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BC establishment ready to chuck new charter

Months of work on potential Bossier City Charter changes circle the drain, an apparent victim of a feature, not a bug, of the process shaped by City Council graybeards and their allies.

This week, the city’s Charter Review Commission attempted to meet for one last time to complete votes for changes and to pass an enabling motion sending the whole package to the Council. That officially would compel the Council to place the changes, shaped as a replacement (despite the questionable legality of that) of the document, on the Dec. 7 ballot.

At its previous meeting, taking advantage of a couple of absences among the five appointees of city councilors against term limits – Republicans David Montgomery, Jeff Free, and Vince Maggio, Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby, the only votes originally in favor of establishing the Commission – the four other appointees added into the package of consensus and voted-upon approvals a retroactive three-term limit for the mayor and councilors. With eventual voter approval, all but Maggio would be ineligible to run in next year’s city elections as a result.


Landry Regents picks, agenda to shape policy

While conservatives aren’t wrong in expressing concern over some of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s appointments to the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, understand that in policy terms that it does little injury to their cause.

Last week, after a June meeting where several just-expired appointees served, Landry made his picks to replace them. Some weren’t and rewarded with new terms, while other new picks were promising. However, three irked observers on the political right because these new supervisors, especially in one case, hadn’t been their allies if one having been an outright opponent.

The choices of Jimmy Woods and Rémy Starns appeared to be forms of political payback. Holdovers, Woods is an ally of Landry non-enemy Democrat state Sen. Cleo Fields, who fronts the most extensive network of black Democrat party activists in the state and who stayed largely out of the governor’s race last year despite Landry facing his main opposition from a black Democrat, while Starns is the state public defender who went to bat for Landry’s reforms of the soon-to-be-renamed-to Office of the State Public Defender, but who otherwise has stumped for Democrats.


BC term limits subject to last ditch power play

The empire will try to strike back at the upcoming Bossier City Charter Review Commission meeting, aided by questionable collusion, but potentially failing to bear fruit depending upon who shows up and perhaps what courts of law may have to say in the future.

Of course, the issue in question is term limits, which at its last meeting were voted in favor to forward for citizen approval as part of the entire package, three terms and retroactive in nature starting at the end of this year in advance of next year’s city elections. It passed 4-3 with two absences, one of whom by past rhetoric seemed likely to vote against it.

The Commission generally has been debating changes, classifying them as consensus or not, with the intent of bringing the latter to a vote at this, the final meeting. But at the previous one, term limits was moved and approved already, to the chagrin of the political establishment whose membership comprises the four city councilors – Republicans David Montgomery and Jeff Free, Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby – who could not run for reelection with these limits in place, plus rookie GOP Councilor Vince Maggio. Lights began burning late at night at City Hall to come up with a countermove to prevent the measure from going to a vote of the people, utilizing the appointees of these five who make for a majority of the Commission.


Graves political exit not likely to last long

The announcement by Republican Rep. Garret Graves that he will not seek reelection might constitute a short-term setback for him, but leaves him other valuable opportunities in the future.

Graves faced an uphill battle to preserve the seat he has in the Sixth District. It was redrawn dramatically earlier this year to create two majority-minority districts in response to a Middle District federal court decision that declared the 2022 map that had kept the Sixth little changed as one of five out of six non-M/M districts likely violated the Voting Rights Act – into a form that a Western District special court panel recently declared was unconstitutional.

But that district and map on which it is part will stand for fall elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court enjoined throwing it out for now on the basis that the impending election created too little time to administer voting properly if suddenly changing the map. That transformed Graves’ district into a majority-minority district almost all of which he never has represented and which would favor a black Democrat, one of the prominent of which, state Sen. Cleo Fields, already has started campaigning to represent it.


BC term limits edging closer to reality

The high-stakes game of poker goes on between citizens rebellious to the Bossier City political establishment and those insiders who will fight by any means necessary to suppress any threat to their power, which may include a tactical retreat on term limits that, once again, is consumed by lawfare?

That may be at issue after the latest meeting of the city’s Charter Review Commission, which over the past four months has plowed through proposed charter changes. Upon releasing a final product, the charter dictates that the City Council must accept it and schedule for an election. The earliest possible date for citizen approval would be for the Dec. 7 general election runoff, which means if approved changes would go into effect prior to 2025 city elections.

The whole rationale for commission formation came as a result of a near-miss for the establishment on the issue of term limits. A petition amending the charter to include a three-term retroactive limit for all elected officials gained enough signatures to land it on the ballot last year, but a City Council majority – comprised of Republicans David Montgomery and Jeff Free, Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby, all of whom would have become ineligible to run, plus GOP rookie Vince Maggio – a few times voted to violate the Charter by not scheduling the vote of a certified petition, and then went to court to knock out the petition through a legal technicality about its format.


New standards boost LA education accountability

After years of tolerating a somewhat misleading evaluation system of individual schools and their districts, starting in academic year 2025 Louisiana will enjoy an improved version that provides better information for families and policy-makers.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today promulgated new rules to determine accountability, which didn’t happen overnight. An attempt failed two years ago, made from a growing recognition that the scoring system under use aligned poorly with actual student proficiency, as measured by testing, as they progressed and received diplomas which had the effect of making some schools and districts appear to be doing a better job than they actually were.

This attempt replaces a more complicated computational exercise, and reverses emphasis on proficiency, or knowledge and skill gained, and growth, or how much students improve in achievement. Through the eighth grade, the growth factor is increased at the expense of proficiency.


LA should junk 2024 map, party like it's 2022

A recent Supreme Court ruling clarified why the Court allowed Louisiana fall congressional elections to continue under a map declared unconstitutional, and increased the chances this will be the only such election this decade that will have a two majority-minority district map.

In Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference, the Court ruled that a congressional map that otherwise didn’t violate traditional principles of reapportionment, such as compactness and contiguity of districts, did not have to have the proportion of M/M districts somewhat equivalent to the proportion of minority race (almost always black, but sometimes others) residents in the state if the legislature wished to draw districts to maximize partisan advantage even if incidentally related to racial division in voting. This launched panic among leftist and far left commentators because it signaled that in reapportionment disputes the Court no longer would permit the left’s and Democrats’ shadow agenda to remain in the shadows.

