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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.


Amendment passages to sow budget chaos, tax hikes

Ever since the hurricane disaster false economic boom has faded from Louisiana, every year dire-sounding stories about the next fiscal year’s budget have circulated, only to have months later a budget produced with the minimum of inconvenience to the state that preserves needed services and levels. And, once again, an alarm has been raised for fiscal year 2016. But this time the outcome could be different – with that and future outcomes directly in the hands of the people.

In past years, comprised of large parts of bookkeeping maneuvers and small parts of gimmickry, any forecast deficit, figured on the basis of subtracting expected expenditures plus an inflation factor from predictable, recurring revenues matched directly to those expenditures, got closed down courtesy of excess revenues culled from dedications and bonus events. The gap needing spanning for FY 2016 is predicted at $1.2 billion. What makes this one more serious is that increasingly bonus funds have gone into filling in the gap that are almost certain not to repeat and it is as cumbersome as ever to steer excess funds away from their assigned uses – a problem voters could exacerbate this fall with encouragement from the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration and legislators.

During its presentation to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, the Division of Administration indicated how it planned to address the gap, and also issued a statement regarding that. These covered only about half the gap, incorporating an efficiency study contracted out by the state that included $216 million, results of the final year of the state’s three-year tax amnesty program of $145 million, and $240 million from a vaguely described “donation” by nursing homes said to be authorized by recent legislation.


Landrieu credibility eroding as "mistakes" mount

Once is coincidence, twice is happenstance, an aphorism Sen. Mary Landrieu rather would not hear but who invited it by self-reporting yet another campaign funding violation, and proffering an explanation for it that doesn’t quite hold water.

Just days ago, Landrieu’s office admitted a humiliating incident that it wrongly billed its taxpayer-paid office account for campaign travel expenses involving chartering a plane, a consequence of trying to submit a certain campaign image to voters. Its defense was that a simple clerical error had been made – despite the dubious nature of the claim and even as the apparent practice of the vendor is to send her office the bills and then it sorts them out.

But now another instance, in some ways even more interesting, has popped up. Landrieu’s office now says it will reimburse out of the campaign account at least part of a $5,700 charter bill for the Shreveport to Dallas leg that also included a leg from New Orleans on Sep. 22, 2013. Flying into Shreveport was on official business during the weekend, but the next morning she had to head back to Washington. So she took a charter flight from Shreveport to Dallas where she could catch a commercial flight the next day, but only after she engaged in some fundraising activity there before leaving.


LA legislator laziness demands procedural changes

Here we go again, and this time Louisiana’s legislators have no real excuse for giving the impression that they don’t really know what they are voting on, nor should they have any excuse to try to fix this.

A number of sitting justices of the peace and constables just now are kicking up a fuss after they have appeared to figure out that a bill signed into law two months ago disallows them running for their jobs again this fall. Act 495 removes an exception to the law that permitted those already elected to office as of Aug. 15, 2006 to be eligible for reelection without the age limit of being younger than 70 when beginning a term of service that otherwise would apply. It is estimated to affect around 160 officials, only some of whom already are over 70.

Justices of the peace fitting that loophole were the only elected state judicial officials excepted from the state’s 70-year-old age limit (the constitutionality of age limits having been upheld). They handle civil claims under $5,000, can issue orders pursuant to those, and perform marriages. Constables carry out those orders and also have minor law enforcement powers associated with that ability.


Landrieu charter choice keeps haunting her politically

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s political campaign has caught the political equivalent of herpes as it battles a series of damaging outbreaks that won’t go away stemming from her activities of last Nov. 8, because these revelations too usefully destroy her campaign narrative.

The infection began when Democrat Landrieu on the morning of that day hitched a ride on Air Force One to Armstrong International Airport outside New Orleans with her co-partisan Pres. Barack Obama, yet then failed to accompany him to an appearance at the Port of New Orleans, citing she had a “long-standing” commitment for a campaign function in Lake Charles, some 180 miles from Kenner. Commentators snickered and her Republican opponents and their supporters baited her about how this was an attempt to “hide” in order to avoid being seen with Obama, who then and now continues to be deeply unpopular in Louisiana.

Later, Landrieu would claim that could not be the case, being as she appeared in photographs with Obama (as well as her brother New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Gov. Bobby Jindal). But it’s one thing to be in a few snapshots that may or may not appear in Louisiana media outlets; it’s another entirely to stand or sit next to him on stage and walk by him for an extended period with several hundred constituents about that certainly would get media coverage that hundreds of thousands of more constituents would see or hear.


Retirement issues inconvenience potential candidates

Retirement issues have created a ruckus around one north Louisiana politician, and raise a potentially distracting issue for another.

Last month, almost nobody seemed happy in the aftermath of the passage of Act 859, which on the surface seemed to make mere semantic changes to the law about investigating law enforcement officers. At least that’s how it started out, but on the final day of the session, in a conference committee because of minor disagreement over versions of the bill between the chambers, a provision appeared that undid a law passed a few years ago on behalf of a narrowly-defined class of individuals – estimated at exactly two – which seemed if not innocuous, then unnoticed by legislators who passed it unanimously, and then got Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature on it.

The only problem is this violates Art. X Sec. 29 of the Constitution. Because it made a change to retirement benefits, the entire bill in that form had to be advertised at least 30 days prior to passage, at least twice. Now it’s incumbent on the State Police Retirement System to sue the Legislature to have the law declared unconstitutional. Yet no action seems forthcoming at least until the board meets in early September.


GOP chickens may roost by its blanket primary support

Qualifying for federal elections in Louisiana begins next week, and Republicans have to hope that a decision too many party elected officials and leaders realized too late does not come back to haunt them.

Four years ago the state reversed course on its decision to have closed primary elections for these offices, where only voters who are affiliated with a party (or under that version no-party voters if allowed by the party) could vote to nominate a candidate for the general election. This system promoted greater accountability and provided incentives for issue preferences of candidates rather than their personalities to be evaluated by voters. After the 2008 and 2010 elections, the blanket primary system, which actually does not include a primary but heads straight to a general election, was reinstituted.

Besides strengthening parties because of their increased value as aggregative mechanisms that could bestow the most important asset to a candidate, a nomination, closed primaries also helped parties in their ability to forward stronger general election candidates by disallowing interference by non-party elements in that process. Lack of that ability may prove decisive in at least two 2014 contests.


Landrieu acquiescence acknowledges desperation

Understand that Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s acceptance of four debates with opponents to her reelection signals definitively that she gets it that her prospects to return to Washington are in trouble.

Back in the good old days, debates – where candidates actually verbally sparred back and forth for hours, instead of rushing to drop in as many relevant sound bites as they can before hustling to the next question as these have become today – served a useful process for the politically interested who could spread this information to others that they otherwise could not acquire from any source. These days, the interested person pretty much can find everything and anything about a candidate’s issue preferences through watching plenty of television advertisements and/or reading mail pieces and/or (most comprehensively with views from all sides) making a few mouse clicks. The casually interested will pay no attention to these, unless something dramatic happens that gets reverberated through news stories and campaign communications forcibly delivered to their eyeballs, eardrums, mail boxes, and in-boxes.

For these reasons, as information about candidacies increased and became more easily disseminated over the past few decades, debates have devolved, from candidates’ perspectives, into going on patrol in a minefield. A candidate can do nothing on his own to derive any benefit from a debate; rather, he only can harm himself by saying something stupid that makes him look uninformed, ignorant, or “uncaring” enough to voters. Any debate participation produces gains only if one or more opponents make unforced errors that you avoid. In other words, it’s a gamble as to whether you won’t blow it to your detriment and if others do to your benefit.