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Jindal ignores winning issue with risky CCSS gambit

If, as conventional wisdom suggests, Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone all in on opposition to the Common Core State Standards in order to boost his national electoral profile, one must question his thinking and/or the quality of the political advice he’s getting.

As previously noted, with practically no political power to do so available, Jindal has been waging an intense rearguard action to prevent the state from implementing fully CCSS, and in the process of doing so has bet his entire national political future on an issue most voters don’t know about, of those that do for many it’s not a big priority, and one that splits his conservative base. Worse, the tactics he uses increasingly have acquired a sheen of desperation, such as a recent suit that essentially claims the 225-year old federal grant-in-aid system is unconstitutional, make his natural constituency of principled conservatives scratch their heads over his choices – especially when there is an education issue on which he has been a leader with a genuine constitutional question at stake that his side would win in which he appears to have no interest.

Last year, the federal government attempted to assert control over Louisiana’s scholarship voucher program, to which Jindal objected. Ultimately, District Judge Ivan Lemelle (who tipped his hand in a previous case) rendered an opinion that did not give the Pres. Barack Obama Administration control over the program, but in that justification wrote in an implicit power of the federal government to define unlawful discrimination by state government as a product of individual decisions by families unrelated to government – an audacious rewriting of the Constitution that vastly expands government’s power to intervene not just in instances where there has been intended and deliberate discrimination employed, but also merely where are present discrepant outcomes. More incredibly, it was based on the preclearance argument already dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier the year before that.


Glover's next move depends on who succeeds him

Typically, Shreveport mayors go out with a whimper, and the question is whether that’s the fate of current Mayor Cedric Glover,

To say the least, post-mayoral political careers of past Shreveport leaders have been dismal. Since going to the strong mayor/council system, none have won any elective office after their service. A relatively smaller population base doesn’t provide much to start with for statewide ambitions, and now that demographics and persistent voting habits make it all but certain that only black Democrat mayors will inhabit Government Plaza, the Fourth Congressional District or the Public Service Commission District 5 seats built around demographics and dynamics that favor Republicans mean upward mobility seems unlikely.

There was some thought that something big could be brewing for Glover that was not mutually exclusive with this quest and may have complemented it nicely. Make no mistake, by far the top goal of state Democrats is to keep Sen. Mary Landrieu in office, whose flagging reelection campaign threatens to remove her as the last Democrat in office elected statewide. In particular, as typically Democrats are lower information, lower interested members of the electorate, and blacks disproportionately making up this portion, with this election during midterms without an attractive figure to those voters such as Pres. Barack Obama running for something, it’s feared by them that lagging turnout will doom Landrieu’s chances.


Holloway CD 5 run may trigger GOP nightmare scenario

The ego of Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway might be what brings about the nightmare scenario for state Republicans in the Fifth Congressional District contest.

That features Rep. Vance McAllister, who invited disgrace this April when discovered that he was committing marital infidelity with a staffer/family friend. At first, he said he would not run for reelection under those circumstances, saying he needed time to repair his family relations and should concentrate on that. But, lo and behold, in record time he seemed to get his mind right and his family reconciled and suddenly by the beginning of July said he was rested, relaxed, and ready to go for another term.

It’s not that McAllister deserves approbation because of his extracurricular activities, for as long as those did not interfere with the performance of his duties, he needs to be judged on the merits of his policy preferences, which are partially but not entirely problematic. It’s that he said he would do one thing – not run for reelection to work on his personal life – and then announced he didn’t really mean it and did another. People vote for candidates because they trust them to do what they say. Events show that you can’t trust McAllister.


Edwards asks that taxpayers pay for campaign stunt

In his never-ending quest to make himself seen as a big boy contender for Louisiana governor next year, state Rep. John Bel Edwards is trying to create another issue that he believes he can exploit for this purpose – at taxpayer expense.

Edwards’ latest ploy is to have the entire House of Representatives return to Baton Rouge out of session to go over coming changes to health insurance plans overseen by the Office of Group Benefits. These are for state employees and retirees (and some school boards’ employees), with changes already announced in benefits and an anticipated rate increase after a decrease of nine percent over the past two years. He says this information would aid House members “to protect our constituents from astronomical cost increases.”

One effect of the rate decreases, about which Edwards curiously never made a peep about in support of the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration’s decreasing substantially health care premiums for OGB participants, was to empty largely the reserve fund for this purpose. This was desirable in that the state was sitting on idle balances far in excess of industry recommendations, but more controversially the benefit changes also would slow the expenditure rate to prevent the fund from going to zero and leave it with a balance in line with industry averages.


Factional politics on display for Shreveport mayoralty

The ending of qualification for November’s Shreveport mayoral election finally has made static a field in flux. A clear favorite stands out, although a wild card can bring unpredictability to the almost-inevitable runoff.

As is typical in urban politics when one political party becomes dominant, two distinct camps have emerged on the local political scene representing different factions within it. Democrats have claimed that in Shreveport, where they comprise 53.4 percent of the electorate, which itself has a 52.7 percent black majority. Thus among black Democrats are the “ins,” allied with term-limited Mayor Cedric Glover, and the “outs,” those not allied with him, with whites having the incentive to ally with one or the other group.

The latest major candidate entry shall be discussed first, with city Councilman Sam Jenkins announcing his bid only days ago. Months ago he was considered a frontrunner from his alliance with Glover but then made a surprise announcement that he intended not to run, citing tax liens that would be political liabilities. His tune now has changed, even as apparently he still owes a number of debts to governments. That he could have run again for the Council but chose this path despite the inevitable questions that will come about his ability to serve as the city’s chief executive given this personal financial record indicates that it’s all-or-nothing time for him politically and he would not mind going out in a blaze of glory.