That is, those forces try to gain partisan advantage in reapportionment by equating maps that give them that as necessary to prevent racial discrimination, made possible because for the past half-century blacks typically have voted overwhelmingly for candidate of the left, almost always black candidates. This has been tolerated because courts for decades had made the presumption that racial prejudice against a minority group had to lay behind any reapportionment decision that did not draw district majorities roughly proportional to that group’s proportion in the population, and so to do this required satisfying certain criteria that didn’t include partisan advantage as a mitigating factor.


Spiked column exemplifies newspaper meltdown

If you had any questions about why the mainstream media is dying and it steadily is losing influence politically in Louisiana and elsewhere, look no further than the rumpus over a column by Republican Sen. John Kennedy the largest newspaper chain in the state recently accepted and then rejected.

Last month, Kennedy, whose opinion pieces the media frequently have published spanning more than a decade, initially had one published in the Shreveport Times and farmed out to the several other Gannett newspapers in the state. The piece exhorted Congress to prohibit natal males from competing as and against natal females in female-only competitions, citing sustained evidence about the physiological advantages those born male would have regardless of attempts, if any, to change physical sex.

After a few days, without making any announcement or informing Kennedy, the piece was removed from the sites that had published it. Later still, an explanation to the broken web link was infused, saying the content had been removed because it didn’t “meet our editorial standards.”


Veto bill weakening education accountability

A last-minute end-around sabotaging Louisiana’s school accountability measures that prominently featured two Bossier Parish Republican legislators with extensive connections to local schools now may be stopped only by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry.

HB 762 by Republican state Rep. Dennis Bamburg originally would have repealed the state’s requirement that students take the ACT, one of the two standardized tests offered for college admission nationally and the one designated by Louisiana public universities to gain admittance. For several years Louisiana statutorily has required this of all students seeking a diploma, one of eight states that does so. Even the career diploma graduates must, although they also can take the WorkKeys test designed for more vocational-oriented learning. The rationale for this has been not only to allow students to have this in place should they wish to enroll in higher education but also as a means of measuring performance of high schools and school districts.

This has chafed among legislators generally Democrats and some Republicans like Bamburg, a former Bossier Parish School Board member, with ties to the educational establishment, and has aggravated many local school board members and their district superintendents. This is because the nationally-normed ACT continues to show generally low performance, along with end-of-course tests, among Louisiana students (although ranked in the middle of the eight) that meshes poorly with performance scores given out to high schools that feeds into district scores. Currently, for accountability determinations all ACT scores count unless a WorkKey score equivalent is higher.


Law may force sunshine onto Bossier Jury actions

Many local governments across Louisiana, and inside Bossier Parish especially the parish’s Police Jury, will have to increase substantially transparency as the result of a bill poised to become law.

HB 103 by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson headed to GOP Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk just before the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended this week. The bill, which Landry is expected to sign into law, expands real-time broadcast of governing authority meetings, in whole or part, for a number of jurisdictions across the state.

At present, any multimember taxing authority in the state must record, by audio or video, meetings of the entire body, but it doesn’t have to broadcast these live. The bill changes that to require live broadcast of parish governing authorities and school boards in jurisdictions of greater than 24,999 residents and for municipalities with populations greater than 9,999. All in all, that means 36 parishes, 58 cities, and 41 school districts, if they already aren’t, by the effective date of Aug. 1 must broadcast (presumably through video and audio) their parish commission or police jury, city council, and school board meetings live and advertise how to view that for each meeting.


Appointments provide fading embers to session

Away from typical flashpoints over the budget and policy, the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended with some controversy over gubernatorial appointments, or lack thereof.

The Senate traditionally vets these on the last day of a regular session, given that any appointments made after the end of the previous regular session remain in effect without confirmation until the end of the next regular session. With Republican Gov. Jeff Landry onboard after last fall’s elections, essentially he cleaned the closet of the roughly 80 executive branch line agency appointees by naming his own appointees.

With one exception. Landry didn’t name a new Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary to replace Jimmy LeBlanc, but expects him to stay on the job referring to statute that says public officers are to hold office until a successor is inducted. However, the Constitution states that the governor “shall” appoint the head of each department in the executive branch whose election or appointment is not provided for in the Constitution, leaving the question whether the “governor” is a previous one.


Amend LA civil service to improve performance

As in the case of other bills that would expand the governor’s appointive powers, reform opponents produce stale if not gamey arguments in the case of stalled SB 181.

The bill by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris would amend the Constitution to give the governor more discretion in appointments to the State Civil Service Commission and the Legislature the option to include more appointments to executive branch line departments. At present, although the bill drew a solid majority in a House of Representatives vote last week, it fell eight votes short of the two-thirds requirement to pass along an amendment to voters.

Currently, the seven-person Commission has six gubernatorial appointees, in the form of the governor picking from nominations made by six private university presidents, three each, serving staggered fixed six-year terms. The only stipulation is that a president’s nominees all must come from different congressional districts. The final member is elected by members of the state’s classified civil service, who in fiscal year 2023 numbered around 34,500.


LA left throws fit over lost education agenda

Controversy over an endorsement of elementary and secondary education options stoked by Louisiana’s political left and its fellow travelers serves as a reminder that they cannot tolerate invitations to open, comprehensive, and fact-based inquiry in the education process, a state of affairs only now being corrected.

Earlier this week, Superintendent of State Education Cade Brumley announced a partnership with the web content producer PragerU. Founded by opinion columnist Dennis Prager, its materials provide primers on issues of the day, and has resources dedicated to educational dissemination from kindergarten to 12th grade. PragerU holds itself out as presenting information as an alternative to leftist paradigms that frequently plague education that completely ignore contrary information questioning their validity, giving students an incomplete picture that serves more to indoctrinate than to educate that PragerU materials seek to overcome.

