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Governor debates so far more echoes than choices

While a Louisiana gubernatorial debate televised statewide with all candidates present will have to wait another week, what has been said in a dizzying array of forums to date by any or all of the three candidates present for the first one televised statewide last night should give viewers pause about them as choices.

The lone Democrat among these major candidates, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, at least once a minute reminds audiences of his God-fearing life and/or he’s against abortion and/or he’s big on guns and/or he served in the military. When subjects last night concerned fiscal matters, he manages to squeeze in that the state doesn’t have to adjust Taylor Opportunity Program for Students awards, that transportation needs can be solved by not allocating money from the Transportation Trust Fund to state police, that New Orleans can have better police presence, that charity hospital partnerships can get a shot of additional funding, etc., without revealing from where the money to pay for all of this will come. In other words, he preaches that all is well on the spending front, there’s no need to cut anything regardless of its policy value as revenue magically will appear to resolve it all.

The magic, of course, is the opaque idea that a reduction in tax credits will solve everything. Some of these are counterproductive and need excising. But Edwards is perpetrating a confidence game if he thinks these of this kind will be sufficient to balance the budget without any spending cuts. The only way to raise enough revenue would be to get rid of enough in credits to the point this becomes a net tax increase on the public, as those former recipients of credits will pass along their increased costs to the people.


Closed primaries help parties, provide clearer direction

Fascinating even to elected officials is just what impact Louisiana’s odd nonpartisan blanket primary system has on partisan politics and elections, which has an impact, perhaps salutary, on subsequent policy.

The one in charge of elections, Sec. of State Tom Schedler, as do many observers, note the decline in registrations for Democrats and growth among Republicans and even more in the catchall Other classification, which includes all registrants of the minor recognized parties Greens, Libertarian, and Reform, all registrants that put down another label of an unrecognized party, and those that indicated no partisanship.

He offered two theories as to why the Other category has grown the fastest – it’s gone from 18 to 26 percent of the electorate since 2000, while GOP registrants have increased only from 22 to 28 percent and Democrats fallen from 60 to 46 percent – which are somewhat complementary. One is “frustration with the major parties” and the other the participation opportunity the electoral system presents; each merits some discussion.


Thumbs up on two, down on pair of LA amendments

Even though only four constitutional amendments appear on Louisiana’s fall ballot, ten fewer than last year, that’s still enough to have one very controversial one appear.

That would be the first, which deals with the Budget Stabilization Fund, the savings account of the state. In essence, bonus revenues, both those in excess of the state’s constitutionally-determined expenditure limit and including a quarter of all nonrecurring monies, that accrue to the state, mineral proceeds above the base level, and whatever else the state wishes to throw in, up to a maximum balance of four percent of the state’s budgeted revenues at the time get chunked into the BSF. The base level, which may be readjusted at minimum every ten years, recently became $950 million, with the BSF holding $517 million and its ceiling currently set at $811 million. Money removed must be filled at the next available opportunity.

Amendment #1 would divide the BSF into two sub-funds, its original one and a new Transportation Stabilization Subfund. Each would be capped at $500 million, with the new one to have money flow to it from excess mineral revenues after the new Budget Stabilization Subfund. It also would delay at least a year any refilling of the new BSS, with the same applying it would appear to the new TSS, and the base level could be raised after five years (monies in excess of the base level and subject to the delay could be spent on operating expenses). The TSS could have proceeds spent generally on transportation projects, although some would be dedicated.


Avoid campus shootings by LA excising gun-free zones

The same inconsistency that plagued Oregon’s legal code that likely contributed to a tragic mass shooting at one of its educational institutions could come back to haunt Louisiana as well.

Last month, a gunman shot at dozens of individuals at a community college, hitting many and killing some. As in the similar event this summer in Lafayette, the area was designated as a gun-free zone and that may have contributed to the gunman’s picking out that venue to conduct carnage.

For around four decades Oregon education officials had banned guns on campuses. However, a few years ago a student successfully sued the state to allow carrying of concealed weapons on them, as the state had passed a concealed carry law that did not specifically ban colleges. This left policy contradictory – campuses declared that guns (except for public safety officers) would not be allowed on campuses, yet anyone with a concealed carry permit had the right to possess them on campuses. The campus in question had a specific written gun-free policy.


