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Edwards confirms bad policy new BESE must change

It’s tough to keep Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards from giving Louisiana the middle-fingered salute when he’s determined, and that’s why the new Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have to fix the mess of its predecessor, amplified by Edwards.

Last month, BESE narrowly passed into regulation a new policy that relaxes graduation requirements by allowing for an appeal process for failure to achieve (very low) minimums on standardized testing. Of the few states that have this component in their requirements, Louisiana was the only one that didn’t have an appeals process for that component.

Now it does, but this has numerous deficiencies as part of a extremely subjective, nebulous process with little accountability. Those aspects were brought forth in a House Education Committee meeting after publication in the Louisiana Register. State law allows specified committees to perform oversight of specified kinds of regulations five to 30 days after the Register published, which may then veto the regulation in question.


Surplus start for Landry to dodge poison pills

The gift for incoming governor Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry is both not enough to help much with the trap set by spendthrifts leaving office in two months and a way to kickstart Louisiana towards better economic development possibilities, if Landry and new GOP legislative leaders plan well.

Last month, the required report seeking to close the books on the previous fiscal year showed a surplus for fiscal year 2023 of $330 million. That amount will be fine-tuned before the end of the year, and available for action by the new Legislature next year.

Sort of. Constitutionally, any surplus not in the current year can go only a half-dozen uses, and a portion gets taken right off the top mandatorily. A quarter goes to the Budget Stabilization Fund while a tenth goes towards paying off unfunded accrued liabilities in pension funds (this will increase to a quarter courtesy of a constitutional amendment passed last month, but starting with FY 2025).


Conservative LA govt to affect media environment

The old aphorism that you never should quarrel with somebody who buys ink by the barrel may become less and less valid with the ascension of Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to Louisiana governor next year.

Landry won outright the contest earlier this month and has hit the ground running. Among the things he has begun preparing for is influencing the new Legislature, set to have supermajorities of his party in both chambers, in its selection of leadership with which he is comfortable. Already his expressed preference for GOP state Sen. Cameron Henry appears to have landed Henry the Senate presidency for next term.

But there’s still a House speakership up for grabs, with multiple reports that Landry hasn’t stumped for a particular individual but did provide input, accepted by the chamber’s GOP, that it settle upon one candidate and that the membership vote only for that candidate when the time comes in early January. In fact, Landry’s transition office released a letter, signed by every Republican attempting to win that vote and Landry, agreeing to that. This will prevent a scenario such as in 2020 when a Republican-preferred Republican lost out to a Democrat-preferred Republican in the speaker’s contest, which diluted GOP efforts to enact a conservative agenda over the course of the term.

This story was reported succinctly from The Hayride website, known as a conservative opinion site whose articles also contain news. Almost simultaneously, about 11 hours after the letter was produced, a story on the subject appeared on the Louisiana Illuminator site, ostensibly a news site but which injects left-wing opinion into its designated news articles.

Except that story was much less complete and accurate about the events reported by The Hayride, written by its publisher Scott McKay. Julia O’Donoghue, who once covered state politics for the New Orleans Times-Picayune before it was subsumed into the Baton Rouge Advocate chain, authored that one, which only mentioned the apparent half-dozen speaker candidates – actually a later addition to the piece, where the original had mentioned only two – met with Landry, without any mention of an agreement or what it constituted or who was involved.

It's obvious what happened – the Hayride scooped the Illuminator because the speaker candidates kept O’Donoghue in the dark while alerting McKay, whom Landry also contacted. Landry generally is a fan of Hayride pieces for its analysis of Louisiana politics and the site is viewed widely by GOP legislators. By contrast, Illuminator pieces often attempt to criticize conservative issue preferences, sometimes being extremely selective in the information and data reported to slant stories if not making inaccurate assertions, to prop up a leftist agenda.

Landry’s campaign frequently gave many media outlets short shrift, particularly those it felt tending to inject bias against him particularly and Republicans and conservatives generally. He and his campaign generally ignored Illuminator attempts for information and sometimes stiffed the Advocate and Gannett newspapers as well. He only participated in one of several televised candidate forums organized by various media outlets and interest groups, apparently without harming his campaigning.

This isn’t that surprising as technology increasingly gives candidates and government officials the ability to cut out intermediaries like the media to go directly to voters and citizens, while preserving them the option to reward favored outlets with in-depth news and leaving others flailing. As the media environment has become harsher for survival of traditional outlets with readership declines, having a politician treating an outlet unfavorably has reversed the relationship. Instead of the media being able to savage officials who were uncooperative, now officials can starve the media of the information that grabs consumers with little penalty but which causes difficulty for the media they ignore.

Of course, the two channels can intertwine. On several occasions, Landry authored opinion pieces that appeared on The Hayride. And officials have the ability to cooperate selectively, as demonstrated since the election with Landry and other Republicans appearing more willing at least toanswer Illuminator inquiries.

Regardless, within weeks from now in Louisiana media outlets that traditionally have shown hostility towards a conservative agenda, whether confined to opinion pieces, may find their news gathering in the realm of politics significantly more challenging and operating at a disadvantage to outlets that have demonstrated more tolerance, if not affinity, for disseminating news and opinion that put conservative issue preferences in a favorable light. Actual reporting, not mere stenography of talking points released by leftist interests, might become more common among Louisiana’s media.


Johnson promotion may affect LA map controversy

While much of the obvious has been covered in how the ascension of Republican Speaker Mike Johnson to that post will affect Louisiana politics, one under-the-radar aspect is how it can strengthen the state’s hand in the current legal tussle over congressional reapportionment.

Last year, Louisiana, which has a black voting age population of just under a third, enacted a plan that created one majority-minority district out of six. Special interests sued, claiming that the Voting Rights Act, despite its explicit statement that population proportions didn’t have to be translated into proportions of districts, required the state to have two M/M districts.

In a related Alabama case, the U.S. Supreme Court elevated racial proportion to a preferred status among reapportionment criteria, which include such things incumbent protection, continuity of representation, and keeping communities of interest together. Using that as a precedent, an Eastern District of Louisiana judge firstly threw out the enacted maps and secondly ordered new ones be drawn.


BC Council changes portend same for Bossier Jury?

With most through to another four years of office, in their latest meeting Bossier Parish police jurors reverted to their typical arrogance and obtuseness. Perhaps they should pay attention to the shape of their future: what happened at the last Bossier City Council meeting.

Recent election results guaranteed nine jurors would return to office. The one runoff that remains will send a new member to the Jury since District 10 four-decade veteran Jerome Darby retired, but vying as his replacement leading into the runoff is his brother Democrat Julius Darby. Republican challenger Keith Sutton defeated incumbent Republican Mac Plummer in District 12, while the GOP’s Pam Glorioso beat incumbent Democrat Charles Gray in District 9.

But over the past two years, all jurors had engaged in questionable, if not illegal, acts. They hired, knowing full well it was against the law, Butch Ford as parish administrator, because he was not a registered voter in Bossier Parish. He would not become one until ten months into his tenure, but even now some dispute remains over whether that residence qualifies for that purpose. They also filled completely the parish’s Library Board of Control with themselves, a move which is of uncertain legal status and unprecedented across the state.