Mirroring arrangements in several others states, PragerU will make easily accessible to Louisiana educators material congruent with meeting state standards adopted at the beginning of this now-concluding academic year. PragerU was chosen because it has such material. Note that its content doesn’t replace core instructional material, which is determined by local education agencies and not the state, nor is it required for use in state classrooms.


Ignore silly arguments against appointment bills

Some of the silliest, most alarmist, most partisan-driven dog-whistle debate over legislation this session of the Louisiana Legislature has come over a couple of bills determining appointed officials to state boards.

HB 462 by Republican state Sen. Valarie Hodges would give the governor power to appoint chairmen to the boards where he has at least half the appointments. Out of the 483 boards currently extant, when parsing out gubernatorial apportion proportions, appointment by other elected officials, and other statutory constraints, the bill would affect about 30 percent of these.

Political leftists, some special interests, and their water carriers inside and outside the Legislature have gone apoplectic over this, alleging it’s some sinister plot by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry, who supports it, to run roughshod over that part of state government. They appeared most perturbed by the fact that this bill would extend this new authority to the five boards that oversee and manage higher education, characterizing it as “politicization.”


Let LA teachers teach, panel wisely advises

As Louisiana elementary and secondary education has climbed its way slowly from the basement of achievement, another tool presents itself to accelerate this.

Recently, the state’s Department of Education released result from a task force convened on improving teachers’ experiences. The latest data available showed in academic year 2023 15 percent of teachers left their positions, and of those hired three years ago only about three-quarters remain on the job. And academic research reveals that the most prominent reasons teachers leave the profession aren’t those related to issues of compensation, resource availability, relations with administrators, and the like, but with teachers encountering impediments to actual instruction, or what prevents them from devoting their time to teaching.

The panel, convened three months ago by Superintendent Cade Brumley and called Let Teachers Teach, was comprised mainly of ground-level practitioners with the odd politician thrown in. Their recommendations mirrored the research, identifying reforms that would let teachers focus on classroom instruction.


Memorial Day, 2024

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, May 27 being Memorial Day, I invite you to explore this link. 


Bill to save lives, boost left's future numbers

In the future, maybe this week’s action by the Louisiana State Senate to send SB 276 to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk will help out the political prospects of Democrats bitterly opposed to it.

That bill makes the pair of drugs used for chemical abortions available by prescription only in Louisiana, as part of an effort that creates the crime of coerced abortion. By making these prescription-based, this makes more difficult obtaining these to induce nefariously ingestion by an unknowing pregnant female, as well as throws up a roadblock to those aiding and abetting in induction of abortions in Louisiana, which by law almost always is illegal.

Democrats raised all sorts of essentially phony objections to this, which marginally would change the ability to obtain these drugs, even to have an illegal abortion performed, and wouldn’t materially alter the ability and alacrity in using these for other purposes. As GOP state Sen. Jay Morris noted during debate, the real but hidden objection was it could prevent a portion of these illegal abortions in the state that runs contrary to the abortion-on-demand philosophy of the political left.


Left goes bonkers over woman, child safety bill

The faux outrage over a commonsense bill illustrates the agenda of Louisiana’s political pro-abortion left.

SB 276 by Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly would prohibit coerced abortion by drugs and inhibit that by making illegal purchase of over-the-counter mifepristone and misoprostol. While separately the two drugs can address certain ailments, when used together they can cause a chemical abortion, which is outlawed in Louisiana except for rare instances. As a result, possession without a prescription would be legal only for pregnant females, as the bill assumes other people will use these to coerce an abortion. A pregnant female with these in possession without prescriptions would not be breaking the law unless she subsequently consumed these to induce an abortion, under a different statute.

Pressly has a compelling story to demonstrate need for such a bill. His sister while pregnant without her knowledge was manipulated into consuming these drugs. Fortunately, her child survived but with impairment. That demonstrates the harm from misuse unambiguously. And, if taken improperly, they can have serious consequences, such as for pregnant females miscarriages, premature labor, or birth defects, or more generally several life-threatening conditions.


BC charter fixes should include ethics reforms

Critics derisively call him “King” – or “Queen,” given his penchant for drama during Bossier City Council meetings – but disclosure data demonstrate that among Bossier Parish officials Republican Councilor David Montgomery truly is the monarch when it comes to grifting taxpayer dollars, something about which the city’s Charter Review Commission should take notice and repair, along with a couple of other potential conflicts.

Financial disclosure forms for Louisiana elected and appointed officials, except judges who don’t have to file, were due May 15, detailing 2023 activities. Of the 52 such Bossier officials from government bodies or executive offices that have taxing authority and whose jurisdictions are almost exclusively within the parish and are sufficiently large – the Police Jury, School Board, Bossier City, the Levee Board, the Cypress Black Bayou Commissioners, sheriff, assessor, clerk of court, and coroner – of the 50 required to file (because two appointees only assumed their posts earlier this year), 40 did so by the end of last week.

In all but two cases, in their reporting about compensation they or their spouses received from other governments they listed items such as salary (including if a spouse worked for a government), money received for serving on a board connected to their positions, or pension payments, with two exceptions. One was recently-elected Republican Coroner Mike Williams, who received in 2023 over $37,000 as he serves, and has for 23 years, as medical director for city fire, police, and emergency medical services.


Winners, losers of map delay not yet all known

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to keep in place Louisiana’s most recently-enacted congressional reapportionment plan for now draws to a close the first phase of a struggle that ultimately should define jurisprudence in this area for decades to come. Four distinct winners and losers have emerged from this -- for now.

That map contains two majority-minority districts, but was declared unconstitutional by a three- judge panel last month. Despite that, the Court, citing the controversy as yet unresolved so close to the start of the elections process, halted that injunction in order to provide adequate administration of the 2024 elections. The timing was such that the trial’s remedial phase could have produced a constitutional alternative, likely a plan very close to the 2022 single M/M version that was prevented from implementation but never had a trial on its merits, but the Court majority decided not to let that play out as a signal it will take up this case over the next year.