Unkind qualifying increases electoral peril for Landrieu

A bad month for Sen. Mary Landrieu just got a bit worse in the wake of qualifying for her reelection attempt last week. Down in the aggregate in polls entering the month, during it she began falling behind in the money chase, self-inflicted “Air Mary” took off as a campaign issue, and now with the official entries into the contest the hill to climb back to office got steeper still.

In all, nine qualified, including Democrat Landrieu and her main rival Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the marginally competitive Republican military retiree/corporate functionary Rob Maness, and six others. Five of them will have no impact on the race. A libertarian will siphon a few votes from Maness, who presents himself as a political outsider, a white male Republican will do the same, two white male Democrats will hardly take from Landrieu, and the same for a black female Democrat.

Her biggest concern comes from the last-minute entry of the Rev. Raymond Brown, the gadfly leader of a New Orleans-based (Landrieu’s stronghold) organization called National Action Now, which once had a disputed relationship with the larger radical civil rights organization National Action Network. Brown has a history of inserting himself into incidents involving presumed racial conflict where the police are involved, most recently (and not for the first time) in New Iberia. In the past Brown has toyed with entering political contests, but committed to this one, at least for now.


Bossier City needs out of the CNG fueling business

It was trendy. It was political. It used lots of “free” money. But in the final analysis, the decision by Bossier City to push compressed natural gas and ethanol vehicle fuels is turning into a taxpayer ripoff.

In 2010 next to city hall, and then a year later south of Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City built stations to provide these fuels to the few vehicles that could use them. The stations cost $5 million to build, but federal government grants chopped a third off of that price. Through 2012, 2 million gallons of these alternative fuels, netting the city a negligible pittance of money, had been dispensed to city and private vehicles.

But the real justification in the city’s eyes was it could fuel its own vehicles with this. The E85 mix generally sells for not much less than regular unleaded gasoline, but the CNG can be half of that. By converting some of its fleet, and for free – about 100 of them new or existing for about $600,000 in state money – then the per gallon savings could add up, not only because of the lower cost, but also the CNG gets about a quarter times more mileage per gallon.


Politically best for Jindal to declare CCSS win, desist

Would it be so bad if Gov. Bobby Jindal on his quixotic quest to eliminate Louisiana’s participation in the Common Core State Standards would just simply declare victory?

He specifically, but including as fellow travelers a few legislators, a couple of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and many union officials, suffered a defeat at the hands of 19th District Court Judge Todd Hernandez when the jurist agreed with plaintiffs enjoining enforcement of Republican Jindal’s two recent executive orders that had the practical effect of greatly interfering with administration of tests in a few months aligned with the Common Core State Standards. They argued that these orders could not apply because there was no evidence of wrongdoing in contracting for the exams and thus over this aspect of educational policy otherwise Jindal’s Division of Administration had no authority. Hernandez wrote that any trial following the injunction would be likely to go the plaintiffs’ way.

Superintendent of Education John White said that, with certainty seemingly assured over testing now, the harm of lack of ability to know for which kind of assessment to prepare, the results of which have many consequences such as in teacher evaluations and school accountability, was negated and use of these tests would be scheduled. The governor’s office vowed to appeal, bitterly complaining that the court took the plaintiffs’ argument “hook, line and sinker.”


Judicial overreach to cause fall LA electoral chaos

While it might seem like the safe thing to do, it was the wrong thing to refuse to enforce a recently-passed Louisiana law that might throw some fall elections into chaos.

Yesterday, 19th District Judge Tim Kelley placed an injunction on the new law that prohibited anyone who would be older than 70 years of age at beginning a term of office in early 2015 from serving as a justice of the peace or constable. The former rule on minor matters and may perform minor civil duties such as weddings, while the latter are officers of that court and, if certified, may carry firearms in the performance of their duties. Previously, the law had exempted anybody from this age requirement, first imposed eight years ago, if they had been in that office prior to Aug. 15, 2006.

Some controversy ensued after the law passed only one vote short of unanimity earlier this year where the professional association, seemingly unconcerned about it during the session, opposed it afterwards, while the author state Sen. Elbert Guillory claimed a shadowy figure alleged to be part of the group asked for it and he complied. The group filed suit, and Guillory submitted a sworn affidavit essentially saying he thought the group had asked for it and, in face of opposition, planned to seek repeal of it.


CD 5 nightmare scenario for LA GOP still possible

Qualifying begins this week for the Fifth Congressional District contest where Democrats hope the stars align to give them an improbable victory, the incumbent running on the fumes of his office wishes to hang on, and whether Republicans can find an answer to prevent the cataclysm of a Democrat win or the nuisance of the incumbent’s reelection.

That guy, Rep. Vance McAlllister, leads in the only independent poll (if its producer is skeptical of McAllister) to date taken on the contest, but with an incredibly underwhelming 27 percent. Not far behind him at 21 percent comes Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, who ran in the special election against McAllister last time but whom McAllister aced out of the runoff as Mayo performed in underwhelming fashion, getting just 15 percent of the vote in a district where black Democrats (Mayo is black) comprise 26 percent of the electorate (another black candidate then got 3 percent of the vote).

However, they are going in opposite directions. Given that Mayo looks to be not only the only prominent black candidate in the contest but also the sole prominent Democrat, the smattering of non-black liberals in the district could boost his total in the general election above 30 percent. He’ll be almost a sure thing for the general election runoff.