Making runoff best reelection shot for AG Caldwell

Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell’s making it to a runoff in his reelection bid presents his best chance of succeeding in that regard, independent polling information suggests.

The recent media poll of a few of Louisiana’s statewide elections shows the Republican incumbent leading with 30 percent, followed by main challenger Republican former Rep. Jeff Landry at 20 percent, with Democrat lawyers and former government officials Ike Jackson and Geri Broussard-Baloney at 11 and 5 percent, respectively, and with Republican former prosecutor Marty Maley joining her at 5 percent. A significant 28 percent called itself undecided.

Often, these are terrible numbers for an incumbent, not only because after eight years in office Caldwell only draws three-tenths of the intended vote, but because two-sevenths of it says itself to be undecided, which often translates to they don’t want to vote for the incumbent but can’t decide upon which challenger to support (although some will not vote at all). In this case, these merely are only bad numbers, because in a lower-interest contest such as this one a decent portion of the undecided simply have not paid attention to this race and may yet decide to vote for the incumbent.


Education issues figure prominently in NW LA races

Education issues will play a big part in at least a couple of contests this fall in northwest Louisiana, according to campaign rhetoric that voters must consider carefully.

Obviously these will in the race for District 4 of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. This one features three Republicans: the appointed incumbent principal Mary Harris, challenger teacher Glynnis Johnston, and challenger businessman Tony Davis.

Whether to support reforms implemented in the past few years to Louisiana’ historically worst-in-the-nation educational system has created a fault line across the state in BESE competitions. These changes for the first time demand meaningful accountability out of schools and teachers, through the use of valid and more objective performance measurements and in increased parental schooling choices for their children. As such, these have become bitterly resisted by teacher unions and teachers unwilling or unable to raise their levels of performance, by administrators and school board members whose jobs and reelections are threatened, and by ideologue policy-makers who prefer government command and control that places the desires of adults over the needs of children.


Questionable poll illustrates left's fear of Vitter

Mass-production pollster Public Policy Polling, which works for Democrats and leftist causes, recently put out a poll that showed in hypothetical runoffs with Republicans major Democrat gubernatorial candidate state Rep. John Bel Edwards hanging in there and, in the case of frontrunner Sen. David Vitter, decisively defeating him. Is this believable?

Probably not, for a number of reasons, one of these being the quality of PPP surveys regarding state-level elections. PPP produces a high number of these by using less-rigorous methodology that serves to lower cost. As a result, their products often are all over the map, sometimes pretty accurate and sometimes wildly off, with the latter represented by its final effort in last year’s Senate contest that significantly over-predicted support for former Sen. Mary Landrieu. In fact, the 2014 cycle produced a great amount of inconsistency for it. As such, of the 21 outfits that have produced at least such 50 polls since 1998, it ranks in about the middle for accuracy.

Further, it seems that its recent trend towards increased chances of less accuracy has occurred as it practices fiddling with sampling frames to fit a preconceived notion of the electorate that leans in the direction of favoring Democrat candidates in these contests. Finally, keep in mind that this effort came at the behest of the political action committee set up expressly to defeat Vitter and is run by the guy who was formerly the head administrator of Louisiana’s Democrats and the campaign manager of Vitter’s vanquished main 2010 Senate challenger.


Barring felons as candidates improves governance

It’s possible that Prisoner #30609-034 will skate his way onto a ballot this fall, but whether he does he and those like him in the future should not have this chance that degrades the quality of governance in Louisiana.

Better known as former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, he recently exited the slammer after having served felony time for corruption in office. However, despite the Constitution making him ineligible to run for state office for 15 years after finishing his sentence without a pardon from the appropriate official, he signed up to run for his old House seat. A series of court maneuvers then ensued trying to throw him off the ballot or him trying to stay on it, based upon the Constitution’s provision.

These have come on two tracks, one weighing his status on how he thinks he should qualify within the provision, and the other on the constitutionality of the provision itself, where plaintiffs claimed the actual legislative instrument got lost in translation on the way to the ballot language to amend it into the document, which should nullify the successfully amended-in passage. The Louisiana Supreme Court is expected to rule on both questions in the near future.