The map to be used this fall is highly unlikely to survive that scrutiny, thus to understand who wins and who loses, the short and long run must be analyzed for each, although one is pretty easy to figure out: national Democrats win in the short run. Essentially, they pick up an extra seat in the House of Representatives for 2025-26. As certainly they would lose it in 2026 elections by which time the Court most likely will have ruled a single M/M map can be drawn legally, but as the 2024 outcome could be close between the two major parties, for this cycle every seat helps.


Two M/M map headed for binning gets reprieve

Maybe it shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise, if the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will use Callais v. Landry to reduce the prominence race has in reapportionment.

This week, the Court stayed an order by a three-judge panel that declared the congressional map that Louisiana had enacted earlier this year was unconstitutional. That means that this plan, which adds a majority-minority district to the single one in the 2022 map that was subject to litigation then statutorily replaced by this one, will be used for elections this fall.

The panel appeared poised to issue its own map for use if the Legislature, which it would not have, had acted to draw a remedial map prior to its adjournment Jun. 3. By definition, it could not be the invalidated map, and any other options but the revoked 2022 map or something extremely close to it could not have been implemented in time by the state’s Department of State. In fact, although in the case of that preliminarily enjoined map State argued it needed by the end of May, 2022 to have a map to run the subsequent election, this time it declared May 15 was the cutoff despite the very similar situations.


Make better case for LA public records reform

In an unfortunate case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, some desirable changes to Louisiana public records laws face deferral due to adverse, if not in some ways undeserved, critiques of them.

Several bills addressing the subject the Legislature perused this session. Among them, SB 423 by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris originally would have limited records requests to Louisianans; SB 482 by GOP state Sen. Heather Cloud would shield the governor’s and his family’s schedule if safety is a concern and would exempt advisory and deliberative communications; and SB 502 by Republican state Sen. Blake Miguez would require that an actual Louisiana citizen be verified as making a request. A later iteration of SB 423 essentially would have combined these elements.

It's important to note that in terms of breadth Louisiana has one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching open records laws among the states. Many restrict coverage to certain branches or levels while Louisiana shields only parts for each. Often these restrictions go much further than Louisiana’s; for example, a number of states exempt the advisory and deliberative processes. That, in fact, is the approach taken for the most part by the federal government and most recently was strengthened by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Landry must stop harmful ganja legislation

The Louisiana Legislature seems on the way to compounding a mistake it began making years ago, with perhaps only Republican Gov. Jeff Landry able at this point to prevent that.

From the start in 2015, medical use of marijuana in Louisiana began with dubious premises and has gotten worse since. Since then, almost every control over it has disappeared, step by step by step, so now basically any doctor or nurse practitioner can “recommend” it in any form for any ailment in quantities and often enough to keep one high or to distribute some, whether exchanged for something of value, to others. About the only bottleneck is the limit of dispensaries to 10 (currently nine in operation although since 2022 they have been able to open “satellite” locations that make for 15 physical locations), but they can deliver as well.

So, it’s practically legalized such is the ease of obtaining it. But there’s another legal avenue for addicts added in the past couple of years – hemp products, courtesy of an ill-constructed law that allowed for excessive concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol that have become so egregiously obvious that the Legislature actually may rein in these products in permitting much lower concentrations.


Redirect spending to support early child ed

This time, presumed conservative supermajorities in the state Legislature need to act like it and not spend just because they can.

With projections of state spending coming in a bit more flush that previously predicted – about $88 million more this current fiscal year and $197 million for the next – plans are afoot on what to do with it. One suggestion has been to restore all current state spending on early childhood education, which at this point is budgeted at $24 million fewer.

A few years ago, legislators set up a fund to entice matching dollars from local governments to dole out to families with child care expenses. Although the law creating the program to draw from the fund cast a wide eligibility net, subsequent rules issued by the fund’s overseer the Department of Education essentially steer most of the money, and encourages all of it, to go to the lowest-income households with preschool-and-younger children for use at better-quality licensed child care facilities.


Specious argumentation shouldn't stop convention

House of Representatives debate over a bill to call a limited constitutional convention in Louisiana exposed the shoddy, illogical, and evidence-free arguments against it, hopefully propelling it to Senate passage and enactment.

HB 800 by Republican state Rep. Beau Beaullieu, in its current form, would convene legislators plus 27 gubernatorial appointees to meet in committees or as one starting as early as May 30 to review what eligible portions of the constitution should be converted into statute. No later than Aug. 1 the entire convention would begin review of the committees’ recommendations with any of these sent forth as a proposition for voter approval accepted by the convention no later than Aug. 15. Separate majorities of representatives, senators, and gubernatorial appointees would have to coalesce for this forwarding. Articles dealing with citizen rights, power distribution, the legislative branch, the executive branch, judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, tax collection, bond funding, the Budget Stabilization Fund, the homestead exemption, state employee rights, retirement matters, and existence of the Southern University System would be off limits to transfer out.

It passed the House 75-27, surpassing the two-thirds supermajority required, with the only GOP member present state Rep. Joe Stagni in opposition but with Democrat state Reps. Roy Daryl Adams, Chad Brown, Robby Carter, and Dustin Miller in favor, with Miller being the only black male among them while all other black Democrats plus the two white Democrat females were against, among those present. Even if badly outnumbered, the opposition went down spewing a lot of hot air.


Signs point to single M/M map for LA in 2024

With the resurrection of Louisiana’s 2022 congressional map or something extremely close to it looming, it’s time for the desperation heaves from special interests vying to bolster Democrats’ chances in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Over the past week or so backers of a two majority/minority lineup, out of six total districts, in the state have a pair of defeats, beginning with the declaration by the three-judge panel for Callais v. Landry trying the map created earlier this year that contains two M/M districts that this violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Then these supporters were told the Legislature will get first crack at drawing a new map while a parallel track would operate with parties submitting maps from which the panel could choose if the Legislature didn’t act by adjournment Jun. 3.

