regular session of the Louisiana Legislature, but it could have been worse.

Reformers had high hopes that the one-time state revenue bonus courtesy of Washington Democrats’ debt binge – even as it brought the highest price inflation in four decades that drives up the cost of government – could be managed in a way that curbed the state’s addiction to spending that has increased two-thirds faster inflation adjusted that state-generated revenue intake during the terms of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. They hoped to bank hundreds of millions of dollars and pay down the same in liabilities before a forecast $1.5 billion in state revenue declination over the next three years came to pass.

Unfortunately, they only succeeded partially. While some of the surplus did go to reduce unfunded accrued liabilities, freeing up funds for state and local agencies, more was spent on recurring and nonrecurring commitments. This was made possible by raising the state’s spending cap by $250 million this current year, with another $1.4 billion rise on the books for the impending one, not leaving much for when the well starts running dry over the next year.