The latter setback added insult to injury. As legislative rules don’t permit the chambers to take up a bill this late – the deadline for introduction was over two months ago and substitution rules demand a related bill already introduced present but with the withdrawal of the only one filed dealing with congressional reapportionment none now exist – the Legislature really can’t act, guaranteeing a court-drawn map. And the way the decision was made, it all but guarantees a single M/M map would be chosen by the panel that dramatically reduces chances of Democrats to win another seat among the state’s delegation.


New SC map may provoke rare incumbent challenge

The third time wasn’t the charm for Republican Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Cox, but don’t count him out entirely for career advancement in a couple of years.

Late last year, the Bossier Parish-based Cox began campaigning in earnest for the Second District of the Louisiana Supreme Court, as incumbent GOP Assoc. Justice Scott Chrichton faced retirement at the end of this year. He loaned himself $250,000 and spent nearly $16,000 on mailing out postcards to the district as a soft introduction to his campaign during the Christmas season.

However, one guy that won’t be getting holidays greetings from Cox in the future will be Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. Newly in office, Landry immediately stumped for reapportionment of the Court not only to bring roughly uniform population numbers to each district – the map then used had wildly differing amounts in each district, although this is not a legal nor constitutional violation – but to create two majority-minority districts. While nothing juridically required that – even as special interests were suing the state to produce this outcome that under current jurisprudence had little chance of success but which would cost the state to defend – theoretically it would give the state ammunition to have the consent decree in Chisom v. Roemer lifted, another longtime goal of Landry’s currently awaiting a U.S. Fifth Circuit appellate court hearing.


Landry must overcome resistance to big changes

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry is finding tricky navigating as he attempts to revolutionize Louisiana government.

Landry came into office on the back of a big election win and with a healthy supermajority of GOP legislators joining him. The playbook for chief executives under these conditions calls for striking while the iron is hot, especially at the start of a term in office.

His ambitious agenda reflected this. A special legislative session of his calling definitively put his imprint of increased accountability and responsibility onto criminal justice policy. Now a month from adjourning, the regular session already has sent to his desk some regulatory reforms for property insurance, with the issues of high premiums and reduced availability nagging ratepayers for years, with more on the way.


On cash benefit, LA GOP legislators sell out

It’s going to take more than just a big election cycle win for conservative voters to steer Louisiana government from its liberal populist pathology, a recent struggle over welfare spending shows.

It always starts the same way. Something unusual, such as the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, occurs that leftist interests seize upon to leverage into government action and new expenditures. Then after a point it’s declared the new benefit needs to be made permanent, and conservative policy-makers too often capitulate.

Liberals understand fully that a substantial proportion of the public suffers from addiction to government largesse, that once the benefits start flowing many want hit after hit without end. One of the Leninist foundations on which today’s political left is built is the principle that what is its is its forever, while whatever policy space its opponents occupy is always up for grabs.


Ruling to reinstate LA 2022 congressional map

Barring a legal miracle, Louisiana’s congressional elections this fall will occur with only one majority-minority district using the 2022 map.

That’s the implication of the Louisiana Western District three-judge panel’s decision in Callais v. Landry handed down earlier this week. In a 2-1 decision – with the two Republican former Pres. Donald Trump district judge appointees under the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals doubling up on Democrat former Pres. Bill Clinton-appointed Appellate Judge Carl Stewart – the court ruled the map enacted earlier this year violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and enjoined its use That map came about only because the 2022 plan was enjoined preliminarily by a Middle District judge with plaintiffs presumed to prevail on the question of declaring that map in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The panel majority took the offered layup when the Louisiana Legislature in special session produced a map with an M/M district stretching from Shreveport to Baton Rouge and Lafayette, splitting them all and dismembering Alexandria along the way. At five points it hung together by only a single precinct, and at one point it forced another district to be one precinct wide squeezed on the other side by Texas. It was a district not even its legislative progenitors would admit had any actual commonality other than it had to be M/M.


Budget boosts teacher merit pay possibilities

All of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Republican Gov. Jeff Landry Administration, and the Louisiana House of Representatives not only have acted prudently with education spending this year, but they also laid the foundation for improved educational delivery.

HB 1 by GOP state Rep. Jack McFarland, the operating budget, passed unanimously. It actually didn’t change much from last year’s, with marginal changes in a few areas of policy where few expenditures changes proportionally more than trivially from the previous year, and with almost every exception being relatively small absolute amounts. That was good in that next year a temporary 0.45 percent sales tax, on the books since 2016, finally will disappear, meaning now was not the time for significantly greater spending.

The area with the biggest change was elementary and secondary education, which will see an overall decrease in spending, but that is due to vanishing federal pandemic-related funds as well as (for the moment) reduced Recovery School District demands. Those aside, the actual amount falls about $25 million from last year, even though the Minimum Foundation Program goes $71 million higher. That happens because while the student count is about a half percent lower and the base $4,015 per pupil amount remains the same, the per pupil amount for mandated costs, or an inflationary factor for insurance, fuel, and pensions, jumped from $100 (last set in 2009) to $122, and supplemental additions in attracting and retaining teachers and class offerings also moved higher. The three single areas moving the highest were accelerated tutoring ($30 million), differential compensation ($25 million), and mandated costs ($14.3 million).


St. George win isolated, but might make waves

A big victory in self-governance last week might result in ancillary gains for citizens elsewhere in Louisiana, aided by meritorious pending legislation.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the city of St. George can come into existence. Almost a decade ago, residents of the southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, disgruntled with a city-parish government that they saw taking too many tax dollars out and providing too few meaningful services, began efforts to incorporate. The saga had many twists and turns: an initial petitioning effort to put the matter on the ballot failing by fewer than six dozen signatures after some questionable vetting by the parish registrar of voters, a second successful petition despite annexation gamesmanship leading to an election in favor of incorporation marked by all sorts of distortions levied by parish government officials, a legal challenge chock full of bogus claims that required a four-year judicial journey, and then final vindication.

City-parish officials – the parish’s now five cities operate under a consolidated form of government with parish government save for the four constitutional parish offices – fought tooth-and nail because separation by a municipality of its size (around 86,000) significantly diminished their political power, principally from the loss of tax revenues that acted as a considerable net subsidy to principally Baton Rouge’s operations. The suit against St. George rested on a state law that essentially said the new city had to have a realistic financial chance to operate and that it didn’t have an “adverse” impact on other governments as part of a larger investigation into the “reasonableness” of the move.


LA schools best heed Brumley's advice on new rule

Louisiana’s local education agencies should heed State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley’s advice to disregard new and radical rulemaking from the federal Department of Education that likely is unconstitutional that conflicts with present and likely Louisiana law.

Last week, the Democrat Pres. Joe Biden Administration released its recodification of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which lays down rules to which state-regulated (because the U.S. Constitution grants states the power to regulate education provision) education provision must adhere in order tor receive federal grants. The sweeping and unprecedented changes it had telegraphed with its initial filing last year and reinvented Title IX only four years after substantial revision had occurred.

The purpose was to expand coverage, despite the clear wording of statute denying that, of nondiscriminatory classes, redefining “sex” to, among other things, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It tried to justify this deviance by referring to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an unrelated area of law, and almost certainly is unconstitutional for that overreach. Any attempt to deny funding for not following the rule if challenged would lead to the regulation’s overturn by the judiciary.


Shreveport voters face tough call on tax hikes

It’s a tough call this Saturday on Shreveport approving property tax hikes – necessary bromide or throwing good money after bad?

Across three proposals, the city plans to raise around $256 million for capital items. Almost half would go towards roads, streets, bridges, and surface and subsurface drainage systems (2.45 mills), while nearly a third would go to water and sewerage systems (1.6 mills), with the remainder going to public safety, buildings, and recreation (0.95 mills). Unlike measures to fund continuing government operations, the millages will vary depending upon bond issuance amounts and timings, with the city estimating 2027 would be the first year initial millages would be added to tax bills. Eventually, it predicts the total millage almost will double to close to 8 mills.

Regardless, success of any item at the polls will push Shreveport further into the category of the highest-taxed city without consolidated government in Louisiana. Republican current Mayor Tom Arceneaux’s predecessor Democrat Adrian Perkins three times attempted to have bond issues, around that neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars give or take a few dozen millions, in various packages gain voter approval. His first attempt resulted in complete rejection at the polls, his second couldn’t get City Council assent, and in his third only one of five measures, about $71 million dedicated to public safety, passed voter muster.


For Bossier voters, "no" in quadruplicate

For different reasons, Bossier Parish voters should reject all four property tax renewals on Saturday’s ballot and tell the various powers-that-be to try again before it’s too late.

Bossier City has two such items on tap, both of which are identically dedicated to public safety operations and maintenance. Both are ten years in length starting in 2026, pitched at current levies (rolled back from previous authorized maximums, as property values have risen in recent years) of 8.32 and 2.71 mills that would generate about $8.6 million in annual revenue. These do not cover salaries, which are supplemented by a 5.98 mill measure approved at 6.19 mills in 2020.

The city was smarter this time around than back then. Four years ago, with that millage then set at 6.00, in essence it allowed for a future tax increase by the city asking for 6.19 and received negative publicity for that although the measure passed. Then as now, it occurred within a year of city elections; the next year the mayor and two city councilors got dumped by voters. So, this time the city pinned the renewals at the current rates, and hopes the assessment report from the parish that soon will be completed will show increased values and allow for a roll back later this year, just in time for elections next year.


Pass bill to rein in higher education subversion

Perhaps the most important bill under the radar in this year’s regular session of the Louisiana Legislature would rein in excesses against free expression in the state’s higher education system.

SB 486 by Republican state Sen. Alan Seabaugh would prohibit preferential treatment based upon race, color, ethnicity, national origin, political affiliation, or sex; discrimination in the recruitment or admission of students or in the recruitment or employment of employees; requiring as a condition of admission or employment that the applicant submit an ideological statement; promoting instruction that the moral character, racial attitudes, and responsibility or guilt for past group actions of an individual is determined by race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or sex; and would ban compelled expression contrary to a student’s personal political ideas or affiliation.

During a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, Seabaugh noted behaviors the bill would prevent at present occur at state institutions. Several examples he drew from Louisiana State University, despite a fake pullback from formal diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracies and information dissemination, moves publicized in leftist media. He emphasized that bureaucratic name changes and public removal of media that glorified what the bill would make illegal hadn’t stopped these practices behind the scenes.


Times change, Bossier illegal behavior doesn't

A whole generation goes by, and nothing changes for Bossier Parish apparently playing fast and loose with the law when it comes to squeezing money from the citizenry.

The Bossier Watch transmission of Apr. 16 contained a couple of minutes of commentary and video of a sign reading “VOTE SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2024 BOSSIER PARISH LIBRARIES” planted near a roadway. The hosts recounted they had seen some around, although the exact location of this one was unknown. On that date is the spring municipal runoff elections in Louisiana, where a 7.43 mils property tax renewal to fund Bossier Parish libraries reengaging in 2026 for 10 years is the one item that will appear on ballots parish-wide.

What follows is a reprint of a post I made at my Louisiana-centric blog site, Between the Lines, on Dec. 30, 2010 that reviewed events of four years previous. (Keep in mind nearly 18 years ago that the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway stopped at the southern end of the now-Brookshire Grocery Arena). It’s amazing how little things (and people involved) change:


Bill to deny foundational CRT prevents hatred

If nothing else, SB 262 by Republican state Sen. Valarie Hodges would inhibit in Louisiana racial division and hatred.

The bill, currently passed out of the Senate into the House of Representatives, would add to the state’s Parental Bill of Rights that schools “shall not discriminate against their child by teaching the child that the child is currently or destined to be oppressed or to be an oppressor based on the child's race or national origin.” This addresses the use of critical race theory, or the idea that racism is pervasive in all societal institutions shaped historically by, if not currently dominated by, people of Caucasian ancestry, as the foundational tool by which to shape instruction.

Similar to Marxism, CRT bases itself on a series of unfalsifiable, if not empirically unverifiable or logically suspect, propositions that if questioned automatically connotes racist actions (or, if the analyzer is non-white, axiomatic of a false consciousness), making the whole enterprise intellectually lazy and devoid of true scholarship. It increasingly has become a tool by those ideologically compatible with its policy aims – strong government action to level differences in outcomes of resource allocations – for instruction from the academy on down.


Unrepentant left still opposing children's needs

Don’t expect apologies from Louisiana’s leftist institutions and activists having now been caught out on supporting the erroneous “gender affirmation” model of addressing difficulties faced by a small number of youths, which state policy-makers continue to address.

The tiny proportion of youths who express “gender dysphoria,” or a feeling their mental maps of themselves are incongruent with their physical sex, has multiplied in numbers over the past decade. Until then, from the last part of the 20th century medical professionals addressed this through watchful waiting as children, perhaps with psychological therapy, sorted out their feelings. Data indicated that feelings of this dysphoria were highly related to, if not a reflection of, other psychological maladies and that most children by their adult years shed the condition.

But in the early 21st century the competing “gender affirmation” model developed in the U.S. and was exported globally. Over time the approach became more radicalized, dictating that even the youngest children who appeared to see themselves associated with typical conceptions of one physical sex while the other, whether consciously picking up on any cues to do that from adults called in to evaluate them, had to be catered to with social and even physical interventions to physically alter them to the sex with which they identified at that particular point in time.


Protest restriction bill enhances expression

Don’t be misled by the usual suspects’ disingenuous blather about “free speech.” HB 737 by Republican state Rep. Kellee Dickerson doesn’t inhibit that; rather, it promotes free expression.

The bill would prohibit picketing near a person’s residence which interferes with, disrupts, threatens to disrupt, or harasses the individual's right to control, use, or enjoy his residence, and has passed the Louisiana House of Representatives. Leftist critics have bemoaned its progress, calling its potential application overbroad by not allowing protesting on the street or right-of-way and potentially an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and assembly.

As to constitutionality, that’s a moot point, because Louisiana already has on its books a very similar law. R.S. 14:401, the law for decades, prohibits demonstrations near residences of judges, jurors, trial witnesses, or court officers, and it’s never faced a challenge. Legally, the judiciary recognizes that people engaged in official business of the state have a right when not performing official business not to have their lives disrupted at a nonpublic place.


Ten Commandments bill to present needed test

Despite protestations of opponents not quite up on things, as long as Louisiana treads carefully a bill working its way through the Legislature will have the practical effect of displaying a legal-paper-sized copy of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom, and even some private school ones, from kindergarten on up and deemed constitutional.

HB 71 by Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton would mandate this. The bill states that they can use public funds or accept donated copies. Further, any private school that accepts state funds, which at present would be some nonpublic elementary and secondary education schools and perhaps even private colleges, would be subject to the same. The bill passed the House of Representatives with few dissenters and now moves along to the Senate.

Misperceptions about the issue abound. For one thing, two states already have such laws in place (and several others are considering these). Less demonstrative is North Dakota’s, now three years old, which simply states that local school boards can order this along with a display of other historical documents. In place for about a couple of decades, South Dakota’s leaves open in the public school system the authority to place a copy as long as it is not too conspicuous, giving the option the post other documents of cultural, legal, and historical significance as well.


Work needed on college pricing autonomy bill

On its surface a bill before the Louisiana Legislature that might aid higher education, HB 862, if not changed would backfire, if not undermine, in deliverance of quality tertiary education.

The bill, by Democrat state Rep. Jason Hughes, would grant institutions the ability to establish and raise fees and differential tuition, the former across the board and the latter for more expensive and/or high-demand programs. These could increase up to ten percent annually. This would relax the constitutional standard that legislative supermajorities only could raise these.

The strategy here rightly emphasizes that raising revenues for higher education must come from its consumers. While Louisiana higher education isn’t where it was a quarter-century ago when it had about the lowest tuition in the country and consequentially an enormous relative taxpayer subsidy to public colleges, the corrective measures that begun about 15 years ago to right the imbalance faltered in recent years. At present, the state still ranks only 30th among its brethren in average senior-level tuition charged – which overstates because around 28 percent of in-state undergraduates enjoy Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars awards that pay for tuition and varying amounts of fees.


Bills challenge local govts, especially Bossier

A number of local governmental bodies and elected officials, especially from Bossier Parish, won’t be happy if a few bills addressing local government organization and actions pass into law this spring.

As always, the Legislature takes up matters that affect local governance, but this year such general bills would have greater impact on entities and politicians in Bossier than comparatively elsewhere. Of minor importance is HB 103 by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson, which would mandate live broadcasting of meetings by bodies with jurisdictions of at least 25,000 people, but for municipalities just 10,000. It retains the requirement of archived audio or video or live transmission of meetings by any authority that can tax.

Bossier affected entities – the Bossier City Council, the Bossier Parish Police Jury, and the Bossier Parish School Board – already transmit live. But if the bill were to be amended to demand archived meetings available on the Internet, that could put entities into difficulty that do recordings but don’t currently make these available on a web site, such as the Bossier Levee District.


Landry on target with anthem respect request

Louisiana Republican Gov. Jeff Landry got it just right in his reaction to a controversy – somewhat chance in nature – over public universities’ responsibilities to have their athletes acknowledging affirmatively the country whose citizens are paying their way.

It all started when in a women’s basketball championship tournament game observers noticed the Louisiana State University squad wasn’t on the floor standing to respect the playing of the national anthem, while the opposition was. That absence had been typical of LSU for some time as its pregame routine as structured precluded that, but nobody really had paid attention to this before.

When national media began to publicize it, Landry weighed in that the state’s higher education governing boards should implement policies requiring scholarship athletes to stand respectfully during the anthem. He argued the least a university’s competitive athletes could do was respect the symbol under which Americans had sacrificed to protect the country and the ideas associated with its founding. He also asked the governing body for many intercollegiate competitions the National Collegiate Athletic Association to implement a rule like that.


Convention as envisioned good but tricky

If kept within the intended parameters, the (very) limited constitutional convention envisioned by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry and legislative supporters best should happen this summer.

HB 800 by GOP state Rep. Beau Beaullieu would convene the conclave in the middle of May and give its two months duration, composed of legislators plus 27 selections made by Landry. It would be limited only to removal of parts of the existing document, adhering to an argument that its size and ensuing inflexibility needs paring to increase legislative policy options that can address state needs. The idea would be to jettison sections that then could be teed up to become statute, if not altered or ignored, with the changed document if approved by voters later this year to become effective in 2025.

Skepticism is warranted over the convention’s composition, of elected officials and political appointees. One reason why fiscal reform is so difficult and needed in Louisiana is the straitjacket made by the Constitution, but that’s something many elected officials don’t really mind. Its inflexibility gives them an excuse from making hard decisions in raising revenue and allocating it. The state never has had a revenue problem, but a spending problem in part because officials point to the Constitution and claim they have to spend money in certain ways, thus they declare themselves not responsible when more important things capture less funding and low priority items get too much, or revenues are raised in inefficient ways.


More evidence of Edwards' dark days receding

Rightly the negative legacy of Democrat former Gov. John Bel Edwards for the most part continues to slip into the sea, as the latest sign confirming the ruinous nature of Edwards’ regime reveals.

Last month, S&P Global Ratings raised Louisiana’s bond rating a notch. It now sits at AA, the third-highest, considered investment grade but with some nontrivial long-term risk. It’s the first change since a 2017 downgrade, and follows on an increase from Aa3 to Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Services in 2022 to the third highest ranking and the first change since a downgrade in 2016. The third major credit reviewer, Fitch, hasn’t made any changes since it downgraded the state’s debt in 2016.

It's instructive to know the timeline here. Hamstrung by a sputtering national economy throughout the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama and in the later years at the state level stung by declines in oil prices even as for the most part Louisiana’s economy did better than the national throughout Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s terms, in his last year Jindal got the Legislature to go along with tax increases. Understand that Jindal tried to reduce state spending by making government more efficient, but even when the GOP captured majorities in the Legislature just before his second term began, he was unable to reduce spending that essentially remained flat during his second term. Revenues continued to be constrained, and while he tried to offset this with strategic reductions in overfunded accounts, clearly that strategy couldn’t last forever.


Bossier school officials flunk ESA test

Are the members of the Bossier Parish School Board and Superintendent Jason Rowland merely ignoramuses, or are they so craven as to put their own self-interests ahead of children’s needs?

Last week, the Board met – and in special session, no less, at increased taxpayer expense so triggered they were – to pass a resolution specifically opposing HB 745 by Republican Rep. Julie Emerson. The bill would create education savings accounts that could be used to pay for educational expenses, including attendance of nonpublic schools but not home schooled, phased in over three years starting next academic year. Upper-middle-income and higher families would receive 55 percent of the state’s per student contribution to local schools, others would receive 80 percent, and for those families with children with disabilities each would receive 160 percent. Any funds raised locally by a local education agency would remain unaffected.

Yet ultimately the Board voted unanimously (Republican Sherri Pool being absent) for the resolution, which was full of dubious claims easily rebutted. Unfortunately, financial statistics about education notoriously are difficult to come by and often quite out-of-date. The federal government has some final numbers only as recently as 2021 and the state in aggregate form has others incredibly only up to academic year 2018. Still, some conclusions may be drawn from these and likely relational rankings and other comparisons haven’t changed a whole lot in the present.


Good bill to do little to discourage panhandling

The concept is sound, but the Legislature has a tricky road ahead if it wants to pass a statewide law to ban attempted panhandling that, if successful, by definition will do little to curb the practice.

HB 97 by Republican state Rep. Dixon McMakin would make panhandling illegal on all public roads in the state. Current statute bars this only on interstate highways and points of entry and exit, which practically doesn’t happen since panhandlers populate areas where traffic speed is extremely slow as that’s the objective: grift from vehicle occupants, which can’t be done unless vehicles are basically not moving.

This extension threads a very narrow needle eyelet, given Supreme Court decisions of the past decade. Essentially, the Court has ruled that panhandling can’t be banned because it’s annoying – which it is – as it is an exercise of free speech. Thus, grounds to regulate this behavior in any way must rest on other criteria, such as public safety for both those in vehicles and those in and around the road.


Easter Sunday, 2024

This column publishes five days weekly after noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Sunday, Mar. 31 being Easter, I invite you to explore this link.


LA families to win with school choice bills

Louisiana finally has a chance to get it right with school vouchers, while opponents to the idea keep getting it wrong, research shows.

Currently, HB 745 by Republicans state Rep. Julie Emerson and SB 313 by GOP state Sen. Rick Edmonds have started advancing through the Legislature. Each would provide for education savings accounts (ESAs) for families to choose to spend on nonpublic elementary and secondary education rather than enroll their children into public schools. It would start by offering transition of students in one of the existing three voucher programs based upon quality of last public school or attended or assigned, family income, and exceptionalities, followed a year later by expanding to all middle-lower income and below households, and then a year later inviting all families. It would not reimburse families for home schooling.

While the House bill heads to the floor, the Senate bill will take a detour to review finances. That is of some concern, as wildly varying estimates have come forth for new added expenses, mainly in fiscal 2028-29 and beyond. The difficulty in coming up with a reasonably accurate estimate lies in so many indeterminacies. For example, as the bill would pay out to upper-middle-class and above families (defined as 250 percent of the federal poverty line or higher) only 55 percent of the money it sends per student without exceptionalities to public schools, 80 percent to others below that, and 160 percent for students with exceptionalities, private schools would have to make a judgment call on tuition. Taking into account demand and supply curves and incremental costs, with this potential new revenue available they want to set a price point to maximize profit, which could mean lowering their tuition to grab a lot more students, or even raising it that may attract fewer but as the ESA amount would buttress family finances this may retain most.